If Curt Onalfo had a wish list of what he would have liked to see from D.C. United in the season opener, it would have probably read something like this:
1) An early goal and plenty of scoring opportunities; 2) a strong showing by the team’s most important players; 3) positive debuts by the new players, and 4) in the very worst case, an overall solid team performance.
Those elements were all present on Saturday night at CommunityAmerica Ballpark. Unfortunately for Onalfo, they belonged to his former club, the Kansas City Wizards.
The home team scored in the ninth minute, Wizards captain Davy Arnaud was a genuine leader, newcomer Ryan Smith was a force in attack and Kansas City pressured United relentlessly all over the field [WATCH HIGHLIGHTS HERE].
On the other hand, there is nothing United could salvage from the match. D.C. only mustered three shots on goal, their players were shown five cautions and Clyde Simms limped off the field with an injury. After missing a golden opportunity on three minutes, the Black-and-Red showed little fight and and were suffocated by the Wizards for the rest of the match.
“It was a disappointing performance,” said United's Onalfo. “A lot of things went wrong in one evening.”
The 4-0 loss and more importantly, the manner in which it transpired, will be a staggering blow to D.C. United’s team morale and doubts are sure to begin to creep into camp this week. This will test Onalfo’s leadership abilities very early in his first season at United.
There are sure to be questions asked of Onalfo about personnel selection (starting young rookie Andy Najar), player experiments (including Chris Pontius at forward) and formations.
“[Tonight’s loss] is a slap in the face,” said United forward Jaime Moreno. “It is clear that this team has a long way to go to improve … We are going to go back to work and sort out all the things that were missing today.”
Wizards head coach Peter Vermes criticized the culture and attitude in the Wizards’ locker room during Onalfo’s last season at the helm. On Saturday, under Vermes, Kansas City was the hungrier and sharper side and it showed on the field and in the score line.
And although D.C.’s new coach will need time, the shadows of Onalfo's final season in Kansas City will linger until United can show they have finally turned a corner.