- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Alecko Eskandarian has registered just one assist and two unsuccessful shots on goals in seven games for D.C. United this season, hardly the kind of numbers expected from the team’s top goal scorer a year ago.

However, the stats fail to tell the whole story. The 22-year-old’s runs off the ball have drawn defenders and opened up the field for strikers Jaime Moreno and Christian Gomez.

Eskandarian’s efforts were vital in United’s 3-2 win over the Kansas City Wizards last week at RFK Stadium. The former Virginia star won a penalty kick for Moreno that started the scoring and floated a pinpoint cross to earn an assist on Gomez’s goal.

“I’m looking to score goals because that is my job, but there are other things I bring to the game,” Eskandarian said yesterday. “I’m trying to be aggressive, whether it’s defensively or offensively. I measure myself not in goals but in chances.”

Though he is known for scoring droughts, Eskandarian always produces eventually.

In his rookie season of 2003, he needed eight games to collect his first goal. Last season he scored a game-winner against San Jose in the opener, then waited 11 games before adding two more goals against the Columbus Crew. The Montvale, N.J., native finished the regular season with a team-high 10 goals and two assists.

Eskandarian saved his best for the playoffs, in which he scored four goals, including a pair in a 3-2 win over the Kansas City Wizards that earned him MVP honors in the MLS Cup.

This year his campaign started with a badly bruised knee.

“It was tough to find my stride and get my fitness and sharpness,” Eskandarian said. “I don’t think I’m 100 percent sharp yet, but once I get there the goals will come.”

United coach Peter Nowak has remained loyal to Eskandarian, starting him in six games — three more than Freddy Adu. Nowak is pleased with the work ethic and positive attitude displayed by Eskandarian, who has been asked to play deeper and wider.

“It’s added a new dimension to my role,” he said. “I play a little wider and try and attack from different parts of the field.”

The role has given Eskandarian a little more freedom to find space on the field.

“Instead of being posted up against a defender all the time, he’s coming out and facing defenders,” United president Kevin Payne said.

Three of Eskandarian’s goals last year came against Dallas, and the 5-foot-9 attacker will be looking to end his current scoring drought when FC Dallas visits RFK Stadium on Saturday.

Note — Contrary to rumors, United midfielder Dema Kovalenko is not on the verge of being traded.

“We’ve got a lot of unprofessional people in this league who run their mouths off about other people’s business,” Payne said. “Instead of worrying about what we’re doing, since we’re the defending champions, they should be worried what they are doing.”

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