WASHINGTON – After a pair of underwhelming draws, Saturday evening’s home game against FC Dallas looked, on paper, to be an ideal palate cleanser for D.C. United.
Dallas, after all, were left short-handed by the international break. Seven of their players were going to miss the match because of national team duty, including three regular starters in Honduran defender Maynor Figueroa, Mexican goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez, and American midfielder Kellyn Acosta.
Things didn’t go as planned. D.C. were overwhelmed by FC Dallas' attack, and a series of defensive breakdowns led to a pair of first-half goals, both scored by Colombian playmaker Michael Barrios. Dallas wound up adding a third to breeze to a 3-0 rout.
After the match, United head coach Ben Olsen did not hide his disappointment in his club's defensive performance.
“We're still lacking a little quality around the box, which I suppose is somewhat normal," said Olsen. "The way we defended, the goals were very preventable goals and [it just was] not good enough.
"[Down] 2-0 at halftime, I actually feel pretty comfortable about most of the first half, minus the two plays they scored on. You feel like you can get back into the game. I think the team believed that, and then you give up the third and that's the ballgame.”
Olsen also wasn’t particularly interested in chalking up United’s defensive shortcomings to the absence of Steve Birnbaum, who is away with the US national team during their World Cup Qualifying run. Former LA Galaxy center back Kofi Opare filled in for Birnbaum, however, and had some struggles.
“I got plenty of excuses if you want them but I'm not that interested in giving them," said Olsen. "Yeah, Kofi was a little rusty; he hasn't had a real game since last year. Sure, that's normal. But it's not just on Kofi. A lot of other guys can make plays and that's what we pride ourselves in doing: helping out the next guy. That wasn't the case tonight.”
Fullback Sean Franklin echoed these frustrations. "We’re four games into the season, so we’re not hitting the panic button yet. But we gotta be getting points," he said. "We have to start to put in the work and hopefully get some results.”