Photo by ISIphotos.com
By THOMAS FLOYD
WASHINGTON — Luis Silva has made one thing clear since he’s joined D.C. United: He’s a playmaker.
The 24-year-old isn’t a striker, and he isn’t a winger, even if he’s asked to play those roles from time to time. As far as he’s concerned, it’s his job to pull the strings in the attacking third — something he felt he wasn’t able to do with Toronto FC before being trading to United earlier this month.
“Over there I was a little bit more up top, I had to be more aggressive,” Silva said. “Here, it’s a little bit more withdrawn. And obviously I feel that here my teammates look for me more. They play that ball in the middle, they’re not afraid to make a mistake, and I think that’s been helping a lot. I said it over there, I’ve said it here: If I get the ball, I can make things happen.”
Silva has bagged long-range goals in each of his first two games with United, remarkably putting him into a tie atop the scoring chart for the 2-15-4 club. And he’s particularly enjoyed the opportunity to put his creative instincts on display while having a team’s attack flow through him.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Silva said. “The expectations are higher, but obviously that’s my position, that’s what I like to do, and I just go out there and have fun.”
Added coach Ben Olsen: “It’s nice to have a player out here day in, day out, that is really enjoyable to watch in the way he expresses himself. I’m glad we have him.”
Here are some more notes from RFK Stadium on Tuesday:
DOYLE QUICKLY INTEGRATED
With just a handful of training sessions under his belt, recently acquired striker Conor Doyle was thrust into action Saturday, starting and logging 66 minutes in United’s 2-1 loss to the New England Revolution.
The decision from Olsen fit within United’s midseason revamp in philosophy, with the struggling club emphasizing youth with the acquisitions of Doyle (21 years old) via a league lottery, Silva (24) in a trade, Jared Jeffrey (23) through the waiver draft and Collin Martin (18) as a homegrown player.
“Ben mentioned it to me the day they got me in the lottery how he’s giving young people a chance and they’re going to stay with youth,” Doyle said. “That was really cool and really reassuring to hear. I think we’ve got good enough players here that, in the next year or two, we’ll be real contenders.”
Although Doyle is still adjusting to his new club, the 6-foot-2 target forward feels he has a good grasp on the responsibilities Olsen asks of strikers in his 4-4-2 system — particularly the high work rate pressuring opposing back lines.
“When I got here, they sat me down and had a talk with me and were specific,” Doyle said. “We did shape, which helped me out, and how we wanted to pressure and how we wanted to play.”
OPEN CUP PRESENTS BALANCING ACT
With United’s playoff hopes all but gone, the club’s primary competitive focus has become the U.S. Open Cup. Before D.C. faces the Chicago Fire in an Open Cup semifinal Aug. 7, however, the team hosts the Montreal Impact (10-5-5) in league play Saturday.
With just three days of rest separating the matches, look for Olsen to manage minutes against the Impact.
“Right now, it’s about preparing for Montreal and trying to get a winning mentality that will kind of roll into that important game Wednesday against Chicago,” Olsen said. “It’s a little bit of a balancing act on players and how I get everybody in a rhythm and physically read to go on Wednesday with the weekend game. That’s part of what we’re figuring out now.”
If United defeat Chicago, they will travel to face Real Salt Lake or the Portland Timbers in the Open Cup final after hosting rights were determined Tuesday by a U.S. Soccer coin flip.
HAMID GETS DAY OFF
Bill Hamid has returned to Washington after missing four matches because of U.S. national team duty, but the 22-year-old goalkeeper is not yet back at training.
“I gave him a day to stay at home today and relax,” Olsen said. “I’ve been through Gold Cups — it’s a long time, it’s a lot of travel, it’s intense. He’s earned a day off.”
So does Hamid, who did not play during the American’s Gold Cup title run, automatically regain his starting spot over Joe Willis?
“He hasn’t had a lot of games,” Olsen said. “He’s been doing a lot of watching, unfortunately. So he’ll come back and we’ll see what he has and we’ll see how sharp he is.”
RUIZ, TOWNSEND SIDELINED
Forwards Carlos Ruiz (groin) and Casey Townsend (foot) did not dress Saturday against New England and have not trained this week. Ruiz will be sidelined for “a couple days to a week,” Olsen said, while Townsend is out indefinitely.
How impressive has Silva can been thus far for United? Can Doyle make the same kind of impact? And should Olsen rest players ahead of next week’s Open Cup clash?
Share your thoughts below.