DC United struggle with growing pains in loss to Chivas USA as they try to build momentum for Open Cup final

Coming less than a month away from the US Open Cup championship game against Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium, D.C. United’s performance against Chivas USA on Sunday at the StubHub Center is hardly the type of effort Ben Olsen’s club was searching for to gain momentum.

Now, in a sense, there’s nowhere to go but up.

In a match that pitted the worst club in the Eastern Conference against the Western Conference’s bottom-dweller, missed opportunities in the first half and a defensive lapse in the second half ensured that United (3-19-5) would remain winless on the road this season after a 1-0 loss to the Goats. Sounds familiar, no?

“Overall, it wasn’t a great performance from us. I think we had too many poor performances from individuals,” Olsen said. “I expect a little bit, you’re putting some new guys out there and some youth and they’re going to have their growing pains. I thought we saw that a little bit tonight.”

On the bright side, D.C. likely took a big step toward securing the first overall pick in next year’s MLS SuperDraft, but that’s hardly a consolation for a club searching for some winning form 22 days ahead of its biggest match of the year. 

With captain Dwayne De Rosario away with the Canadian national team for a friendly in Spain, along with Kyle Porter and Dejan Jakovic, Olsen featured a youthful starting XI that showed promise in the first half. Collin Martin started on the left wing and later was replaced by Chris Pontius, who made his first appearance after missing seven matches with neural tension in his left leg, Conor Doyle started up top and Ethan White started at center back. 

Doyle produced two of the game’s better chances in the first 25 minutes, but both times was unable to convert. While Doyle has contributed two goals to United’s cause since joining the club in July, his misses symbolized D.C.’s season-long struggle to consistently convert in the final third. United were shut out for the 10th time in 14 road matches this season.

“I think we started off well, spreading the field and creating some opportunities to score and then we just felt like we dropped off,” said United midfielder Luis Silva. “They took over the game. They had a little bit more precision and they took their chances.”

Scoreless into the 51st minute, Erick Torres put Chivas ahead by blasting a deflected ball by United goalkeeper Bill Hamid. The rookie’s seventh of the year stood up for the remainder of the match – despite D.C. owning a 60-40 possession advantage – and dropped United to 0-17-1 this season when conceding the first goal.

“It’s not the result we wanted,” Pontius said. “It seems like we keep on repeating our mistakes and it’s something we need to change. We’re going to keep on losing games if we keep on making the same mistakes.”