As D.C. United prepares to take on Querétaro F.C. in the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, they do it this year knowing that Fabian Espindola will be around for the quarterfinals as well as the start of the regular season. Last season, Espindola was missed for the first 6 league matches due to suspension. When the team was without Espindola (he missed several games due to suspension or injury, the team faltered, going 6-7-4 and scoring well less than a goal per game. When he was in the lineup and scoring? The team prospered, going 9-6-2 and scoring at a rate well over 1.5 goals per game. Simply put: when Fabi was in, we had a great chance to win.
Now, we enter 2016, and the Designated Player with the #10 on his back enters as our prime striker up front, the man charged with creating offense and sending many soccer balls into the back of the net. Whether we're in a 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-1-4-1, it's assumed that Fabi will be the man at the top of any of those formations. Whether he pairs with a Chris Rolfe or Alvaro Saborio up top or if recent additions to the midfield allow Fabi to flow free as the lone striker, he's going to be counted on to spur our attack and help with our creativity in space. Fabi led the Black-and-Red in shots per game in 2015, but he also was able to involve his teammates as well. If he can create space in the final 1/3, either he's taking a shot on goal or he can create the space to set up an opportunity for a teammate to finish.
Having Espindola around for the start of the regular season will only help United's attack get comfortable with each other. This year, with several new additions to the lineup, continuity will be the key in allowing our starting XI to get on the same page. With Espindola as the seasoned veteran up top, it will only help increase our offensive opportunities as we begin the season with 6 of our first 8 league matches against 2015 MLS Playoff participants, on top of at least the 2 Champions League matches against Querétaro.
In the end, the question of the season will be whether Espindola up front is enough to add some silverware to the trophy case at RFK Stadium. Also, with the added matches and with our dependence on his creativity up front, can he shoulder the increased workload? He ranks among the fan favorites, and in his 2015 season review, fan votes overwhelmingly said that they wanted him back in 2016. This season will be an important one for Fabi as he leads our offense against the league and in the CCL knockout stage, and if we see increased production from our #10 up front, this season could mean our 13 trophies and an armadillo will gain some company.