WASHINGTON – During the week of training leading up to D.C. United’s match against Philadelphia on Sunday at RFK Stadium, head coach Ben Olsen and his players acknowledged that a fast start would be crucial to shaking their three-game malaise.
Goals by the Union in the seventh and 11th minutes didn’t exactly help the cause. And they didn’t leave Olsen with a good taste in his mouth, either.
“The way we started the game is just unacceptable,” he said following his club’s fourth straight loss. “It’s very alarming that we started the way we started in the situation we’re in right now. That’s very alarming.”
Despite scoring as many goals Sunday as D.C. had managed in their six previous matches combined, the defense conceded three goals in a 3-2 loss – the club’s third at home – which left United in sole possession of last place in the Eastern Conference.
“We’re doing it to ourselves,” center back Brandon McDonald said. “You can’t put any of it on Benny. He prepares us. We went out and we did that to ourselves. The past couple games, these teams aren’t creating these goals, we’re giving it to them.”
Prior to Sunday’s nationally televised match, United’s defense hadn’t allowed more than two goals in a match and allowed seven on the year. A bad turnover led to the first goal of Jack McInerney’s brace, while Philadelphia’s second goal was the result of a quick counter-attack and the third, a well-placed long throw.
“We’re having trouble putting together full games. That’s kind of been the theme,” Olsen said.
Despite the fact that the offense put away chances through Perry Kitchen and Lionard Pajoy, captain Dwayne De Rosario was understandably frustrated with his team’s play.
“We scored two goals from crosses and then we stopped crossing the ball,” De Rosario said. “For what reason, I have no idea. We’re playing the safe, safe pass instead of being more aggressive going forward and taking a chance at whipping a ball in or playing it to the forwards. It’s been a long first seven games.”
Once again, United were without four midfielders with the capability to provide some of those crosses, all of whom are out with various injuries: Nick DeLeon, John Thorrington, Marcos Sanchez and Lewis Neal.
“I trust in our team,” Olsen said. “I think we have enough talent, even with six or seven guys out. Four or five guys out, good players that might start for us, and we still overall put together a good performance. But in the three big moments in the game, we fouled up.”
And with seven matches played and only four points in hand, the pressure on D.C. – a team that reached the Eastern Conference finals last season – is building.
“There was a sense of urgency three weeks ago. There should have been a sense of urgency the first week,” Olsen said. “That’s how this works. These are professional athletes and they should have urgency every time they step on the field, and high concentration. And right now, that’s not the case.”