WASHINGTON, D.C.— D.C. United entered Saturday night still chasing their first win of 2016, and manager Ben Olsen again placed his faith in Fabian Espindola and other veteran attackers. This time, facing off against the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps, it paid off in spades.
“I think satisfaction is a good word for tonight, and I’m glad we kind of hung in there with that group of guys and continue to grow and not panic,” Olsen said. “I think we’re better off for it.”
Proof of this confidence in "that group": Olsen continued to go with Espindola and Chris Rolfe as starting forwards, and Nick DeLeon at center midfield. Though Luciano Acosta came off the bench later on, adding a pair of assists to fuel Saborio’s brace.
During D.C. United's 2015 campaign, injuries and disciplinary issues limited Espindola to 17 appearances. But Olsen has continued to assert the importance of the 30-year-old Argentine to the team's attack.
Despite an early season hamstring injury, Espindola looked invigorated throughout, providing a handful of dangerous services early and nearly scoring a couple more himself, if not for Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted. The two goals marked Espindola's first brace since striking twice in a 4-1 victory over FC Dallas on April 26, 2014.
“I thought he was fantastic,” Olsen said. “Fabi played what was there. He played simple when he needed to, and when he needed to pull some magic out, he did that as well.”
“Whenever Patrick has the ball, something good is going to happen,” Rolfe said. “I just took a shot and tried to hit it back post like our coaches teach us. And there was a rebound and Fabi’s there. Great effort by him.”
“He usually doesn’t get the No. 9, scrappy goals,” Olsen said. “That’s just a product of hard work and being hungry.”
Later, Saborio added his first brace in more than two years—and his first in a D.C. shirt – after coming on for Espindola in the 79th minute. He chipped Ousted in the 88th minute after reaching Acosta’s gorgeous ball, before the pair combined for a slick give-and-go in stoppage time.
“There’s obviously more space, and guys with their qualities can do what they did,” Olsen said. “That’s what a team is made of. There’s a bunch of different ways to skin this thing, and it’s good for them to help out the group tonight.”