If there’s solace to be derived from the restart of the 2020 MLS regular season, where matches are happening thick and fast, it’s that the chance to turn things around is just around the corner.
That’s the case for D.C. United, which head to Red Bull Arena to take on their longtime Atlantic Cup rivals Wednesday (7:30 pm ET | TV & streaming info) coming off consecutive defeats to Eastern Conference foes New England and Philadelphia which extended a winless streak to six games.
Giving Homegrowns a chance to play and develop has always been part of D.C. United’s ethos, coach Ben Olsen said. But whether it’s a 16-year-old making his debut or a 35-year-old earning his 200th league start, the performances need to be better across the board.
“We have a great opportunity in front of us to get some points, and to take a look at some guys that haven't had a lot of minutes. That's all good, but we have to make it tougher on teams,” Olsen said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. “The game against Philly was way too easy. And I don't care who we put on the field. The collectiveness and the group defending has to be better than what we did in the opening moments of that Philly game.”
In that loss, Kacper Przybylko struck for a brace and Sergio Santos added a goal to give the hosts a 3-0 lead after 21 minutes. In a 2-1 home defeat to the Revs last Wednesday, D.C. conceded twice off corner kicks.
“We've lost the set piece battle the last two games, which is unacceptable for our group,” Olsen said. “We're looking to fix some of those things in the next few games and get results and put ourselves in a better spot than we are now until we get some players back for the last 12 games.”
Olsen said a playoff run is a very real possibility for D.C., despite their current spot in the table — 13th. There’s help on the way in Venezuelan forward Gelmin Rivas, who Olsen hopes can fix some of D.C.’s offensive woes.
The best cure for their struggles is a win, and there’s no time like the present against the Red Bulls to reverse their course. But Olsen warns D.C. need to be dialed in mentally and physically for 90 minutes to combat the Red Bulls system.
“It’s always a collective effort, it’s an exercise in concentration and staying in it whether it’s a throw-in, whether it's a second ball, whether it's a ball we cleared out that's coming back your way,” Olsen said. “So it’s making sure there's not a lot of breaks against this team mentally or physically. … It’s always a tough match, but one we’re looking forward to. We’re excited at the opportunity to play again quickly after the game against Philly.”