WASHINGTON – Following D.C. United’s rather humbling loss to the New York Red Bulls last weekend on their home pitch, coach Ben Olsen’s message to his club at training this week is quite clear.
“The message is right now we need a very narrow focus, and that focus is winning this weekend,” Olsen said.
United will enter Sunday afternoon’s match against the Philadelphia Union (5 pm ET, ESPN2/LIVE chat on MLSsoccer.com) losers of three in a row and with more losses at RFK Stadium this season than they had in all of 2011.
“Last year, it was a bit different, we had a few different pieces,” said United midfielder Perry Kitchen. “We were just grinding out results. Maybe we were a bit lucky to grind out those results, but I feel like maybe this year some stuff isn’t going our way as it would have last year. Saying that, we just have to continue developing.”
Aside from injuries to key components of United’s midfield, one of the club’s bigger issues has been a lack of production at forward. United’s Young Designated Player, Rafael, was removed by Olsen after the first half of Saturday’s loss, though he does have one of the club’s two goals on the year. Against New York, Rafael was paired up top in a 4-4-2 with Lionard Pajoy.
“I think he struggled,” Olsen said of Rafael. “Some of the injury situations have forced us to play in a way that maybe isn’t as balanced as I’d like it. We’ve got two No. 9s up there fighting for positions and they’re getting in the way and there’s not enough triangles and ability to break teams down, in particular against New York.”
Whether or not Olsen tinkers with that pairing ahead of Sunday’s match remains to be seen. Earlier this week he said that “nothing was off the table” in regard to potentially calling up forward Casey Townsend from Richmond after he scored two goals on Saturday.
“Our focus needs to be very, very narrow,” Olsen said. “Our sole focus needs to get a result against Philadelphia this weekend.”