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D.C. United Notes: Townsend thriving on loan; strike duo struggling; and more

Townsend (Getty)


WASHINGTON — While D.C. United’s struggling attack limped through a 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, one of their own found goals easier to come by some 100 miles to the south.

In the Richmond Kickers’ 4-1 win over the Charleston Battery, on-loan United striker Casey Townsend found net in the 32nd and 68th minutes. Considering D.C. as a team has only managed to match that total in six games, compiling a 1-4-1 mark, is the club considering a recall for Townsend?

“Casey is a guy that we could choose to pull back for good,” coach Ben Olsen said. “We haven’t scored a lot of goals, so we’re always looking for guys that are in form, and he certainly looks to be progressing pretty good with that group. We know he could score goals, so nothing is off the table.”

Townsend, a 23-year-old University of Maryland product picked fifth overall in last year’s SuperDraft, was acquired from Chivas USA for a supplemental draft pick in January.

As Townsend noted, United require high pressure out of their forwards while Chivas asked for more play underneath. But the striker, who trains with United during the week, feels he has adjusted to the change in philosophy and will be ready to contribute if called upon.

“Obviously it’s nice to play games,” Townsend said. “It’s sometimes better than coming off the bench for 10, 15 minutes to get a full 90 minutes under your belt and get some confidence back, and hopefully I can work my way back into the 18.”

Here are some more notes from RFK Stadium on Tuesday:


Although Olsen has dropped the 4-5-1 formation that succeeded down the stretch last season in favor of a more attack-minded 4-4-2 alignment, United have scored just one goal in three games with Lionard Pajoy and designated player Rafael starting together up top.

“Some of the injury situations have forced us to play a way maybe not as balanced as I’d like it,” Olsen said. “You’ve got two No. 9s up there fighting for positions, and at times getting in the way and there’s not enough triangles, ability to break teams down, in particular against New York. They did a great job of staying compact, keeping their lines very tight, being organized.”

Referring specifically to Rafael, who was pulled at halftime against the Red Bulls, Olsen said, “I think he struggled.” But the coach did take some positives from the game.

“I thought our possession in the midfield was much better,” Olsen said. “Defensively, positionally we were pretty good. We fouled up two plays, and that was the story of the game. And once again we didn’t create enough chances up top. Their forwards were much better than our forwards on the day. That’s probably what it comes down to.”


One perplexing aspect of United’s early-season slide has been the continuity of the club following last fall’s run to the Eastern Conference final.

Defender-midfielder Andy Najar (22 starts), sold to Belgian side RSC Anderlecht, is the only departed player who started at least half of United’s games last season. Also gone are strikers Maicon Santos (16 starts) and Hamdi Salihi (10), midfielder Branko Boskovic (12), and defender Emiliano Dudar (10).

“Last year, it was a bit different,” midfielder Perry Kitchen said. “We had a few different pieces. We were just grinding out results, and maybe we were a bit lucky. Maybe this year some stuff isn’t going our way as it would have last year. But saying that, we just have to continue developing.”


As part of a new affiliate agreement with Richmond, United goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra, rookie left back Taylor Kemp and homegrown defender-midfielder Conor Shanosky started for the Kickers alongside Townsend on Saturday.

To keep tabs on the players on loan, Olsen said he has been watching tape of the matches and checking in with Richmond coach Leigh Cowlishaw.

“They’re not there as a punishment,” Olsen said. “They’re there to develop and for them to eventually help us here, whether that’s in a week, whether that’s in two years. That’s the process.”

While Townsend has found the goals, Olsen said he’s been told Shanosky “has actually been as good as anyone down there.”


Could Townsend be the solution to United’s scoring woes? Should Olsen abandon playing with two strikers? And what else could D.C. do to recapture last fall’s success?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. The blame lies on Olsen and the Front Office, in particular the FO. Ever since the glory days of Gomez/Moreno/Emilio, the front office has sold good players and bought horrific players.

    Remember Gallardo? Me neither.
    Remember Boskovic? He was great for Montenegro.
    Remember Salihi? Me neither.
    Remember Allsopp? Me neither.

    Meanwhile, former DC United players are thriving in MLS: Rodney Wallace, Andrew Jacobson, Marc Burch, Brian Carroll.

    The team has only gotten worst since 2009. Yes we have a handful of good players, but every transaction the team makes seems to do more harm than good.

  2. You get rid of Najar, Boscovic, Salihi, and Maicon Santos in the off-season and replace them with un- proven talent, where exactly are you going to get the goals from? Why would Didier Drogba, or Miroslav Klose, or Zlatan Ibrahimovich ever consider going to this club other than money, which DC United does not have.

    • Defending Pajoy implies that he should start. There are a large number of problems with this team, but if our starting striker wasn’t impotent, we wouldn’t be in this bad of shape.

