The Black-and-Red used an exciting second half to get past the Chicago Fire last night, scoring three goals in thirty minutes. The return of Fabian Espindola sparked the team on every level, especially on the attack.
The main benefactor appeared to be Jairo Arreita, he’s had to fill some big shoes this year during Espindola’s absence and has done a very good job. Olsen brought up an interesting point after the game. “I think everybody plays better when Fabi came on the field. I’m very happy for Jairo, I didn’t think he had a great first half. Some of that’s a product of what’s around him, when you add quality to the team, other guys start to look better.” The point about ‘being a product of what’s around him’ speaks volumes. While Jairo doesn’t occupy centre backs in the manner that Fabi does, he has shown the ability to finish in big moments for the club this season. There have been times in games when he’s serviced balls in areas as if he’s Espindola rather than himself, he’s much more dangerous getting the ball on the move versus the target forward role.
Espindola’s ability to bring calm to a struggling attack was apparent the moment he stepped on the field, he’s known for scoring goals but last night his playmaking was on full display. He assisted two of the three DC goals, both of which were outstanding passes, his ability to occupy the centre backs made it easier for his teammates to make runs off of him. More often than not, he found them. The ball was being passed around with a purpose versus just being passed around, the sharpness DC’s often lacked in the attacking third was there for a full 45 minutes and Chicago had no answers for it.
After the game, Espindola talked about getting back on the field and his performance, “I didn’t know that I was going to get in the game, that was coach’s decision. It felt great, connect a few passes and then after that, the assists. I think I helped the team. As for the knee injury that held him out all of these weeks, “That was something I never had before. I wasn’t able to bend my knee, I had my quad all filled with blood, that was a big problem. It wasn’t draining so that was difficult. I feel better, it’s painful. The problem was I wasn’t able to bend my knee.
Arrieta now leads the team with five goals on the season, prompting Olsen to talk about his production this season and why DC needed him. “Jairo can score goals, he’s done it throughout his career. He’s a true nine and we needed it, especially as you guys know with Fabi’s suspension. We were looking for a guy that fit our mold and fit with what we’re about and was able to score goals. Fortunately he’s been able to do that for us, he likes scoring goals. You see him, he really really like scoring goals. I’m so happy he’s doing it for us.” In his last two seasons with the Columbus Crew, Arreita scored just eight goals in 49 games. It’s safe to say he’s a fan of his new surroundings as he’s rediscovered his scoring touch and rhythm.
Eventually DC will get healthy and their starting forwards will be last year’s team scoring leaders in Luis Silva and Espindola. Still the production of Arrieta during the injuries will not be forgotten, giving a side that is known for it’s defense a legitimate third option to play up front. He’s also shown the ability to play underneath the forwards, so as Olsen stated earlier this week about his three centre backs, he may be a coach with a ‘luxury’ of three proficient goal scorers.