In retrospect, Fabian Espindola's 2014-15 offseason could have served as a metaphor for the 2015 season that his team went through. D.C. United made him a Designated Player in January, following a 2014 season where he achieved career highs in goals (11) and assists (9), but that came six weeks after it was learned he would miss the first six games of 2015 for making contact with an official. But like a lot of other things surrounding Espindola, the message remained the same:
Know Fabi, know win. No Fabi? No win. Consider the following:
- In the two CONCACAF Champions League games against Alajuelense, he scored figured in 3 of the team's 4 goals, scoring two.
- His ratio of a goal every 269 minutes and an assist every 192 minutes in 2015, projected over the amount of playing time in 2014, would have essentially flipped his boxcar numbers to 8 goals and 11 assists. The assist number is impressive when you consider he had two fewer passes per game on average in 2015.
- His key passes per game (2.2) was good for 10th in MLS. This was despite having the fewest passes (25.7) per game, put up against such names as Diego Valeri (37.5), Mauro Diaz (41.3), Federico Higuain (54) and Sacha Kljestan (56.8). At home games, that key passing number improved to even more impressive 2.9, good for a tie for 4th in MLS.
- Along with leading the team in key passes per game, he also lead the team in shots per game (2.8), which is more than anyone (save Valeri) from the above list of key pass providers.
- D.C. United's record when games Fabi played in 2015: 9-6-2, 1.65 goals per game
- D.C. United's record when Fabi didn't play in 2015: 6-7-4, 0.88 goals per game.
Knowing that he is the focus of the ball by both teammates and enemies alike, Fabi includes his teammates when possible and played the role this year, but in the playoffs involving his teammates may need to be more of a physical demand rather than a request. With Chris Pontius presumably out the door, the only players on the team who have taken more than 1.5 shots per game are Chris Rolfe and Alvaro Saborio. He's doing his part but should expect and require others to step up.
He'll also need to demand more of himself, as missing a fifth of the season to a hot temper (six for the suspension, and another for a loss against FC Dallas due to a first half red card against the Seattle Sounders) does him no favors.
So, with some facts and numbers laid out in front of you, it's time to ask: