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Luis Silva realizes potential in D.C. United playmaking role

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Since joining D.C. United last month, Luis Silva has been adamant about his role. He's a playmaker. Not a striker. Not a winger. A playmaker.

But that wasn't always the case. As a boy growing up in Southern California, Silva actually developed an affinity for pulling on the gloves and standing between the posts. For a while, he would play half of each game at goalkeeper and half at forward.

It wasn't until he was 14 or 15 years old that Silva was finally deployed as an attacking midfielder for a team coached by his uncle.

"Ever since then," Silva said, "I never played any other position."

Silva immediately fell in love with the spot. He studied the likes of Alessandro Del Piero and Zinedine Zidane, hoping to replicate their movements and creativity. He enjoyed being the man an attack flows through, relishing every opportunity to have the ball at his feet.

In just four games with United, Silva has shown what he's capable of as a playmaker. With three goals and an assist, he's already the leading scorer for a 3-17-4 D.C. squad — handsomely rewarding coach Ben Olsen's decision to let the 24-year-old newcomer run the show in a free-flowing position.

"That builds my confidence a lot," Silva said. "The coach has been talking to me a lot about that role specifically, giving me that freedom to come back in the middle, to go back up top and just make things happen offensively."

In recent matches, Silva has developed a shrewd relationship with United captain Dwayne De Rosario. While Silva and the 35-year-old former MVP initially appeared to be competing for one spot, Olsen has found success using both players simultaneously.

"It takes time, but they're both good soccer players and they both have abstract ideas up there," Olsen said. "It's only going to get better, and for the limited time they've spent up there together, I've been happy with it."

Although De Rosario on paper plays as the lone forward above Silva, the veteran does drop into midfield from time to time. At that point, Silva knows it's his responsibility to move higher up the field and fill the void up top.

It's an interchange-heavy partnership that has been surprisingly effective given how little time the players have had to learn each other's tendencies.

"The game and the plays dictate that, and I think we both have a good understanding of where we need to be," De Rosario said. "That kind of understanding without really rehearsing it is good."

Silva at RFK Stadium on Saturday will have a chance to face Toronto (4-12-8) for the first time since the trade. After being picked fourth overall out of UC Santa Barbara in the 2012 draft, Silva played forward and wide midfield under coaches Aron Winter, Paul Mariner and Ryan Nelsen but never felt like he got a chance to be a true playmaker.

He doesn't carry any resentment toward the club that gave him his professional start. Yet he's certainly happy with the change scenery.

"I thank them for everything they did, drafting me, welcoming me to Toronto and all," Silva said. "Obviously I had three different coaches and that can be a little tough — different systems, they want to play different positions. You just had to get used to it if you wanted to be on the field. But overall, it was good.

"I feel happy here in D.C. I think they use me differently. They use me to my potential."

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