D.C. United hasn't scored a goal in almost a month and has been shut out five times in its last seven games. The club hasn't scored on the road since early April and its leading scorer last year has come up empty.
So what does United's front office plan to do about it?
At the moment, nothing.
"I don't think we think it's a priority" to acquire an established scorer, President Kevin Payne said yesterday as MLS's defending champion prepared for tonight's match against the surging Chicago Fire at RFK Stadium.
"If the right opportunity came along and we felt it would make our team better, then, yeah, we would try to act on it. But we still have a lot of faith in [the current forwards]. I think we would be a lot more concerned if we weren't creating chances."
Despite 28 shots (17 above its average) against the New York/New Jersey MetroStars on Sunday at Giants Stadium, United (3-4-4) was blanked for the sixth time and settled for its third 0-0 tie of the year.
Alecko Eskandarian, who led the team with 10 goals in 2004, had almost as many shots in the second half alone (seven) as the MetroStars had the entire evening (eight).
Santino Quaranta failed to convert two early opportunities before yielding to Eskandarian at halftime, and despite consistently setting up his teammates, veteran Jaime Moreno struggled to finish his chances.
The scoring drought has become a mystery for a team that averaged 2.5 goals per game in last year's postseason and returned nearly all its attacking players. The buildup has been crisp, but the finishing alarmingly poor.
"I thought [Sunday] was probably the best game we've played all year, as far as attacking," Eskandarian said. "I'm really encouraged by the fact that we had so many shots. One of the things I was kind of discouraged about at the beginning of the year was that we had games where we had five, six shots -- and that's why it was difficult to score goals."
Payne said the team expressed some interest in forward Ante Razov, MLS's fifth all-time leading scorer who was traded by Columbus to the MetroStars last week. But, he said: "We weren't going to mortgage our future and I think, by the time we got involved, they were already pretty much done with the deal. He's an expensive player. Ante's a good player and he deserves to be paid well, but I'm not sure that's the direction we wanted to go in."
Coach Peter Nowak might reinsert Eskandarian into the starting lineup tonight after his lively, albeit scoreless, performance Sunday. But Nowak recognizes that the scoring responsibility falls on every player, not just the struggling forwards.
"Practice, practice, work, work," Nowak said when asked what he could do to trigger some goals. "It's going to work out, sooner or later. . . . The guys have to believe it. We have to motivate ourselves a little bit more right now, especially at this time. It's a very important time for us."
United Notes: The club is close to finalizing a major exhibition against English Premier League champion Chelsea, but details were still being worked out yesterday.
Both RFK Stadium and FedEx Field are under consideration for the game in late July. Chelsea would play United and AC Milan twice at other U.S. sites during the proposed tour, and Milan might end up playing another MLS team. . . .
According to team officials, defender Bryan Namoff will not be available tonight because of a hip injury. John Wilson is expected to start in his place for the second straight game. Namoff might be ready for Saturday's match against the front-running New England Revolution (7-0-4) at RFK. . . .
The second-place Fire (7-5-1) has scored 13 goals in its last five games (four victories). Third-year forward Nate Jaqua, son of former Redskin Jon Jaqua, has had four goals in the past two games, including a hat trick against Chivas USA.