Hamdi Salihi has perhaps not seen the minutes expected this season, but the Albanian international has contributed six goals in 2012 - and none was bigger than the one scored Saturday afternoon in Toronto.
The 26 minutes logged by Salihi in Toronto were largely uneventful until the 88th minute when he put himself in the right place at the right time - again.
In the late stages of the contest, Maicon Santos struck a well-hit - but hopeful - ball on frame that snuck through the hands of goalkeeper Milos Kocic and right into the path of a well-positioned Salihi. The Albanian easily scored from inside the six-yard box and, minutes later, D.C. United celebrated its fourth win in five matches.
"I am very pleased with Hamdi," D.C. United Head Coach Ben Olsen said following the game. "The guy is a true pro. A lot of forwards don't score that goal, they don't finish off the play, and that's what Hamdi is - he is a finisher."
Indeed, Salihi's goals per 90 minutes rate is 0.58 - the best on the team. He has seen time in 21 games this season (10 starts), scoring six goals in just 937 minutes. Salihi scored in each of DC's three games against Toronto this season, all of which were wins by the Black-and-Red.
Saturday's late triumph in Toronto moved D.C. United one step closer to the team's first playoff berth since 2007. United controls its own destiny with two regular season games remaining, but will be closely monitoring results by Houston, Columbus, and New York as it fights not only for a playoff berth, but the best possible position in the Eastern Conference. Should DC make the playoffs for the first time in five seasons, fans will look back on Salihi's timely goal on Saturday as one of the most important of the year.