It’s been one month since Taxi Fountas arrived in the Nation’s Capital.
To say his presence has been felt might be one of the understatements of the century. But it has–by the club, by the fans and by the rest of Major League Soccer.
The journey from Austria to D.C. began in January when the 26-year-old forward signed a pre-contract with the club. Fountas scored 45 goals and recorded 21 assists in 90 appearances with his former club, Rapid Vienna of the Austrian Bundesliga.
As one of the Austrian Bundesliga’s leading scorers, the club was well-aware of the talent and impact Fountas could bring to the table. That is, at least in part, why the front office decided to expedite his arrival.
On Match 21, it was announced that the Greek international would be arriving in April instead of July. “This is a massive step by the club to ensure that Taxi is able to make an immediate impact on team results early in the 2022 season,” Lucy Rushton, D.C. United General Manager, said at the time.
What she, and perhaps no one else could’ve predicted, is just how immediate and potent his impact would be.
Fountas made his Black-and-Red debut on April 16, coming on as a substitute in the 58th minute against Austin FC. The crowd at Audi Field engulfed him with cheers, eager to get their first glimpse at their new DP forward. A disappointing result on the night might have overshadowed his moment, but those first 32 minutes of MLS action would prove to be a valuable period of acclimatization to a new environment, new teammates and a new competition.
From that moment on, it was Taxi time.
In his first match after taking charge as interim head coach, Chad Ashton gave Fountas the nod to make his first start on April 23 against the Revolution.
After falling 1-0 early on, the Black-and-Red faced an uphill battle against the current holders of the Community Shield. Chances came and went. Then in the 26th minute, Julian Gressel picked his head up and whipped in a cross.
It fell to the right foot off our new No. 11 and he made no mistake—the first but far from the last time we’d hear “IT’S IN THE NET!” off the back of a Taxi Fountas strike.
Moments later, Taxi picked Michael Estrada out with a pinpoint, dinked cross to record his first MLS assist and put the Black-and-Red back on top. Shortly after, he’d find himself on the end of another deflected cross.
After darting past one defender and then another, he put his foot through the ball with too much power for the Revs goalkeeper to handle. 2 goals and 1 assist in the first half... just like that.
Two weeks later, another first-half brace in front of the home crowd against Houston dispelled any questions that might’ve remained about the type of player D.C. had found in this young striker from Mesolongi, Greece.
In less than a month, his name was in the MLS history books and, without a doubt, on the minds of every opponent set to face the Black-and-Red in the coming weeks.
After the Houston match, there was a growing buzz among fans and teammates alike about the newcomer–not only about his production but his personality, as well.
“He just brings a lot of energy to the group,” Chad Ashton said after the 2-0 win. “I think he sets a good example of just making the play. He constantly helps take pressure off of us with regards to just keeping the ball, moving to the right space, playing the correct ball, and then obviously the finishing is fantastic.
Though you wouldn’t be able to tell because of the chemistry he’s developed with his counterparts, both on and off the field, Fountas came to D.C. with limited experience with the English language. He picked up German during his stints at Red Bull Salzburg and Rapid Vienna, which has allowed him to develop a strong relationship with midfielders Russell Canouse and Julian Gressel.
Canouse told reporters that he and Gressel tried to get him to join them for the post-match press conference, but Fountas shied away in the end. Nonetheless, the camaraderie and trust he’s been able to create with his teammates and the technical staff continue to speak volumes.
It shined through on a rainy night at DRV PNK Stadium when, against the trajectory of the game, Taxi found his 5th goal in as many appearances and snatched the momentum back from Inter Miami. Soon after, in a moment of individual brilliance, he beat two Inter Miami defenders and squared it to Canouse, setting up a late equalizer for his partner up top Ola Kamara.
Fountas found himself on his 3rd MLS Team of the Week after that performance, and rightfully so.
The magnitude of his impact is perhaps best exemplified when compared to some of Major League Soccer’s all-time greats. He has outpaced the likes of Thierry Henry, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Didier Drogba to name a few.
It’s been a dream start to the relationship between Taxi Fountas and D.C. United. In just a month, he has taken ownership of his role as a creator, a goal scorer and, above all, a positive influence on a club working to get back to glory.