WASHINGTON—Shortly after the conclusion of Saturday night’s match-up between D.C. United and the San Jose Earthquakes, a smattering of fans at RFK Stadium were treated to a post-match fireworks display.
Shells soared above the arching roofline of the stadium on East Capitol Street, filing the sky with iridescent reds and blues and yellows.
They were the only fireworks United provided.
En route to a 2-0 loss, United’s attacking corps launched more misfires than direct hits, managing to steer only four of 24 shots on target.
And D.C. allowed San Jose's opener inside of four minutes, the latest example of what’s become an alarmingly familiar trend. Saturday's early deficit marked the third time in as many games that United allowed a goal in the first four minutes of a match, and the ninth time that they’ve done so in fewer than 15, worst in the league.
After the match, a clearly frustrated Ben Olsen wasn’t having it. Shortly after taking the podium, he offered a brief assessment
“I’ll address the starts,” Olsen said. “Obviously it’s something we’ve got to continue to work on. That’s it.”
Asked about his side's struggle to put shots on goal, Olsen took a similarly blunt approach in his answer:
“We should put them on goal. We should shoot them on goal. That would help a lot."
And Olsen wasn’t the only one frustrated.
Though D.C. have typically managed to erase the early deficits, most United players have bemoaned the poor starts, suggesting they would eventually prove untenable. On Saturday, D.C. were finally punished, and midfielder Chris Rolfe, the team’s leading scorer, couldn't hide his displeasure.
"I’ve never been on a team that starts games like this so often,” said Rolfe, who also suggested that United’s constantly evolving lineup might be contributing to their offensive inefficiencies. “Other teams, it feels like, get quality chances — it doesn’t feel like we had a lot of quality chances tonight; we get half-chances, mostly, and it seems like we give up a lot of quality chances. We have to address it on both sides of the ball.”
Said central defender Kofi Opare: “I’m not exactly sure right now whether this is a mindset thing, whether we have to come to the game better prepared and focused; I’m not exactly sure what it is. It’s definitely not healthy. It’s definitely something that needs to be eradicated going forward, especially during this stage of the season.”
Veteran midfielder Davy Arnaud proved more succinct:
“It would be nice to play from out front at home, we haven’t done that for a little while now. If you have an answer, maybe you can let us know.
"I’m not too sure, to be honest. I don’t know what it is, but we have to take care of it."