Playing without captain Dwayne De Rosario for the first time this season, D.C. United and their depleted group of forwards were punchless in Saturday’s 2-1 loss against Sporting Kansas City.
Head coach Ben Olsen, however, isn’t welcoming injuries as an excuse for leaving Livestrong Sporting Park with no points.
“We missed a couple guys today. The list goes on and on, but it’s still not an excuse to have the performance we had tonight,” Olsen said. “That’s not too much of a concern. My concern is the way this group played.”
HIGHLIGHTS: SKC 2, DC 1
A lineup of unfamiliar moving parts led to sporadic possession and few chances as D.C. lost an opportunity to pull within one point of Kansas City. Instead, Sporting vaulted to first in the Eastern Conference, while D.C. remain in fourth.
De Rosario, who started United’s first 21 matches, injured his shoulder in last Saturday’s 1-0 victory against Columbus. And though he returned to training Thursday, he was downgraded to doubtful on Friday and didn’t play Saturday.
Making matters worse, Hamdi Salihi and Maicon Santos both were unavailable, forcing Chris Pontius to shift up top alongside Long Tan. On the backline, D.C. were without Robbie Russell and Daniel Woolard, as newly-acquired defender Mike Chabala made his first start for United at left back.
“We had a lot of guys, all guys that are suffering with injuries, but we did well without them and we’re definitely wishing them well and hoping they get back on the field as soon as possible,” said D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who made three saves on the night.
Two of United’s better chances came in the opening 10 minutes off the foot of center back Brandon McDonald. Both times he had a relatively clear look at the cage, but chipped it high into the stands.
Tan and Pontius combined for three shots, one on goal, and D.C. again were unable to solve Sporting's 4-3-3 formation as consistent pressure from Sporting and D.C.’s eagerness to play long balls made it a long night for the visiting side.
“I have to search for the reasons why we had an off night, but I didn’t like much about the way we played,” Olsen said. “They were better than us in every aspect of the game."