      • I only partially agree with this. The striking is impotent, sure, but tell me where potency can be found on this roster?

        We’ve got to stop ignoring the fact that team has generated 48 shots (the second worst in the league). Is some of that due to Pajoy unwillingness to shot, sure. I’d argue that alot more has to do with our inability to build steadily out of the back and make incisive passes and crosses in the final third. More possession with more purpose is needed.

        Can you make an argument that Rafa deserves more playing time out of what you’ve seen of him? I just don’t think we have that potent striker anywhere on our roster. (Don’t take this as a argument in support of Pajoy as so many are apt to do)

        I just don’t think anyone we put up there will be a class FWD, but I do think that if start creating more chances we’ve got some finishers on the field that will find the net, the just may not come from a #9.

      • Honestly, I think that our strike corps really is dreadful. Many were over the moon when we signed an unproven 20 year old as our only major signing; many even went so far as to call him a “low risk” signing.

        I have no idea whether Rafael will become a worthy striker, but I’d rather pair him with someone who actually complements him, having both him and Pajoy start up top together confuses what the duties are and leaves them without proper support. At this point, I say start Rafael with De Ro, or Ruiz if he’s healthy, or hell, even Casey Townsend if his recent goal spurt with the Kickers leads to anything. But keeping Pajoy on the field no matter what is killing any chance of having a fluid, purposeful attack. He slows down everything, gets offside, and doesn’t create or finish opportunities. We might not have a worthy striker, but let’s find out and not make half @## attempts to make a formation in which Pajoy makes sense.

      • Forgot to say, I didn’t think it was a good idea to sign Rafael without signing someone more proven who could knock Pajoy out of the lineup.

      • Sigh, I meant Rafael, Ruiz, or Townsend. We can’t give up on De Ro getting back in the groove, we don’t have that luxury.

  3. This team lacks a Christian Gomez-style player, and that is the spark for our offense. DC cannot rely on the offense flowing a 34-year-old DeRo. I just think he is too old for that much responsibility.

    • Ditto. I miss him in d.c. We should use some of that Najar money on “another Najar.”

      Maybe if he is doing poorly he will come back? ; )

  4. There’s no surprises from me. Everyone in the league knew we dragged out results at the end of the year. Olsen and Co. have just bought terrible players. They’re journeymen who are “good enough” to earn a contract, but not good enough to be starting. And all MLS teams need cheap labor like that. However, we can’t build a team around them.

    Compared to the 90s, we really have fallen as a club all around – stadium, players, playing style, flavor. Even the fan base has finally started to dwindle. The combined wealth of our owners pushes us into the top half of rich clubs in the US. “Show me the money!”

    And the next time we’re promised a DP striker and we get teenage who is a project and wasn’t even lighting his native league on fire, I’ll scream.

  5. Per MLS website:

    Pajoy has played 514 minutes and only has 2 SOG in that time. He has 6 shots in total. That is 6 games for reference.

    You have 2 9’s getting in each others way? I imagine the problem is the same player that has the above stat line. He can’t play soccer at the professional level.

  6. “Referring specifically to Rafael, who was pulled at halftime against the Red Bulls, Olsen said, “I think he struggled.” But the coach did take some positives from the game.”

    If that is a criteria for pulling a player–how in the world are you justifying Pajoy?

    Lionard Pajoy has started 6 games and played 514 total minutes. In that time period, he has 0 assists and 2 shots on goal.

    Yes, you read that right. 2 shots on goal in 514 minutes. In fact, he only has 6 shots in total. He averages 1 shot a game.

    Your starting striker averages 1 shot a game. You’re a joke Olsen.

    • There’s nothing positive from Pajoy. If he has incriminating pictures of Olsen and thus has to play, throw him on the wing. Pajoy has decent dribbling skills and has stamina. He can’t be any worse than the way our wingers are playing thus far.

      As I said in preseason – Olsen set forwards up to play defensively. I like Olsen, and he played some attacking soccer during certain stretches of last season. However, his ability to pick players is terrible and he lacks tactics. We can’t even drag out a tie for 90 minutes.

  7. DC really misses Najar. He added an element of unpredictability that paid dividends for the whole team. His chemistry with DeLeon down the right side was a joy to watch. Teams are able to key on Pontius and DeRo and not worry about the right side.

    I’m not a Pajater (Pajoy-hater), but I think it’s time for him to go, if only to show Olsen is willing to make the tough change.

    • What Najar offered us was attacking width from defense. Our sidebacks are defensively “enough” but are terrible going forward. No one’s defense is afraid of them so they can double down on our better players. Olsen demands a workhorse mentality, but forgets to find players who can actually play soccer. Najar was a wildcard. You couldn’t ignore him. Our defense isn’t dangerous any longer.


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