By MITCHELL NORTHAM
With seven goals and eight assists this Major League Soccer season, no player has been more important to D.C. United than forward Fabian Espindola. But the leaders atop of the Eastern Conference will now have to look to another player to create scoring opportunities — the Argentine attacker is expected to miss six weeks with a strained medial collateral ligament in his right knee, the club announced Tuesday.
Espindola suffered the injury just seconds after kickoff in D.C. United’s 4-2 win over the Montreal Impact on June 11 when Impact defender Felipe Martins aggressively tackled Espindola. Martins’ challenge was a questionable one but didn’t cause referee Mark Kadlecik to pull a card from his pocket.
Espindola left the game at the end of the first half, but not before tallying three assists and helping the Black-and-Red grab a victory on the road.
The announcement of Espindola’s injury came just hours before the club’s 1-0 loss to the Rochester Rhinos in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup. He was unlikely to play regardless as manager Ben Olsen fielded a reserve heavy team, but the game showed how tough it is for his side to score goals without Espindola, even against an USL Pro team.
With the club expecting Espindola to be out for about six weeks, that likely pegs his return for late July or early August — possibly on July 30 at home against Toronto FC or on August 3 in Houston against the Dynamo.
However long Espindola will be out, D.C. United will certainly miss their leading goal scorer and the chances for goals that he creates. In his absence, D.C. will lean heavily on designated player Eddie Johnson, reserve forwards Conor Doyle and Chris Rolfe, or perhaps youngster Michael Seaton, who just returned from an international tour with Jamaica.
What do you think of this news? Can D.C. United preserve their record without him? Which players will need to step up?
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