The Long and Winding Road

DC United emerged from a four game road trip with 4 points, less than what supporters and the club had hoped for. At the beginning of the road trip, I said that getting at least 5 points from this trip would be considered a success. If you count on one hand, you’ll see that they fell short of that mark.

With an extensive injury list, United needed to be organized and avoid costly mistakes. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Fabian Espindola saw straight red for a high elbow against Seattle, and a 10 man United lost at the death. In Dallas, United continued the trend of giving up late goals and struggling to score. Not only did Fabi’s red card doom DC against Seattle, but the lack of our most creative player was a major contributing factor in the largely listless attack in Dallas. Put simply, that didn’t go as planned.

Looking at the clubs quickly climbing the ladder towards United in the supporters shield standings, and having several games in hand, I’m very pessimistic about United’s chances. DC’s schedule was frontloaded with home games, and although they only lost one of those, too many wins fell to draws in the final moments. Given United’s away form this season, I don’t think we will win enough games to be atop the table when the season ends. United is, however, still in a very good position to win the Eastern Conference. Doing so would secure a third consecutive year in the Concacaf Champions League, and exceed most expectations for the team from the beginning of the season.

In other news, the oft-injured Luis Silva was traded to Real Salt Lake in exchange for Alvaro Saborio. In an emotional sense, this trade hurts. Last year’s wonderful chemistry between Silva and Espindola was incredible to watch, especially coming off of the awful 2013 season. However, a closer examination of the trade shows that this is probably a smart move for United.

Silva had injury issues with Toronto, and was injured at the end of last season, multiple times in the offseason, and twice in the regular season. In 14 games, he has only contributed one goal and struggling to find form and fitness. For a team on a tight “moneyball” budget, especially one that struggles to score, United can’t afford to be so patient with a player. Instead, trading for a proven MLS goal scorer that has chemistry with two of your strikers should have an immediate impact. Fabi played with Saborio at Real Salt Lake, where they combined for a very nice goals and assists total. Also, Saborio has seen the field with fellow Costa Rican Jairo Arrieta. Having a proven goal scorer that will able to play every week should give United a much-needed spark in the attack.

Ultimately, the trade is a very “win now” move, as many United fans are aware that an aging roster will probably see several changes in the next offseason or two. Ben Olsen and Jason Levien showed that they are willing to trade popular players that are not contributing, in exchange for assets that will give immediate returns. Sadly, the next on that list is Chris Pontius. Since MLS salaries have been released, we can see that Pontius makes almost $400,00 a week, and has struggling to stay healthy the last few years. Although he started to show some promise of a return to his old self earlier in the year, those injuries just keep coming back.

On Sunday, United is back home against the Philadelphia Union and with Fabi back from suspension, and Saborio possibly able to start, this is a must win game. The Union will play on Tuesday night in the Open Cup against the Red Bulls, and are likely to play their best 11 for a shot at a trophy. United must draw a line in the sand at RFK stadium and find all three points in this one to get back on track.

(image courtesy of Rick Bowmer/AP)