Growing pains add to DC's struggles on defense
WASHINGTON – Heading into Saturday’s match against the Earthquakes, the ingredients for a needed home-win were there for D.C. United .
The young defense was playing well. Coming off two positive results on the road, D.C. looked amped to extend their five game unbeaten streak.
WATCH HIGHLIGHTS: DC 2, San Jose 4
But the same young defense trotted out in a shutout against LA last weekend was exposed by San Jose’s Steven Lenhart as the Earthquakes forward scored a hat trick and logged an assist en route to a 4-2 defeat.
“We looked like young kids,” Olsen told reporters after the game.
“This is going to happen, we’ve always said that. We’re going to have games likes this where young kids make mistakes. That I can live with. The commitment, and the energy that we showed at times in that game was unacceptable.”
Afterwards, D.C. weren’t going to blame this on the inexperience.
“We are a young team, we’re going to make mistakes, but both ends of the field it needed to be sharper,” veteran forward Josh Wolff said.
Getting results on the road in MLS is never an easy task, but San Jose was ready from the start in D.C. by pegging the home side back with a flurry of early first half chances.
Desperate defending kept the Quakes from scoring within the game’s first three minutes.
“They got the message,” Olsen said of San Jose. “They came in, and did what exactly what we did in LA and Portland. They got that message, and we didn’t get it. That’s unacceptable, and it will change next week.”
At the center of that message for San Jose was Lenhart. The 24-year-old forward was an unstoppable force against D.C.’s defense, capitalizing on some lackluster defending to score his first MLS hat trick.
“If you play the way our defenders played today, he’s a hat trick player,” Olsen said. “So are a lot of players…we got manhandled by a guy -– give him credit -– that fought every play.”
Said defender Ethan White: “He’s just a little pest. He’s always there -– it’s a lot of what did, but he did his job, played his game.”
Praise from Olsen was rare for almost his entire team on the evening, but he did cite the performance of Najar. The 18-year-old was a livewire in the midfield for D.C., scoring the first goal of the game and his first of the season in the 13th minute.
A low cross from Josh Wolff somehow found its way through a sea of Earthquake defenders to Najar, making a fantastic run at the far post to open the scoring past Quakes goalie Jon Busch.
But for Olsen, there weren’t enough performance like that on the night.
“Andy played with real passion out there, and we didn’t have enough of that,” Olsen said. “I can’t really look out there and say we had enough guys really play at the top of their game, and if you don’t do that in this league you’re going to give up goals.”
Overall, it was a deflating defeat for a D.C. United side with plenty of momentum heading into the match. According to Olsen, there was perhaps a sense of overconfidence heading into it that proved costly.
"I think it was about us thinking we were a little bit better than we were and maybe it’s a good thing we got punched in the face and knocked out because maybe we will get the message that, even at home, you don’t just get games handed to you because you are probably a better soccer team. Guess what? That doesn’t mean anything here. You’ve got to match the fight and we didn’t early."