Fans of D.C. United certainly had reason to have high expectations for Hamdi Salihi when he signed with the team. His resume contained some numbers that were just stupid - Salihi had scored 142 goals in just 262 professional matches before arriving in MLS.
There was another number on his resume that should have stood out to us also though. A grand total of zero goals in six appearances with Panionios GSS of Greece's Super League in the 2004-05 season.
Why was Salihi's time with the Athens-based club so incredibly disappointing when he'd been so successful previously in Albania and again later when returning to Albanian then venturing to Austria? Why didn't he do more that year? Perhaps he was stuck behind a few other great strikers on the depth chart. Or perhaps he was nursing an injury that season. Or perhaps the team played a different style that Salihi didn't fit well. Perhaps the league was faster or more physical, and Salihi failed to adjust. I don't claim to follow Greek soccer very closely (or at all), so I don't know the answer.
His time in MLS was better statistically, but still fairly disappointing, especially given the expectations. Six goals in 22 matches might sound like a success, but it wasn't when you consider that two of those goals came from easy finishes from rebounds, and only one was a game-winner.
What we expected from Salihi was the next great D.C. United striker. A more agile Emilio. A more technical Lassiter. A more experienced Eskandarian.
What we got instead was the most recent in a long line of failed international acquisitions. A taller Castillo. A more likeable Gallardo. His time with United is racing towards its demise, all but assured given Dave Kasper's statements to the Washington Post that Salihi is no longer in the team's plans. There are still contractual issues to resolve - Salihi's contract is guaranteed for the 2013 season - but he won't be playing for United.
The tale of Salihi's MLS career could have been so much more. A verbose epic filled with grandeur and triumph. Instead we got only a short story. A one-act play with all talk and no action.
For his sake, this is hopefully just a brief substory in an otherwise remarkable novel. Just like his stop in Greece was.
And yet we're still left wondering what could have been. Had Ben Olsen only given Salihi more time on the field, would he have made more of an impact? Would his excellent 0.57 goals per 90 minutes average have remained as high? Unfortunately we'll never get the chance to find out.