By THOMAS FLOYD
WASHINGTON — For a man in the business of bagging goals, Conor Doyle had to exert no small amount of patience before opening his scoring account.
But in D.C. United’s 3-1 triumph over the Montreal Impact on Saturday, Doyle’s 68th-minute winner ended the drought — nearly three years to the day after he inked his first professional contract. After making 23 appearances for second-tier English side Derby County and two during his loan spell with United, the 21-year-old striker finally has a goal on his resume.
“It’s been a tough road,” Doyle said. “I’ve been down a lot, and to be able to go out there and get that first professional goal, it was really special.”
Doyle, acquired by United through a weighted lottery July 18, didn’t hesitate to make his presence known after coming on as a 64th-minute substitute, converting a James Riley cross four minutes later before setting up Jared Jeffrey’s stoppage-time clincher.
“He’s a nice pickup,” coach Ben Olsen said. “We hadn’t used him as a sub, and it was nice to see that he can do that for us. Whether that is his role in future, I’m not sure. It’s nice to know that he has the mentality to come in and change the game.”
When Doyle saw Riley setting up the left-footed service, the forward remembered what the coaching staff had preached to him earlier in the week and made a run to the near post, deftly directing a point-blank shot past Troy Perkins.
On a team that has seen a rotating cast of characters audition up top and fall flat this season, the simple but effective finish was a welcome sight.
“We’ve been working on it all week,” Doyle said. “We talked about it in film where the first guy has to make a hard run past the near post, just to open up the space behind. It just so happened that James put the ball in the right spot.”
With the match winding down, Doyle added an assist to his line when he broke through the back line and played a simple pass that Jeffrey tapped home for the insurance goal.
It was also the first professional goal for Jeffrey — a sequence made all the more memorable by the fact that the two players have known each other since their youth days playing for the Dallas Texans Soccer Club.
“We kind of turned to each other and laughed, and he said, ‘Thank you,’” Doyle said. “I was always squaring it. He just played 90 minutes and ran that far — I wasn’t going to let him not score. It was a cool moment for us obviously both growing up with the Texans. I looked up to him as a guy that had gone pro straight out of high school, so it was cool to be on the field with him again.”
Added Jeffrey: “I was a little worried that he was going to shoot it, being the center forward he is. … I had to thank him — let’s be honest.”
With United (3-15-4) heading into a U.S. Open Cup semifinal at the Chicago Fire on Wednesday, the goals from Doyle, Jeffrey and Luis Silva — all midseason acquisitions younger than 25 — bode well for the club as its retooled roster prepares for its most important test of the season.
“I think always getting fresh faces in kind of changes things up a bit,” Doyle said. “It’s kind of gotten this team going again.”