WASHINGTON – Four games into the season, and D.C. United have still failed to find the net more than once in a game. In fact, after Satuday's 2-1 loss to the Columbus Crew, they've scored just twice in that period, a far cry from the team that boasted one of the league's best attacks just a year ago.
And if D.C.'s early scoring record wasn't enough cause for concern, no less than one of United's leading lights in the attack, Chris Pontius, conceded that the lack of goals may be creeping into the players' thoughts.
“Most of it getting in a rhythm and getting that confidence to be able to play,” said Pontius of his team's attack, which has managed only 31 goal attempts this season, as opposed to 67 by their opponents. “After last year, we need to be able to be more confident as players on the ball.”
Last year, United finished in second place in the Eastern Conference and scored 53 goals – good for fourth in MLS – in 34 matches. But down down the stretch after Dwayne De Rosario's injury in September, it would've been a stretch to say the offense was firing on all cylinders.
Including last year's four-game playoff run, D.C. have scored just 16 goals in their last 15 matches. De Rosario only appeared in three of those matches, as a sub in a season-ending playoff draw against Houston, and as a starter United's two most recent matches in 2013.
But aside from scoring, a big indicator of the Black-and-Red's attacking woes is actually on the defensive end, where Pontius says the increased number of chances allowed by his team has more to do with an inability to possess the ball than the play of United's back four.
“We're not holding the ball enough,” Pontius said. “We need to give our defense more of a break to defend, and I think we do that with possession on the ball, and we just haven't done that.”
Fortunately for D.C., goalkeeper Bill Hamid has continued his exceptional form, making seven saves Saturday, including a few of the jaw-dropping variety, to give United a chance at stealing a point.
Hamid blamed himself for United's two goals, saying he should've stayed on his line on the first-half free kick headed in by Josh Williams, and come out more aggressively during the sequence that led to Ben Speas' match-winner.
But his teammates continue to be in awe at the 22-year-old's shot stopping ability. He now has 20 saves in four matches, and entered the weekend leading the league.
“He's helped us to stay in the game,” De Rosario said. “But we have to feed off that momentum, we have to feed off those big saves and push and initiate. Especially going back home. I just feel that we didn't really play with enough poise, enough passion.”
For his part, Hamid is confident that his side's form will come around.
“We've seen it at stretches,” Hamid said. “But the dominating play is something that we haven't done, that we did last year. Getting the ball, possessing, moving side to side and opening teams up. But we'll find it, We're all positive. It's still early in the season. We know we have what it takes to get there.”