WASHINGTON – Even after D.C. United saw their home winless skid stretch to three matches with Sunday’s 2-0 defeat to New York City FC at Audi Field, the Black-and-Red remain in the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
However, they’ve yet to prove they can consistently beat the other teams contending for those upper positions. And for Wayne Rooney, that’s particularly troubling given the missed opportunity to create some separation between themselves and last year’s MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield winners Atlanta United and the New York Red Bulls, who have both struggled out of the gate.
“Today was a good opportunity for us, not just to beat New York, but to create an even bigger gap between ourselves and Red Bulls and Atlanta and teams who are down near the bottom,” Rooney said postgame. “The good thing is we’ve got a game Wednesday, so we can’t dwell on this game too much.”
If D.C. win that midweek tilt at fourth-place Columbus Crew SC (7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in the US, MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada), it would represent their best victory in terms of the current table. All of D.C.’s previous wins have against clubs in fifth place or lower in their respective conferences, and two were against current bottom dwellers Colorado and Atlanta.
Even so, Rooney appears to believes this recent home slide is more about mentality than quality.
“Not good enough on second balls, and we weren’t good enough in possession, and we didn’t create enough chances,” he said of Sunday’s performance. “I think we need to get back to being hard to beat and resilient. … Hopefully we do that on Wednesday.”
While NYCFC struggled early, they’re a side many expected to contend for the higher playoff places by season’s end. Also in this home slide, D.C. lost to Supporters’ Shield leaders LAFC and settled for a listless 0-0 draw – while Rooney served a red card suspension – against the sixth-place Montreal Impact.
With a win at Colorado separating the Montreal draw and NYCFC defeat, coach Ben Olsen doesn’t necessarily see a trend.
“The LA game was a very good team,” he said. “They came in here and beat us pretty handily. The Montreal game was, again, a little bit of fatigue, a team that was tough to break down. And [NYCFC] was a team that I thought played an entire 90 minutes at a high level and was desperate for a win. So yeah, I’m concerned that for the last couple games we haven’t been able to get a home win, yeah. But each game is a different dynamic.”
At least United have fared far better on the road than 2018, taking seven out of nine points. Another positive result against Columbus could go a long way toward restoring morale, even if it’s a different-looking Crew side under new coach Caleb Porter than the one that eliminated D.C. in last year’s MLS Cup Playoffs.
“Obviously that’s the team that knocked us out,” said D.C. wide man Paul Arriola. “I don’t think there’s a real drive because of that motive. But you know, since I’ve been in the league, that’s always been a real tough opponent for me to face individually and collectively. They’re a great team. They have a lot of good ideas. They have solutions to a lot of things.”