For D.C. United July was not too good to be true. It was real. Playing without leading scourer Fabian Espindola United won all four of its league matches last month. Now United is set to welcome Espindola back from a knee injury for its match Saturday at Real Salt Lake (10 p.m. on CSN).
Espindola has been out since early June when he sprained the MCL in his left knee in United’s 4-2 win over Montreal. The injury happened on the first play of the game, but Espindola played through and had three assists against the Impact. Increased production from Luis Silva and Eddie Johnson softened the blow of Espindola’s absence.
After a 1-0 loss last week in Houston, United will look to avoid losing consecutive games for the first time this season. Real Salt Lake is coming off a 1-0 win over Colorado and is trying to keep the pressure on the Seattle Sounders for first place in the Western Conference.
- Navigating through the “dog days of summer”. Even with a two month absence Espindola is still United’s offensive leader with seven goals and eight assists. His possible return is a big boost, but United will have to play without Perry Kitchen against Real Salt Lake because of card accumulation. Kitchen missed only one other game this season, a lackluster 0-0 draw with Columbus at home. Kitchen has become an effective two-way player and there will be more responsibility for Davy Arnaud on Saturday. If Espindola starts then it is possible Silva would partner with Arnaud in the center of midfield. Jared Jeffrey is another option to replace Kitchen. United’s depth will also be tested with Conor Doyle and Michael Seaton sidelined by injuries. Sadly Doyle is lost for the season with a right knee injury. Seaton has yet to play for United this season, but has been showing promise and scoring with the Richmond Kickers. Seaton is out for a month with a quadriceps injury. United sent a third round pick in 2017 to Seattle for midfielder David Estrada who has spent much of this season on loan in the USL Pro and NASL. In 2012 Estrada scored five goals for the Sounders and can play up front or on the flanks.
- Dealing with a depleted RSL side. Jason Kreis is now the head coach of NewYork City FC, but Real Salt Lake has not lost a step. Jeff Cassar has carried on the tradition of excellence established by Kreis and General Manager Garth Lagerwey. That said Real has real problems this week. Outside backs Chris Wingert and Tony Beltran will not play against D.C. because of card accumulation. Attacking the flanks will be important for United even though Nick DeLeon and Chris Korb are still dealing with hamstring injuries. Central defender Aaron Maund is also out with a red card. Even depleted on defense, RSL still has All-Star goalkeeper Nick Rimando. In the midfield Kyle Beckerman has been dealing with a foot injury, but Javier Morales is healthy and dictates terms in an attacking midfield role. Morales has six goals and seven assists.