US Open Cup looming, DC United's Ben Olsen admits loss wasn't unexpected: "I set these guys up to fail"

Before boarding a flight to Toronto on Friday, D.C. United coach Ben Olsen said that Saturday’s match presented a win-win situation for his club.

With so much attention focused on Tuesday’s US Open Cup final against Real Salt Lake, his plan all along was to bring reserves and his youngsters to BMO Field to test them against a TFC side hungry for a victory.

Win and it’d be an impressive showing from a young group. Lose, and it’d present a great learning opportunity with an eye toward the future.

Well, on Saturday afternoon there was plenty to learn.

Toronto’s 4-1 victory extended United’s winless streak to eight matches (0-6-2) in a game that featured spectacular goals from unfamiliar names.

“Well obviously, the lineup had a lot to do with Tuesday’s Open Cup fixture,” Olsen said. “I set these guys up to fail today, it’s pretty simple. We hung in there for about 60 minutes and then I got some guys out that were maybe going to factor in to Tuesday’s game and now I’m putting guys out of position. You start adding those up and you are playing a real team in the MLS and that’s what can happen.”

Three of the Reds’ four goals came after the 65th minute, including an own goal by United’s Conor Shanosky (D.C.’s fourth such goal this season) as the visiting side faded down the stretch. D.C. remain winless on the road in MLS play this year.

Up top, 17-year-old Michael Seaton started his first MLS match while Lionard Pajoy saw action for the first time in eight matches after having hernia surgery. Neither, however, was able to generate much offense as league-worst United’s lone goal came on a brilliant 25-yard strike by Jared Jeffrey, who returned from an ankle injury that sidelined him for three matches.

“None of these guys are fit, most of them aren’t 90 minutes fit because they haven’t had a 90 in a long time,” Olsen said. “Again, when you add it all up that is what can happen toward the end of the game.”

Next up for United is the long-awaited US Open Cup final. With a win, D.C. would earn more victories in Open Cup play than they have in MLS action.

“The focus has been on that game for a while now,” Jeffrey said. “Obviously our whole season comes down to 90 minutes against Salt Lake, so everyone is really focused, really tuned in and ready to go. It’s been a trying year but we have an opportunity to salvage something on Tuesday and we’re really looking forward to it.”