20150418 Andrew Dykstra Houston
Tony Quinn

Dykstra steps in, weighs in on D.C. United's direction

Andrew Dykstra made just his fifth regular season appearance for D.C. United in the team’s 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo. But it belies the goalkeeper’s extensive experience with the Black-and-Red, which stretches back much further than a large majority of his teammates.

In fact, only Chris Pontius, Bill Hamid, Perry Kitchen and Chris Korb have spent more seasons with United than Dykstra, who joined his hometown club in 2012.  During his tenure he’s seen the team grow and change, and last year emerge as a group built to be a consistent contender.

Six games into the year, Dykstra sees the same qualities in the team that helped push D.C. United to the top of the Eastern Conference in 2014.

“I think that it’s the personalities within our locker room that made last year and that don’t allow for complacency,” Dykstra said. “Especially the older guys on the team, if we fall off, they dig into us.”

Even though the Black-and-Red have a share of first place, there are no signs of satisfaction, and there are great hints of potential, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

Luis Silva has added minutes steadily in his return, and with Fabián Espíndola eligible to return against Vancouver on Apr. 25, United’s attack is nearly at full strength. Markus Halsti continues to increase his regimen following his preseason injury, and Steven Birnbaum is progressing in his return from an ankle sprain in the second game of the year.

“[Espíndola] is only going to add to what we’ve been doing thus far,” Dykstra said. “He’s a guy that is a playmaker, and he tends to create things out of nothing. He’s going to be another tool in the team’s box.”

For his part, Dykstra performed admirably against the Dynamo, finishing with four saves in his first game at RFK in 12 months. In 2014, he went 3-0-1 with a pair of shutouts before a season-ending Achilles injury. The entire team has turned the page on his initial return and the team’s performance in the 5-2 loss at Alajuelense in Costa Rica in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League.

“I’m extremely happy for Andrew,” United Head Coach Ben Olsen said after the Houston match. “I think he’s been excited to get back out there and prove to everyone that he’s the goalkeeper that we know he can be.”

As D.C. United prepares for its clash on the road at the Western Conference-leading Whitecaps – and peeks ahead to a May and early June schedule with nine games in five weeks – Dykstra knows the right foundation has been laid in the season’s opening two months.

“We would’ve preferred more points, especially from New York and Houston,” Dykstra said. “But in terms of chemistry and heading in the right direction, I think we’re doing it.”