DC United return to the grind with a point to prove as taste of Red Bulls loss lingers: "It's got to be better"

WASHINGTON – D.C. United reconvened on the practice fields at RFK Stadium on Tuesday morning for their first training session in three days.

The days off — facilitated by a rare bye week — gave many of D.C.’s players and coaches some time to escape the grind, to get away from soccer for a moment and flush the remnants of their disappointing 3-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls 10 days ago out of their system. 

The break didn’t quite have that effect on United head coach Ben Olsen. And it probably didn’t do much for the players who dropped the result to the Red Bulls, either.

"I haven’t [forgotten about the loss],” Olsen told the media in attendance after training on Tuesday. “It still pisses me off. Hopefully it still pisses our guys off. I don’t care what we take into the next game. It’s got to be better than what we showed in New York.

“But I think we’re all committed to doing that. We have to show up on game day and show that we’re a better team than we have been the past several weeks."

United were comprehensively dismantled by a red-hot New York side, putting in perhaps their worst performance of what’s been a largely successful season. They never seemed to find their rhythm, done in by rivals who are, as Olsen put it after the match, “right now, the gold standard in the East.” 

Their third loss in a row left United with a mere two-point advantage over second-place New York — who have three games in hand. In an increasingly congested Eastern Conference, a mere four points separates United from fourth-place New England, a far cry from the double-digit lead D.C. had racked up several weeks ago.

Still, United’s training session would best be described as upbeat, as players seemed eager to prep for this weekend’s upcoming trip to Colorado, where United will face the Rapids on Saturday evening (9 pm ET, MLS LIVE).

"It was good energy today,” said Olsen. “When you’re off three days you have some guys come back with good energy, others come back with good energy but also rust. So it’s always good to just get out there, let them touch the ball as much as possible, and get a good sweat, get those three days of vacation out of their system. Then tomorrow, we’ll see a better rhythm while we gear up for an important week against a good team in Colorado.

"We’re playing them at a time where they seem to be playing some of their best stuff of the season, but that’s how it goes. Obviously we need a result; we’ve got a busy two-week stretch here with CONCACAF as well, so this is an important two weeks.”

United look like they’ll get a touch of good news heading into Saturday’s encounter. Plagued by injury problems all year, first-choice forward Fabian Espindola trained fully on Tuesday and looks likely to start this weekend.

“Good to go,” said Olsen of Espindola. “Glad we gave him the extra time he needed.”

D.C. also figure to get a pair of players away on international duty back sometime later this week; midfielder Markus Halsti went the distance for Finland this weekend in a Euro 2016 qualifier and should arrive late Tuesday. Forward Alvaro Saborio will take part in Costa Rica’s Tuesday friendly against Uruguay before returning to RFK on Thursday.

United may very well need Halsti to be ready to go the distance in Colorado. Olsen told those in attendance on Tuesday that midfielder Davy Arnaud remains “day-to-day” while recovering from a concussion.