WASHINGTON – In many ways, it was a game that summed up a season for D.C. United.
The lone goal in Sporting Kansas City’s 1-0 win came off a set piece, an Achilles heel for D.C. for much of the year. And though they were able to create a few clear chances on Sporting’s net, United lacked the killer instinct in front of goal to tuck them away.
“It was always going to be a tough task with the two days of rest, but I thought the guys pushed through it,” head coach Ben Olsen said after the game. “I went with a lot of guys that played minutes [against Portland on Wednesday night], I could have changed it up, but I wanted to push them and they responded.”
After the game, an already eliminated D.C. side reflected back upon not just the 1-0 loss to KC, but the season as a whole, and what might have been different down the stretch run.
“[We] got off to a pretty good start obviously, just a bit too much up and down and we didn’t string some games together,” forward Josh Wolff said. “Lost some points, certainly at home and a handful of matches and I think at the end of the day that cost really having an opportunity in the last couple of days to assure ourselves of the playoffs.”
After a big 3-0 win over Chivas USA on the road, United looked set to push up the Eastern Conference standings and shoot for a playoff berth.
But they couldn’t win when it counted the most. Including Saturday’s loss to Sporting, D.C. went winless in their last six games, with a 1-1 tie to the Timbers on Wednesday ending any playoff hopes – something that stung Olsen.
“We have excuses I could pull out, I could pull out some excuses and a lot of ways are real,” he said. “I still think we were, with a break or two, we were a playoff team. That’s what disappointing to me – that I couldn’t squeeze enough just out of every guy to sneak us into the playoffs.”
And while not much went right down that stretch, it can be leaned on as the team prepares a year from now.
“I think overall if you look at the year, there’s a lot of positives, negatives,” midfielder Santino Quaranta said. “It’s a lot of ups, downs a real emotional year. It’s good, because a lot of young guys got to experience this year was one of the those years you had every emotion. … When we’re in this situation again next year, we’ll understand.”
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, college and youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com.