WASHINGTON — With head coach Ben Olsen, Dwayne De Rosario and Chris Pontius in Philadelphia preparing for Wednesday’s All-Star Game, D.C. United’s players watched film and lifted weights indoors Monday, still recovering from Saturday’s 1-0 loss against Columbus.
In a span of two matches, D.C. have slipped from first to fourth in the Eastern Conference and will now endure their second extended break from MLS action during July.
“We can’t panic,” said D.C. midfielder Perry Kitchen (above). "We just have to stay focused and stay on task. We’re still right in the hunt for a top spot."
Prior to back-to-back road losses against Houston and the Crew, United (10-7-3, 33 points) had two weeks between matches. During this 13-day break, however, Saturday's World Football Challenge match against Paris Saint-Germain (7:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer) will serve to break up the monotony of training against players wearing the same kits.
“I think the PSG game, whether it’s a friendly or not, it’s going to be taken pretty seriously by us because we have to get back to playing the way we have been for a majority of the season,” said United midfielder Lewis Neal, who started Saturday against Columbus.
While 73 minutes of D.C.’s loss to Houston were spent playing down a man, United controlled the pace of play against Columbus. Especially in the final 10 minutes. That’s part of the reason why it’s hard for them to look at the result as anything but a missed opportunity.
“It’s unfortunate,” Neal said. “I think we could have at least come away with the draw at the end of the day. But that’s soccer for you. We’ve got to move on and get ready for the next game.”
Following Saturday’s WFC match, United will be decidedly busier in August with six matches on tap. Four of those six will come at RFK stadium where D.C. have lost only once in 2012. Upcoming games against New York, Sporting Kansas City and Chicago all could prove pivotal toward determining their postseason fate as D.C. try to erase a four-year playoff drought.
“We can only control what’s in front of us now,” Neal said. “Everything else is in the past and it’s gone. You look upon it for the experience of how you’ve handled it, but now we’ve got to move on.”
United will have Tuesday and Wednesday off from training before starting up again Thursday in preparation for PSG. Following the friendly, United will have a shot at revenge against Columbus on Aug. 4 at RFK.
“It’s crunch time,” Kitchen said. “There’s no waiting for the next game. We have to get results now. We can’t leave anything back or hold anything behind because if we don’t perform well then there is no tomorrow.”