Despite the return of Dwayne De Rosario to D.C. United’s lineup, the struggling offense that plagued coach Ben Olsen’s club through its first two matches of 2013 carried over into Saturday afternoon’s 0-0 draw with New York.
And Olsen’s concerned.
“Yes. Absolutely,” he said when asked whether he worried about his group’s ability to possess the ball. “We pissed the ball away so many times when we didn’t need to. And we’re missing that in our game right now. We know that, I know that, the players know that."
“It’s about options, it’s about wanting the ball," he continued in his postgame comments. "It’s about quality, passing, holding the ball up. The forwards have to do a better job of holding the ball up for us. There’s a lot to work on with this group.”
The first stat on the box score, shots, is eye-popping: 24-5 in favor of the Red Bulls.
“Our offense is struggling right now,” United midfielder Nick DeLeon admitted to MLSsoccer.com. “But as long as we can be defensively sound and not give up any goals, it keeps us in the game for that one counterattack where we could score. It’s something that happened to us last year. It was a slow start offensively, but as we get more comfortable with each other, we’ll start generating some goals.”
United have scored one goal in three matches and salvaged a draw Saturday only because of a superb defensive effort. The Red Bulls out-possessed United, 57 percent to 43 percent, as D.C. frequently depended on winning one-on-one matchups. When those battles weren’t won, United’s sustained pressure in the attacking third, even with De Rosario at withdrawn forward, was nonexistent.
In his first meaningful action since last September, the 2011 MLS MVP played 76 minutes and attempted two shots while forward Lionard Pajoy, who scored D.C.’s lone goal this season, didn’t take any shots in his 71 minutes of action. DeLeon and Chris Pontius attempted one shot each.
“We’re not putting too much into that,” De Rosario said when asked about the team’s offensive struggles. “The main thing is to keep a clean sheet right now. We know we’ve got guys that can score goals. We want to continue to keep a clean sheet and we know the goals will come.”
Regardless, to have four points in three matches and come out of Red Bull Arena with a scoreless draw is far from the worst-case scenario.
“I was pleased with the fight and commitment," Olsen said, "but from the soccer side, we need to get a lot better."