D.C. United are seventh in the Eastern Conference standings, above the playoff line by one point heading into the stretch drive of the regular season.
Beginning tonight against Chicago Fire FC (7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+), the Black-and-Red have 11 games remaining in their quest for an Audi MLS Cup Playoffs return after missing the postseason a year ago.
It’s not exactly the success head coach Hernan Losada envisioned when he took the job in January.
“My reaction would be you are totally nuts,” Losada said on The Call Up's latest episode. “That’s impossible and tell me where do I have to sign to make that real. That would have been my reaction.”
And yet, D.C. United are there and the energetic Losada, the youngest coach in MLS, is a driving force behind the club’s revival. He left the comfort zone of Belgium, where he spent the last 15 years, first as a player and then as a coach, to take up a new challenge. The Argentine manager, just 39, was previously in charge of Beerschot.
“Of course when I arrived everything was new to me – a new league, a new culture, a new team, new teammates, new staff, a lot of new things after being 15 years in Belgium,” he said. “You know what kind of stress demands moving all your stuff to a new place starting from scratch. It was a big challenge for me but I really felt like it was a moment, the right time to come.”
One of the biggest changes Losada implemented was a tactical one, from which the phrase “Losada ball” was coined. It also carries a nod to "Benny ball," the phrase that emerged from their previous 10-year run under Ben Olsen.
Losada said his attacking style has roots in his childhood days of playing pickup soccer on the streets of Argentina.
“Playing to win, playing vertical, as [few] passes as possible to reach the half of the opponent, to create scoring opportunities and to make it entertaining to people. You have to entertain the fans,” Losada said. “The fans are going to watch a game and when the game is over they need to go home with the feeling of ‘I want to come back. I want to watch this team again because it gives me good feelings, a good vibe and good emotions.’
"Soccer is emotions, soccer is my passion since I’m very young and l like to bring that passion to my teams by playing offensive football and see how can we win games by scoring goals, not how we avoid the opponent to score.”
D.C. United might not be where Losada expected in those challenging preseason days, but now that they're in a playoff spot, he can’t wait to see what the future holds.
“I have to be honest with you, I didn’t expect to be where we are right now,” Losada said. “Now comes the fun part – 11 games to go and I’m very excited with everything that can come in the next couple of weeks.”
Check out more from The Call Up's latest episode here.