D.C. United fears starting forward Fabian Espindola will miss two to four weeks with a hamstring injury suffered Saturday, Coach Ben Olsen said Monday.
Espindola hurt the hamstring late in the first half during a 3-0 victory over the New England Revolution at RFK Stadium. His replacement, Alvaro Saborio, contributed an assist and goal in the last five minutes of the match.
Espindola and Saborio are tied for the team lead with three goals apiece.
Espindola has appeared in seven of eight matches, making five starts. He was sidelined with a hamstring ailment early in the year, as well.
Even if the injury is minor, Espindola seems sure to miss Saturday’s visit to Chicago to face the Fire (1-2-3) at Toyota Stadium (5 p.m. ET, ABC7). United (2-3-3) will then host New York City FC on May 8 and the New York Red Bulls on May 13 before traveling to Philadelphia on May 20.
Espindola is not the only starter out this weekend: Defensive midfielder Marcelo Sarvas will serve a suspension for yellow card accumulation (five in seven matches).
In Espindola’s absence, Olsen has three primary options: insert Saborio, insert Luciano Acosta or move Lamar Neagle to the frontline and start Rob Vincent in Neagle’s flank position. He could also pair Neagle and Acosta, drop Chris Rolfe to the left wing and use Saborio off the bench. The Costa Rican striker has yet to start this season (five reserve appearances).
Acosta, an electrifying Argentine attacker, has come off the bench since starting the first three games of the season. Two weeks ago, he provided a pair of late-game assists on Saborio’s goals against Vancouver. On Saturday, he scored an audacious goal in the 86th minute by chipping the goalkeeper from 23 yards. Olsen, however, has been reluctant to start Acosta again because he says he is still not synchronized enough with his new teammates for a full performance.
“Acosta has done a good job off the bench but so has Saborio,” Olsen said. “They are different in their traits. It’s next man up, and a lot of guys want more playing time. It’s why we have built a fairly deep squad and hopefully the next guy up can do the job and continue the little bit of momentum we’ve built the last few games.”
As for the possibility of pushing Neagle up front and partnering with Chris Rolfe, Olsen said: “Neagle has done a very good job out wide and his relationship out there is a good one right now, but moving up top is not off the table.
“It’s just a matter of us figuring out which group give us the best chance to succeed. We’ve seen a little bit of Chicago, but we really haven’t dove into them yet enough to really get our game plan set.”