By THOMAS FLOYD
WASHINGTON — While D.C. United’s struggling attack limped through a 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, one of their own found goals easier to come by some 100 miles to the south.
In the Richmond Kickers’ 4-1 win over the Charleston Battery, on-loan United striker Casey Townsend found net in the 32nd and 68th minutes. Considering D.C. as a team has only managed to match that total in six games, compiling a 1-4-1 mark, is the club considering a recall for Townsend?
“Casey is a guy that we could choose to pull back for good,” coach Ben Olsen said. “We haven’t scored a lot of goals, so we’re always looking for guys that are in form, and he certainly looks to be progressing pretty good with that group. We know he could score goals, so nothing is off the table.”
Townsend, a 23-year-old University of Maryland product picked fifth overall in last year’s SuperDraft, was acquired from Chivas USA for a supplemental draft pick in January.
As Townsend noted, United require high pressure out of their forwards while Chivas asked for more play underneath. But the striker, who trains with United during the week, feels he has adjusted to the change in philosophy and will be ready to contribute if called upon.
“Obviously it’s nice to play games,” Townsend said. “It’s sometimes better than coming off the bench for 10, 15 minutes to get a full 90 minutes under your belt and get some confidence back, and hopefully I can work my way back into the 18.”
Here are some more notes from RFK Stadium on Tuesday:
RAFAEL, PAJOY LACKING CHEMISTRY
Although Olsen has dropped the 4-5-1 formation that succeeded down the stretch last season in favor of a more attack-minded 4-4-2 alignment, United have scored just one goal in three games with Lionard Pajoy and designated player Rafael starting together up top.
“Some of the injury situations have forced us to play a way maybe not as balanced as I’d like it,” Olsen said. “You’ve got two No. 9s up there fighting for positions, and at times getting in the way and there’s not enough triangles, ability to break teams down, in particular against New York. They did a great job of staying compact, keeping their lines very tight, being organized.”
Referring specifically to Rafael, who was pulled at halftime against the Red Bulls, Olsen said, “I think he struggled.” But the coach did take some positives from the game.
“I thought our possession in the midfield was much better,” Olsen said. “Defensively, positionally we were pretty good. We fouled up two plays, and that was the story of the game. And once again we didn’t create enough chances up top. Their forwards were much better than our forwards on the day. That’s probably what it comes down to.”
FAMILIARITY LITTLE HELP THUS FAR
One perplexing aspect of United’s early-season slide has been the continuity of the club following last fall’s run to the Eastern Conference final.
Defender-midfielder Andy Najar (22 starts), sold to Belgian side RSC Anderlecht, is the only departed player who started at least half of United’s games last season. Also gone are strikers Maicon Santos (16 starts) and Hamdi Salihi (10), midfielder Branko Boskovic (12), and defender Emiliano Dudar (10).
“Last year, it was a bit different,” midfielder Perry Kitchen said. “We had a few different pieces. We were just grinding out results, and maybe we were a bit lucky. Maybe this year some stuff isn’t going our way as it would have last year. But saying that, we just have to continue developing.”
RICHMOND AGREEMENT PAYING DIVIDENDS
As part of a new affiliate agreement with Richmond, United goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra, rookie left back Taylor Kemp and homegrown defender-midfielder Conor Shanosky started for the Kickers alongside Townsend on Saturday.
To keep tabs on the players on loan, Olsen said he has been watching tape of the matches and checking in with Richmond coach Leigh Cowlishaw.
“They’re not there as a punishment,” Olsen said. “They’re there to develop and for them to eventually help us here, whether that’s in a week, whether that’s in two years. That’s the process.”
While Townsend has found the goals, Olsen said he’s been told Shanosky “has actually been as good as anyone down there.”
Could Townsend be the solution to United’s scoring woes? Should Olsen abandon playing with two strikers? And what else could D.C. do to recapture last fall’s success?
Share your thoughts below.