DC United have a losing streak on their hands.
Six days removed from a last-minute, heartbreaking 1-0 loss at Houston - where United have never won - the Supporters’ Shield contenders took the field against Real Salt Lake looking to carve out some points against another difficult road opponent.
It was not to be. United gave up three goals in the first 25 minutes of the match and never threatened to mount a comeback.
The loss brings United’s combined road record against Houston and RSL to 1-15-2, and United still haven’t won a league match in Utah since 2006. Saturday's result also handed the black-and-red their first pair of consecutive losses since United dropped their first two games of the season in March.
"It was an extremely poor first half, obviously,” said United head coach Ben Olsen. “We were just off the pace. They came in hungrier than we did; they came in with more energy, more commitment, and we’re not a good enough team to not have a chip on our shoulder when we play. I think hopefully we learned that lesson tonight.”
United - who’ve done well all season to dictate the terms of the matches they’ve been involved in - found themselves overwhelmed from the get go by an RSL side intent on seizing control of the match. Just 11 minutes in, 5-foot-2 forward Joao Plata somehow managed to elude a pair of much larger adversaries in United defenders Bobby Boswell and Sean Franklin and power a header in for the opener.
From that moment on, it was pretty clear that this wouldn’t be United’s night.
"I think we had no chance against them,” said former Real Salt Lake forward Fabian Espindola, who came on in the second half for his first appearance in over two months after recovering from a knee ailment. "[They are] great with the ball. They managed the entire game. They were the better team.”
It doesn’t get any easier for United from here: they’ll return home to face Colorado on Aug. 17 before opening up their CONCACAF Champions League campaign against Jamaican side Waterhouse FC three days later. From there, DC hit the road for a pair of away matches against two of MLS’ best: Supporters’ Shield leading Sporting Kansas City and the red-hot LA Galaxy. In all, DC will play five matches in a stretch of 14 days, a tall order for any side.
"We’ve got a hell of schedule coming up,” said United midfielder Lewis Neal. "We’ve just got to make sure, as much as this hurts – the defeat here and the performance is not good – we’ve got to try and put this one behind us very, very quickly. Move on to the home game against Colorado, and we play Champions’ League midweek – you know, two home games and we’ve got to make sure we’re back firing on all cylinders and make sure we go out there and get the points because we’ve got a very, very tough road trip – KC, LA, NY so it’s going to be difficult period for us."