Despite the fact that scoring goals eluded D.C. United in Saturday night’s 0-0 draw against New England at Gillette Stadium, the effort was arguably the club’s finest performance of what has been a woeful 2013 campaign.
“I was proud of my group tonight. It’s been a tough three months, I’m not going to lie,” said United coach Ben Olsen. “For the guys to keep grinding and fighting together to get a result tonight, I was very happy with that and I was proud of them.”
While United’s winless streak stretched to a club-record 12 matches with the draw, there were a number of encouraging spots: standout saves from goalkeeper Bill Hamid, creativity and attacking build-up from the midfield and solid defending on set pieces.
Still, D.C. United (1-10-3) didn’t score. And they didn’t score with captain Dwayne De Rosario on the bench for the first 75 minutes of the match. Olsen chose to bench De Rosario for the second time this season and started Carlos Ruiz and Chris Pontius at forward. Ruiz was dangerous and held the ball up well throughout the night, but the attack fizzled with the final attempts on goal.
“The final ball has to be better. Last week, we worked on getting numbers forward and having enough guys in the box when we’re getting good opportunities. We did that,” Olsen said. “We were committed. The final ball just wasn’t good enough tonight and that’s been haunting us.”
Hamid’s saves seemed to increase in difficulty as the match wore on and much like he did against New York in a scoreless draw in March, he carried his team late.
“As a group, it was a great defensive performance and we got some chances in the offensive end. So this is a positive game for us as a team moving forward,” Hamid said.
Afterward, Olsen was candid in speaking about what this winless skid has meant to the club and organization.
“It’s my first time really dealing with a little bit of a downward spiral. It’s tough," Olsen said. "You learn a lot. If you’re able to sit back and focus on some of the lessons that you’re given during this time, I think it can help you down the line, from a coaching standpoint and from a personal standpoint.
“You’re really tested and the players are really tested. It’s not just me," Olsen continued. "The organization’s tested and the fans are tested. It’s easy to fold and point fingers, but I think overall, we’ve hung in there. That’s a tribute to the guys, the organization, our fans – who I know are very unhappy but patient – and ownership that is supportive of me and my staff.”
Nick Cammarota covers D.C. United for MLSsoccer.com.