A strong preseason runup gave D.C. United some reason to feel bullish heading into their 2010 league opener in Kansas City last weekend. But at the final whistle United had surrendered as many goals in 90 minutes as they had in their final four warmup matches combined – another cringe-inducing reminder that preseason prep is a limited predictor of competitive results.
“I think we had a nice preseason where we were playing pretty good soccer and enjoying playing. We hadn’t played a team that was really edgy like that, and aggressive,” D.C. striker Adam Cristman said of the 4-0 thumping at CommunityAmerica Ballpark. “We just weren’t prepared for a fight like that.”
The Wizards underwent the same sort of roster re-engineering as United over the winter, but looked like a dramatically different product with a ruthless display in their home ground’s tight, rain-slicked confines.
“It was a terrible field, terrible situation to go into. Granted, I don’t think we had the best mindset going into it to begin with,” noted goalkeeper Troy Perkins. “That’s our fault as players, not being prepared.”
Perkins and his mates have absorbed their sobering ego check, even if the final result was seen as a “fluke” by some players.
“Maybe it’s a matter of having some success – some good success – the three weeks and winning the Carolina cup and then having a solid showing in Mexico against a top club,” assistant coach Kris Kelderman said. “Maybe that affected our attitude. Maybe we thought the game was going to come easier than we should’ve, and Kansas City jumped on us early.”
The experience has provided a stinging backdrop to preparations for the home opener against New England, in spite of the sunny spring weather which has warmed the capital city this week. Such a loss cannot help but prompt doubts among fans, and usually players as well.
Curt Onalfo’s charges might wish to carry a bit of both optimism and pragmatism as they gear up for Saturday’s tilt at RFK Stadium. The alarm bells aren’t ringing quite yet, but even with their own lengthy list of potential absentees, New England will likely pose another challenge to a young D.C. squad that must find their feet quickly.
“I don’t see too many drastic changes, even though we didn’t get the result we wanted,” said Kelderman. “We felt we were very strong the three, four games previous to that in preseason. So I don’t think it’s a situation where we panic and we need to change things. We just need a better performance from the people that are on the field.”