After joining D.C. United last month in a trade with the Philadelphia Union, forward Lionard Pajoy had little choice but to acclimate to his new team as quickly possible. Being thrust into the starting lineup for five games in two weeks will do that.
In today’s paper, my story looks at how Pajoy has fit in with United and how big a factor he could be in United’s playoff push.
If nothing else, Pajoy understands United’s sense of tradition.
“When I first heard about the trade, I started to do some research immediately and found out about the history of the club,” Pajoy said via a translator. “I know it’s a club with a lot of trophies, tradition and also some big players.”
DELEON BREAKS THROUGH ROOKIE WALL
Rookie midfielder Nick DeLeon’s last-season resurgence continued last week when he notched a goal and an assist in United’s 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls. On the the season, DeLeon now has five goals and four assists, putting him firmly in the Rookie of the Year conversation.
“It’s getting there,” DeLeon said. “It’s getting to where I want it to be. I’m starting to play a lot better, a lot more fluid, touch is starting to come back. But it’s a reflection of the team because we’re playing really well right now as a team, pressuring together, and when we do that well, we get to see more of the ball. And it allows players to get more touches on the ball and therefore improve your game.”
So it DeLeon surprised with how well he has performed in his first professional campaign?
“Nah,” DeLeon said with a smile. “I feel like I can do more.”
UNITED EMBRACE BREAK
With MLS essentially on hiatus this weekend to accommodate international matches, United are enjoying their 13-day break from action before kicking off the home stretch Sept. 15 against the New England Revolution at RFK Stadium.
“This break is much-needed,” midfielder Perry Kitchen said. “We’re looking forward to the home stretch of the season. It’s the fun part, it’s the crucial part too, so it’s exciting.”
United have been short-handed at training this week, with Canada internationals Dejan Jakovic and Dwayne De Rosario and Albania’s Hamdi Salihi away for World Cup qualifying.
On Wednesday, coach Ben Olsen took part in training as a player, as he does from time to time. At one point, he went on a great individual run, cutting through the defense before being denied by goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra. Profanity ensued.