At the outset of the 2015 MLS campaign, it was obvious that for D.C. United to have success in the early goings of the season, they would need to find goals from all over the field. As it were, United started the season without their top three goal scorers from the 2014 season.
Fabian Espindola was due to miss the first six games of the season due to a suspension picked up in the aftermath of the playoff loss to the New York Red Bulls. Luis Silva was struggling to recover fully from an injury picked up near the end of the 2014 season, which snowballed into another injury during January. Eddie Johnson, who had been mysteriously ill during the playoffs, had found out that he had an enlarged heart and is set to retire in due time.
With all that said, United did manage to find goals from unlikely sources, and with plenty of players chipping in, United is off to their best start in team history, picking up five wins in the first eight games.
"It's nice when everyone chips in, for a lot of different reasons. The major reason is that you have different options to hurt other teams, and in different ways," United manager Ben Olsen told B&RU this week. "Run of play, set pieces, outside backs, center backs. Perry [Kitchen] and some of our attacking core have all chipped in a little bit. It's a good thing, it's also a good thing when someone gets hot."
In 2014, the trio of Espindola, Silva, and Johnson combined to score 29 of the 52 goals scored by D.C. in league play. A total of 11 players netted for D.C., a far cry from when they were the worst team in the league in 2013.
This season already though, eight different players have found the back of the net in eight games, meaning that United haven't relied heavily on one or two players to provide the bulk of scoring. Both Kitchen and Chris Rolfe are tied with the most goals scored in the league for United, with just two apiece.
And the past two games, both victories, have seen the defenders get in on the scoring act. After Bobby Boswell headed home to level the scores against Vancouver two weeks ago in United's come from behind win, Sean Franklin doubled D.C.'s advantage last week against the Columbus Crew, with what was eventually the final tally.
Getting everyone involved in the attack is something that United has put focus on this year.
"There's definitely plays that I get myself into attacking. It's your job when you're in that position to make a play," Franklin said to B&RU earlier this week. "Hopefully I'll be able to make some more plays this season. I think our team has done a good job of creating chances, we've gotten some good wide service from the outside backs and midfielders, and our forwards are making good runs."
The goals have come been all sorts of varieties to boot. There's been goals from direct free kicks. Two goals from corner kicks. A couple of counter attacking goals, and some late game heroics as well.
With just about everyone back healthy, that streak looks to continue.
"I think as long as we're consistent getting into those spots, getting good service,and getting guys chances, it's only going to create more goals for us," Franklin added.
It's unlikely that United will get many more goal scorers this year than what they had last year. Over the course of the year, a couple of goals will come from defenders, but the majority of the load will be lifted by the usual suspects, Espindola, Rolfe, Silva, and company.
And at some point, someone will likely catch fire, and be the main source of goals for United during a stretch of games. But for when the time comes that aren't flowing, knowing that everyone is capable of chipping in is just fine for Olsen.
"It's big. Fabi can chip in a few from set pieces. And our outside backs can grab a few, it helps everybody else. It takes some heat off of the goal scorers. If [a forward] goes through a cold stretch, those guys adding to the box score is great."