RSL hope Espíndola's initiative can rub off on teammates
LEHI, Utah — This is supposed to be Fabián Espíndola’s breakout season.
Coming into the 2011 campaign, Real Salt Lake manager Jason Kreis felt
like the fifth-year striker was ready to take the league by storm. The
26-year-old Argentine was extremely lively in preseason and during
stretches at the onset of the regular season, but he has been hampered
by injuries of late.
Now, Espíndola appears to have recovered from a hamstring injury that
had slowed him down for several weeks, and he may be ready to get back
on the path that his coach envisioned. He showed some glimpses in Real
Salt Lake’s most recent match, a 2-1 home loss to the Seattle Sounders.
“He likes to touch the ball and he likes to get involved,” explained
Kreis after that loss. “I would say he touched the ball and got involved
a lot tonight [last Saturday]. He was very dangerous.”
Espíndola does not typically shrink from the spotlight. He brings a
desire to take charge of situations and he has the tenacity to go along
“He was looking to take chances and he wanted to get on the ball and
make things happen,” Kreis said. “We need more players that want to do
that right now. In my opinion, we have got too many guys that are okay
with letting someone else do the job, or take the responsibility, or
have the final pass, or take the shot. We need more guys who are going
to step up and say ‘I’m going to do it.’”
Kreis admits that trying to extract Espíndola's same enterprising
spirit from the rest of his team may be a difficult challenge because
for many of the players on the team, it is just not “in their makeup.”
Also, the unselfish, one- and two-touch passing game that has been
engrained into his team for the last couple of seasons may have stifled
some of the natural instincts in some players to receive a pass, turn
up-field and run at the defense. After all, that has been the primary
role of Argentine Javier Morales, who is out to a long-term injury.
One player who is not bashful about taking on defenders with the ball
is 22-year old midfielder Nelson González. His brash approach to the
game might just make him a valuable component to the team, alongside
Espíndola, while the team struggles to figure out a way to replace the
qualities of Morales.
González came into the Sounders match in the 86th minute, scoring his
club's first goal in three matches just two minutes later. His brief
performance earned the praise of his coach after that match.
“Certainly, if Nelson comes into the game like that — down a man — and
was as bright as he was and scores a goal,” Kreis said, “it’s going to
be hard to leave him off the lineup [Saturday vs. Vancouver].”