After losing his starting job in late April to 15-year-old Freddy Adu and two aging players near the end of their careers, D.C. United forward Aleckso Eskandarian showed last night that he too will be a big part of the team’s future.
Eskandarian, the No.1 pick in last year’s MLS SuperDraft, recorded his second multi-goal game of his career when he scored twice and fellow forward Jaime Moreno added a goal and an assist — all in the first half — to power United to a convincing 3-1 win over the Columbus Crew before 17,176 at RFK Stadium.
It was a timely offensive display by Eskandarian. It helped cool the hottest team in MLS — the Crew was unbeaten in their last seven games — and ended a three-game goal-less streak for United. (The club won a game three weeks ago thanks to an own-goal.) And the 21-year-old Eskandarian did all this after being hospitalized briefly on Friday to receive antibiotics for strep throat.
With Eskandarian’s ability to finish, United coach Peter Nowak, who kept him out of the lineup in favor of Adu, Moreno and Ronald Cerritos earlier in the season, is going to have a hard time keeping the Virginia product off the field.
“It’s not up to me, it’s up to the coaching staff,” Eskandarian said about not being a starter.
Adu was the first to recognize Eskandarian’s brilliant game as he applauded Eskandarian when he replaced him in the 69th minute. RFK’s crowd followed and gave Eskandarian a standing ovation.
“He played very, very well, I felt kind of bad coming in for him because I wanted him to get the hat trick,” said Adu, who played the full 90 minutes in the U.S. Under-20 team’s 2-0 loss Wednesday to Brazil at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “I told him that he did great and that he’s got to keep that going.”
Added Moreno: “[Eskandarian] had a great game. First of all, it’s a funny game where you have to keep your consistency, play well, and do your stuff. I’m sure he’s going to keep working hard to maintain his place after tonight.”
Eskandarian made it clear early that the Crew would have trouble containing him and United (4-5-4). The forward unloaded a 16-yard left-footed blast just 14 seconds into the match that forced Crew goalkeeper Jon Busch into a diving save. Then midfielder Dema Kovalenko went off the left post in the third minute.
But is was Moreno, not Eskandarian, who became the first United player to score a goal in the team’s last 318 minutes. The veteran midfielder gave the home team a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute.
Midfielder Brian Carroll collected the ball out of the deep midfield and made a 20-yard run through the Crew midfield. He then laid the ball off to Cerritos charging through the left side of the box. Cerritos served a cross into the 6-yard box and Moreno, who was unmarked at the goal line, tapped in his third goal of the season.
United made it 2-0 in the 34th minute on a three-man, give-and-go. Eskandarian started the play when he sent a short ball to Kovalenko on the left flank. Kovalenko one-timed the ball to Moreno at the top of the box and with his back to goal, Moreno flicked the ball with the outside of his right foot to Eskandarian running through the left side of the box. Eskandarian one-touched Moreno’s no-look pass and delivered an 18-yard left-footed blast into the side netting.
“The second [goal] was real good, the whole build up,” Nowak said.
There must be something about the Crew (4-4-3) that brings out the best in Eskandarian — four of his six career goals have come against Columbus. His only other multi-goal game came on June14, 2003 against Columbus when he scored two goals in a six-minute span at RFK Stadium.
Last night it took 11 minutes for Eskandarian to score two goals. His second came off a direct kick which was set up by a reckless tackle by Crew rookie Chad Marshall on Cerritos. From 22 yards out, Moreno stepped over the ball and Eskandarian curled the free kick over the Crew’s out-of-position wall and into the lower right corner for a 3-0 lead.
United let its guard down in the 90th minute when Crew midfielder Manny Lagos converted a Kyle Martino cross from 12 yards.