It made sense. Fabian Espindola returned to the DC United lineup from a six-game MLS suspension and the Black and Red crafted a 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps FC that reflected his qualities.
With a mixture of resilience, skill, and determination United earned its first ever victory in Vancouver. Down 1-0 after just 70 seconds, United responded with a goal on header from Bobby Boswell in the 9th minute and a rocket from Chris Rolfe at the top of the penalty area in the 64th minute to secure the three points.
Already missing first choice goalkeeper Bill Hamid to a thigh contusion, United lost Andrew Dykstra in the second half to an apparent ankle injury. Travis Worra played the final 32 minutes in goal, made one save, and organized a defense that was under siege from a Whitecaps team desperate to claim at least a point form the home match.
1. Fabian Espindola doesn’t have to score to have an impact. Espindola’s presence on the field preoccupied the Whitecaps defense and opened up spaces for other players in United’s attack. Several times Espindola forced turnovers and unsettled situations that turned into goal scoring opportunities. In addition Espindola’s committed play forced Matias Laba into two first half yellow cards and reduced Vancouver to ten men for the final 48 minutes.
2. Chris Rolfe continues to impress. It could be argued that Rolfe has been United’s most consistently dangerous attacking player all season. On Saturday Rolfe’s game winner was a result of invention perseverance. Rolfe skillfully played a through ball to Chris Pontius at the top of the penalty area, but it was tackled away by the Whitecaps defender Steve Beitashour. Rolfe stayed with the play and blasted the loose ball home for his second goal in as many weeks. Rolfe can play wide and against the Whitecaps he was asked to play below Espindola in the middle. It doesn’t matter where Rolfe plays, he makes a difference.
3. United has options in midfield. With Davy Arnaud sidelined by a groin injury Michael Farfan slotted in the center of the midfield next to Perry Kitchen. Farfan, who has started games on the flank, looked more than comfortable in the middle of the park. In addition to assisting on the first goal and providing probing passes, Farfan was also effective in disrupting Whitecaps counterattacks.