WASHINGTON – Another match, another terrible start for D.C. United.
And as much of an issue as poor first-half play has been for United throughout the majority of their six-match losing streak, including Wednesday’s 4-0 loss against Houston, coach Ben Olsen said Friday that it’s been a point of concern since the preseason.
“It was an issue we preached about the second week into preseason. I think we all smelled it and didn’t like the vibe we had from the start,” Olsen said following training. “There’s still an anger that I don’t think we have. We don’t have that chip on our shoulder from the start of the whistle, and that’s very, very disappointing from a team that I’m in charge of. Again, that’s on me. But it’s very disappointing.”
United’s task to start a match with passion and end their losing streak won’t be easy as they travel to Dallas (8:30 pm ET, FREE on MLS Live) to face the Western Conference’s top club. D.C. haven’t scored a goal on the road this year.
“That stuff comes down to a mental focus,” United midfielder Chris Pontius said of the slow starts. “It’s got to be a mentality, especially at home. It’s mind-boggling, especially with the record we have, that we can’t start games well. There’s got to be some urgency. Guys have got to be playing for their jobs now.”
Could part of the reason for this skid be attributed from a change in mentality? A club that was a playoff underdog a season ago and this year was labeled one of the favorites in the East?
“Are we hungover, still? I would hope at this point we’re not. I would hope we’ve woken up from that. But it seems to be so,” Olsen said. “The trainings have been good, the spirit’s been good during the week. Guys are sticking together and want to dig out of this. But it’s still about showing up on the day that really matters and doing all that good stuff we do throughout the week on game day. And that hasn’t happened.”
In a bit of good news for United, Pontius said he feels good after recovering from a groin injury and could potentially play 75-90 minutes against Dallas. Having Pontius back, along with winger Nick DeLeon – who returned from a six-week absence against Houston – could help spark an offense in sore need of a breakout performance.
“[Last year] we played with more urgency, we played with confidence and we’ve got to get back to that,” Pontius said.
Olsen said Casey Townsend and Taylor Kemp, both on loan to the Richmond Kickers, will travel with the team to Dallas as “a change or two” could be coming to the starting XI.