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Fabian Espindola's return continues to fuel D.C. United's unbeaten streak

The Argentine notched his first goal and assist in league play against Columbus in his second game back from suspension

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Fabian Espindola's 2015 season got off on the wrong foot, seconds after his and D.C. United's 2014 season ended at home against the New York Red Bulls in the MLS playoffs. A confrontation with the assistant ref over the Metros' decisive goal was met with a six game suspension by the MLS Disciplinary Committee, forcing United to start the season without their 2014 co-leading goal scorer.

Now that the suspension is behind him, Espindola has quickly got back to doing what he does best for United, scoring goals and creating for teammates.

"The suspension was way too long. But it is what it is, I'm playing now, and I'm happy," Espindola told reporters last night, after he notched a goal and an assist in the Black-and Red's 2-0 win over the Columbus Crew SC.

The suspension will now just be an after thought to the 2015 season, as Espindola was the main man in just his second game back from suspension. The striker finished off Chris Rolfe's counter attacking move in the 15th minute, and then turned provider for Sean Franklin's goal in the 41st.

For the team, it was just the status quo from Espindola.

"[Espindola] getting back into form wasn't a real concern of ours. Physically and mentally," United manager Ben Olsen said after the game. "This is what he does. He plays soccer for a living, and he wants to score goals. It's great to have him back out there, he plays with a fire that we all love. And I think the guys rally behind some of his energy."

Rolfe's run to create Espindola's first goal of the MLS campaign was a thing of beauty. From a Crew corner, Perry Kitchen headed the ball out, and Rolfe was able to corral the ball 35 yards from his own goal. He quickly made his way up the field, before releasing Espindola behind the defense, allowing the Argentinian to slot past Steve Clark for the lead.

In all, it took just eight seconds from the time that Rolfe collected until Espindola hit the back of the net.

"Fabi is great, we all know that. He's very talented," Rolfe said of his strike partner. "It's easy for me to play with him, in the sense that I know if I get the ball, I just need to find him, and he does the rest, right? He makes it pretty easy at times to play with."

An area in which Espindola was sorely missed during his absence was on set pieces, and in particular, corners. While Kitchen headed home a Taylor Kemp corner in April against the New York Red Bulls, service had been lacking for the most part throughout the season on corners.

That all changed on Saturday night, when Espindola took a corner late in the first half. His in-swinging effort had enough power to get over Clark, who came out but failed to claim the ball. Right back Sean Franklin made a well timed run to the back post, and from there, he volleyed home to give United the decisive advantage.

"Fabi put a good ball in. It's my job to get to the back post, and I was in the right place at the right time," Franklin said after the game. "I'm glad I finally got that first goal. There were a few others I should have made at the beginning of this year, but it feels good to get this first one."

According to Espindola, it was something straight from the training ground, which just so happen to work perfectly.

"We were working on that in training. You try it, sometimes it works, sometimes not. It was a good ball," he said.

Saturday night's win against the Crew meant that United extended their unbeaten streak to six games in MLS play. But it also broke a couple of unwanted streaks at the same time. For instance, United had gone five straight games against Columbus without a win, dating back to Lewis Neal's winner in October 2012 to send United to the playoffs.

In addition, United had drawn their previous two games at home, both in contests which they lead. But that tie streak was quickly over with the win over the Crew, while the team extended their unbeaten run at home to 16 games in all competitions.

"We've tied our last two games at home," veteran midfielder Davy Arnaud said. "Teams around this league that get the first goal usually end up with good results. It was important for us to get the first on the night, and then hold onto it, which we haven't done the last two games here."

The biggest take away from Espindola's suspension has been the ease at which he has assimilated back into the team. While he was able to train during the suspension, it's difficult to keep the same focus and energy, knowing that being picked for a game isn't an option.

But Espindola's effort during that time wasn't lost on his teammates. And now, he's come back, played 170 minutes in two games, and added a goal and an assist, both in wins. Just what United has needed as they are off to the best start in team history.

"You got to give him a lot of credit too for the way he trained and got himself ready during the suspension. It definitely wasn't easy on him, but he handled it really well," said Rolfe.