Ashton: DC don't know how to succeed right now

Heading into Friday night’s match at Houston, D.C. United had preached discipline and keeping tight at the back.

But the same defensive lapses that have plagued the team in losses this year were evident once again as the club conceded four goals for the second straight league game – and the third time this season – in a 4-1 loss against the Dynamo.

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“We didn’t compete with them – it’s as simple as that,” DC assistant coach Chad Ashton told MLSsoccer.com over the phone. “We’ve got to figure out exactly what it takes to be a successful team in this league, and right now we don’t understand that.”

Dynamo rookie Will Bruin put Houston up early, getting behind the United defense to slot home past goalie Bill Hamid in the 4th minute.

After the early goal, DC fought to settle the game, keeping possession for brief stretches in search of an equalizer. And while they grabbed the tying goal when defender Marc Burch buried a 25-yard free kick past Dynamo goalie Tally Hall in the 39th minute, it was short-lived relief.

WATCH: Burch powers home a free kick for DC

Bruin got free just two minutes later to grab his second of the game to put the Dynamo back in the lead. Houston’s danger man, Brad Davis, was the architect this time, getting free down the left flank and firing in a tantalizing cross that Bruin headed past Hamid.

“It’s very worrisome,” Ashton said of the team’s defensive problems, similar to the ones they suffered from earlier this season in a 4-1 defeat at Colorado.

Strong performances were few and far between for DC. Andy Najar, who entered the game off the bench in the second half, threatened shortly after coming on and buoyed a strong 10-minute spell from the visitors. The best chance of that stretch came when Charlie Davies had a free header that went just high and wide of Hall’s net.

The positive stretch of play wouldn’t last long and came to an end when Bruin completed his hat trick in the 57th minute off a Davis free kick. Loose marking was at heart of the goal, allowing the rookie to head home to put the game out of reach.

“It doesn’t feel like right now we understand what it takes to be a winning team in this league,” Ashton said. “I don’t think our approach to the game was very good. I don’t think our mentality was good. We have to be better, plain and simple.”

Not only was it a second straight poor performance, it was a second straight rout suffered on national TV.

“We’ve given eight goals in two games on national television,” Ashton said. “I don’t know what else can motivate you as a player in this league other than getting the entire country to get to see you play and show exactly what you’re all about. And to put up two performances that we put up is not acceptable.”

But United have no time to sulk on the defeat, as they face a quick turnaround when they host the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday evening at RFK Stadium.

“We’re going to go back to work,” Ashton said. “We know the only way we’re going to get better is to work harder at it.”