The conclusion of D.C. United’s seven-game unbeaten streak couldn’t have come at a worse time.
It’s been almost four months since United lost a game on the road, a streak snapped with a flat performance in Sunday’s 1-0 loss against Sporting KC.
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Grabbing points at Livestrong Sporting Park would have pushed DC up the ladder in the Eastern Conference, putting them in a tie for third and in possession of a playoff spot. But DC couldn’t deliver the needed performance to get a result.
“This is not an easy loss to take,” midfielder Chris Pontius told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s a tough one. That’s an Eastern conference team that we were basically in the same spot [as], and now it’s a six-point swing.”
Added midfielder Santino Quaranta: “When you’re fighting with a team like this you always want to get something out of the game, and we didn’t.”
With his team playing a third game in nine days, Ben Olsen elected to give striker Charlie Davies a rest, omitting him completely from the 18-man roster. The coach also left Dwayne De Rosario, who’s carried much of the offensive burden in recent weeks, on the bench at the start of the game.
But even after De Rosario came on at the start of the second half, DC couldn’t find an answer to Kei Kamara’s first half tally. They battled tired legs after playing in Chicago on Thursday, and a field in Kansas City worn out from heavy use over the past couple of weeks.
However, they weren’t about to lean on any of that as reason for defeat.
“I don’t think that’s an excuse – both teams had to deal with it and we’ve got to find a way to get a point out of that game,” Pontius said.
Despite the lost opportunity, DC remain in the thick of the playoff hunt. They sit just one point behind New York in the final wild card spot, and hold two games in hand. They’re a manageable five points out of third place in the East with games in hand on Houston as well – though Philadelphia, who are fourth on 34 points, have those two games in hand themselves.
Regardless, United know that things must be better than these last two games, and they’ll look to come out with all guns blazing against Portland next weekend.
“It’s one of those things where Saturday can’t come fast enough against Portland,” Pontius said. “These past two games we had poor first halves. We need to come out and come out firing.”
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark.