WASHINGTON – Is the nightmare start to 2013 really in the past? D.C. United have notched back-to-back wins for the first time this season, beating San Jose in the MLS regular season and then New England in the US Open Cup, and now they’ll look to win consecutive MLS matches for the first time since last October.
Head coach Ben Olsen says it's too soon to say, however, that good times are here again.
“We’re moving in the right direction and these guys deserve a little bit of joy right now,” Olsen offered. “It’s been a tough grind and we seem to have some health now. When we do have hiccups in that area, guys have stepped in to do the job.”
United welcome the Vancouver Whitecaps to RFK Stadium Saturday (7 pm ET, watch on MLS Live) for their third match in eight days. It’s part of a larger stretch of compact games for United that includes an upcoming trip west to Seattle and Colorado.
Because of the crowded schedule, as well as the increased importance United has placed on getting results in the US Open Cup, Olsen will need to rely on his club’s depth.
“Everybody’s contributing right now,” Olsen said. “I think the spirit is good. Can we turn it around now against Vancouver and get a result? We’re going to have to make some changes, but hopefully with our spirit right now we can start doing a little bit better in the league.”
Captain Dwayne De Rosario and Chris Pontius played up top together for the first time all season in United’s 3-1 Open Cup quarterfinals win against the Revolution on Wednesday and both players, as well as Olsen, were pleased with the partnership.
While some lineups changes are likely Saturday to prevent tired legs, the task will be difficult for United regardless of who steps on the pitch. Vancouver have won three of four, and are playing their best soccer of the season.
“The staff, as well as the players, are dealing with it well,” said United goalkeeper Bill Hamid of the busy schedule. “With yoga, with rest and at the same time with training and hard work. It’s a great balance, a great mixture, and I think our staff as well as our players are doing a great job with the demanding schedule we’ve got on our hands.”
Even during United’s club-record 13-match winless streak, Olsen said his team didn’t lose belief and now that the club is 3-1-1 over its last five matches (all competitions), things are starting to look up.
“There was still a sense of belief that we could at least flatten out and start to go the other way,” Olsen said. “The spirit hasn’t changed that much, but I would say the belief is there now more than it was.”