Ben Olsen, DC United

DC United say mentality is behind improvement: "It's a group that wants to prove something"

WASHINGTON – Much has changed at RFK Stadium in 2014. A bevy of new players. An overhauled coaching staff. A re-tooled front office.

Most importantly, perhaps, United are doing something they did very little of in 2013: getting points.

That's the result not only of a change in personnel, but a change in attitude as well. For now, it seems as if the club’s winning mentality has returned.

"I mean, [that mentality] was gone last year,” United head coach Ben Olsen told after his team’s 4-1 victory over FC Dallas last weekend. "For a while, there wasn’t a lot of belief. This year, it’s a group that wants to prove something. It’s everyone – it’s staff, coaches, it’s guys that were here and had that [2013] season, that have a chip on their shoulder from an image standpoint."

United’s 2013 squad – winners of just three league matches all year – somehow remained a close-knit, jovial bunch last season, a bit of a double-edged sword. Though the positivity and continued faith in one another proved to be something that carried over into 2014 for those players who made the cut, the cheeriness seemed at times a bit much and not quite the mentality of a playoff team focused on righting the ship.

According to United captain Bobby Boswell, the sometimes casual nature of 2013’s squad is a thing of the past.

“There are some pissed off guys here during the week,” said Boswell, who joined D.C. United in the offseason but has quickly cemented his place on the squad. "When guys don’t win in practice, guys are upset and guys are arguing. It’s not necessarily a bad argument, it’s not like fists are flying, but guys want to win in practice and it translates over into the game.”

The shift in mentality has paid dividends. Aside from an opening pair of games where a still unfamiliar starting lineup worked through some very predictable growing pains, D.C. have looked like a side intent on taking care of business.

Even the occasional hiccups in the side's past five games – late goals allowed against Columbus and Chicago that cost United a handful of points – are in the forefront of the mind of D.C.’s 2014 squad.

"We’re unbeaten in our last five games,” added United defender Sean Franklin, another offseason addition. "There are some of those games where we should’ve won. Columbus, of course, [and] we give up a late goal against Chicago. We should’ve won those games.

"Our team right now has all the confidence in world – we’re excited for this win [over FC Dallas], but we realize it’s a long season."

Stay connected: Get access to breaking news, videos, and analysis from North America's best soccer reporters via "This Week in MLS" newsletter or using our FREE mobile app.