Santos returns to health at critical time
There was a time this season when Maicon Santos was virtually unstoppable. From March 30 through April 28, a six-match stretch, the Brazilian scored six times.
Then, summer – and injuries - struck. The 28-year-old tried to play through an injury to his right foot, but saw his production drop as his health waned. After notching a critical game-winner against New England on May 26, Santos went six appearances without finding the back of the net. With his foot refusing to heal, the bullish forward was sidelined for five straight matches from August 11 through the end of the month. D.C. went 1-2-2 without their early-season top scorer.
“It has been a tough summer not just for me but for the team,” said Santos, who returned to action with a nine-minute substitute appearance against RSL last week. “But I feel good now. Even if it was only ten minutes in Salt Lake, it was really good to get them. I felt good, and I was really just glad to be playing again.
Concern over Santos’ health forced D.C. to look elsewhere for help along the club’s forward line this summer. In June, Long Tan was brought to Washington in exchange for a supplemental draft pick. Two months later, Lionard Pajoy arrived at RFK in a trade that cost the team midfielder Danny Cruz.
The moves mean more competition for playing time as Santos returns to health. But the always-confident striker remains undeterred.
“There is always competition,” he said after D.C.’s training session on Wednesday. “It doesn’t matter who is coming or going or who was here before. There has always been competition. That doesn’t impact me.”
“He’s a real physical presence up there,” said Ben Olsen when asked about Santos. “He’s lethal when he gets a look with his left. He’s proven that – although streaky – he can score goals consistently in this league. It’s a good threat for us to have whether it’s off the bench of starting.”
Santos’ impact on United’s attack can’t be overstated. In matches where he has started, D.C. averages 1.7 goals per game. Without him in the opening eleven, the same number drops to 1.42.
An equal observation can be made of the veteran’s impact on D.C.’s overall form. Santos’ success meant success for D.C. in April, as the Black-and-Red went 4-0-2 during the striker’s aforementioned purple patch.
Santos believes he isn’t far from regaining the form that saw him top United’s scoring charts through late June.
“That is what I’m working for,” Santos said. “I want to be the type of player I was at the beginning of the year. I want to score goals, and I need to score goals for us to be successful.”