Ever since Peter Nowak took over as head coach of D.C. United, the club's roster has always been one of the deepest in the league. Not only have United been stacked with talented players, but Nowak would also get the most out of the players on the field each match. This past weekend, in a fairly uninspired home match, D.C. United were shutout at home for the first time in over three seasons, and, for Nowak, there was no super-sub to help the cause.
D.C. United missed having Josh Gros in the lineup after he received a questionable second yellow card in the waning moments of the match vs. Kansas City. Not having Gros available placed a talented reserve player into the starting lineup, thus limiting Nowak's effective bench by one. Clyde Simms also missed the match against FC Dallas. Simms' vacated starting spot (he had started the prior four games) took another player from the bench and thrust him into the starting lineup.
When D.C. United found themselves down 2-0 after a pair of goals from Carlos Ruiz, including a spectacular bicycle kick that will be a sure nominee for Goal of the Year, United may have looked to the bench for a pair of players to add some energy to the match and maybe get one goal back to set up a frantic finish. The only experienced attacking player available on the bench was Santino Quaranta. Quaranta is not the type of player who provides a bundle of energy upon entering and, through no fault of his own, couldn't manage to make a key difference once inserted.
Nowak and his staff don't make excuses, they make adjustments. Gros, Simms, Steve Guppy and Nick Van Sicklen would have all helped D.C. United this past weekend, but every team in MLS loses players to injury or national team call-ups (FC Dallas looked okay without the services of Eddie Johnson). Freddy Adu will be in Holland for a few weeks with the U-20 national team, and even though United loses one of their best attacking players, that should not result in a catastrophe for D.C.'s offense.
The main objective for United now is to make sure that even when players change from game to game, the energy and mentality remain the same. Such was not the case against Dallas. With several players either missing or injured, the reserve players must rise to the occasion to provide D.C. United with the depth that was so important last season.
All season D.C. United have been searching for consistency. In some ways, the inconsistency that D.C. United have shown is what gives their supporters the most encouragement. When D.C. plays like the reigning league champions one match, it's no guarantee that they will do the same thing the following weekend. Similarly, when United play poorly like they did this past weekend, there is no reason to worry that the trend will continue either.
As United prepare for the upcoming match at San Jose, for the first time all season the club will be looking forward to not maintaining the same energy as the previous week.
Tony Limarzi is a contributor to dcunited.com. He is also the voice of D.C. United soccer, calling all of the Black-and-Red's games live on WMET.