Ben Olsen - DC United - watching glumly vs. Philadelphia
Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports

Consistent scorer atop D.C. United's wishlist this offseason

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Ben Olsen hasn’t had a player score 15 goals during a league campaign since he took the reigns as D.C. United’s coach in 2010.

Now he intends to change that.

Fresh off an international scouting trip as the Black-and-Red close down their 2017 postseason training, on Friday Olsen admitted finding a premier forward is among the club’s offseason goals.

“We are no doubt looking for someone that can score 15 goals for us,” he told reporters. “It’s a hard thing to find. It’s a very expensive thing to find. However, you can find them. So that is certainly a priority.”

Olsen attributed the struggles of D.C.’s 2017 season to a “perfect storm” of issues, though offense was easily the most glaring of those for the side that finished last in the Eastern Conference by seven points.

The club tied an MLS record by failing to score in 16 league matches, while matching Colorado with 31 goals for the fewest scored in the league in 2017. Luciano Acosta and Patrick Mullins tied for team lead with five goals each. Mullins registered four of those in one game in late September, long after any postseason chances had faded.

A season earlier, Mullins looked like he might be capable of hitting 15 over a full MLS season. But Olsen’s comments on Friday suggested he isn’t counting on it.

“He scored four goals in one game, didn’t score any goals in [most of] the other games,” Olsen said, regarding whether he was encouraged by Mullins’ late-season form. “Encouraged? He can score goals in this league. That last part of last year, he showed that. Given proper service and a team that was playing at a high level. He can score, no question. This year I think it was more a product of him not being at his best from a fitness standpoint.”

Mullins came to D.C. midway through the 2016 campaign and hit eight goals in 14 games. Injuries limited him to 20 league appearances a season later. His final goals total masked the fact that it took 16 matches to record his first.

Mullins insisted Tuesday he’s ready to embrace competition for his place if it means improving the results on the field.

“It’s something I crave,” he said. “That’s not really my arena, but I want to win. I want to sign the best players that we can possibly sign to win.”

Dwayne De Rosario's 13 league goals in 2011 are the most any D.C. player has scored under Olsen. Their last 20-goal scorer was Luciano Emilio, back in 2007.

As far as service, United believe they’ve improved that dramatically with the August additions of wingers Paul Arriola and Zoltan Stieber. Acosta is also more naturally a provider from a central role. The Argentine has tallied 16 assists over two MLS seasons, including 11 in his first.

Acosta admits Arriola and Stieber certainly helped him find a better rhythm during the closing stages of 2017, and he’s curious who else might be coming aboard.

“If somebody knows, let me know,” he joked Tuesday, through a translator. “Honestly, I don’t know anything, I haven’t heard anything, and it’s not our role. … We’re working hard to finish out these couple days of training that we have left and start out well for next year. That’s all we can be focused on for right now.”

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