WASHINGTON – When D.C. United scored in the 19th minute of Saturday’s match against Toronto FC on captain Dwayne De Rosario’s penalty kick, it was the first time they had a lead in league match since March 9.
And piggybacking off of their 3-1 Open Cup victory against Philadelphia on Wednesday, in which De Rosario scored three times, it appeared as though United were on their way toward ending their lengthy winless streak.
Instead, the same tired vices that have doomed the team all season – namely inefficiency defending set pieces and the inability to finish in the final third – extended D.C.’s winless streak to 13 against a Reds side that had only won once before visiting RFK.
And as for D.C. coach Ben Olsen’s thoughts on his team’s set piece problems?
“Seriously?” he said. “Yeah, I’ve got some thoughts. But I’m not going to talk about them right now.”
Olsen said he didn’t observe many positives from the match, other than the play of newly-acquired defender Alain Rochat. He also criticized referee Hilario Grajeda for having a “poor night” and said he thought his club lacked energy after putting forth an inspired effort three days earlier in the Open Cup.
“It’s a frustrating loss, it really is,” Olsen said. “There were a lot of heavy legs out there from the Open Cup. We put a lot into that game and I don’t think our energy level was where it needed to be tonight to have a lot of success.”
After United (1-11-3) took the lead, Toronto’s Robert Earnshaw won a header against Brandon McDonald and put it into the net to draw his club even at 1-1. It was TFC’s only shot on goal. McDonald, for his part, said he thought he was fouled on the play.
“I was a ladder,” McDonald said. “I thought I was fouled and a lot of other people thought I was fouled, but the ref didn’t see it that way, and I guess that’s all that matters.”
“The losses are starting to hurt more and more and more. It’s definitely tough,” said midfielder Nick DeLeon.
DeLeon seemed at a loss when asked if there was still a belief in the locker room that things could turn around.
“I still do. You’ve got to continue to believe in it and continue to move forward playing our best,” he said. “But I don’t know. We’ve got to do something, change something. I don’t know. I don’t have any answers.”
With the losses piling up – only two playoff teams from last season had more than 11 losses – United are running out of ways to describe their ineptitude.
Said McDonald: “I think everybody’s just shaking their heads at this point like, ‘What the hell?’”