WASHINGTON – Moments after his side's 2-0 drubbing at the hands of their archrivals on Sunday, Ben Olsen met the media. He did not mince words in his assessment of D.C. United’s performance against the New York Red Bulls, giving the sort of frank, boiled-down assessment that’s become a trademark of his over the past four years.
“[Our first half] was [expletive],” said Olsen, calling his team's approach “mind-boggling.”
“I don’t know what we think we earned, what gives us the right to step on the field in the first half with that type of mentality. But that will change. I know that.”
After United’s first training session since the loss, an energetic affair on an unseasonably brisk spring day, Olsen’s tone had softened a bit. But his bottom line remained the same – his group of seasoned veterans and rapidly maturing youngsters needs to be less passive out of the gate. They need to seize control of the game from the opening whistle, starting with Saturday's home match vs. the defending league champions LA Galaxy (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
“I think we’re all ready to move on and focus on the LA game at this point,” Olsen told MLSsoccer.com. “The more I look at the game, it’s a combination of us being a little passive in a lot of aspects of the game. Our passing was off, we had a few too many guys just not have good games, and that adds up. It happens.
“We were just passive. It wasn’t necessarily that the effort wasn’t there – I just thought our mentality was passive. That can’t be. We’ll fix that, that won’t be an issue going forward.”
Olsen wasn’t the only one who displayed his distaste for Sunday’s result. On Tuesday, United captain Bobby Boswell didn’t seem particularly surprised at his head coach’s choice of words when describing the affair, nor did he feel that Olsen was putting forth any sentiments that weren’t shared by his troops.
“Really? Ben was emotional?” Boswell said sarcastically. “Does that surprise you? He had every right to be, I think. You look at the results around the league and we had a real opportunity to separate ourselves and we let our rivals take care of that.
“He’s just echoing our sentiments. Pissed off at first, then disappointed, and now you have to learn from it and move on. That’s how it is in this business: you don’t get re-dos. He was upset, but we didn’t give him a lot to be proud of. Our coaches did a great job of preparing us for that game and for one reason or another we didn’t come out with the right fire, and we got punished.”
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It isn’t the first time United were punished for a lackluster first half this year. D.C. made an already difficult task nearly insurmountable with a weak opening 45 minutes against Alajuelense in their CONCACAF quarterfinal opener, one where Olsen suggested afterwards that his team had taken “too long to get into the game.”
Similarly, a sluggish first half plagued United in their second-to-last game of 2014, a road loss to New York that doomed them to eventual playoff elimination.
Yet this is a team built around a core of savvy veterans, the types of players that bring fire and intensity on a daily basis. United’s training sessions are competitive affairs, with vets and newcomers jostling for position on the depth chart.
“[The slow starts] aren't an issue,” said Boswell. “It’s just how things go sometimes. We watched video and we can see where we just turned the ball over in bad spots. Anytime you do that – we had some chances we didn’t finish and they finished theirs. You have good days and bad days, and it’s the teams that can win the in-between days. And the ones that don’t are typically watching from home at the end of the year."
Pablo Maurer covers DC United for MLSsoccer.com.