WASHINGTON — D.C. United’s fans were likely sent home happy Saturday evening.
United’s encounter with the Philadelphia Union ended on a high note, with supporters sending their beers skyward after a Steve Birnbaum equalizer at the death.
But the mood in United’s locker room after the 2-2 result was a little different. For the second match in a row, D.C. had squandered a first-half lead — and two matches into a crucial four-game homestand, United have only managed a pair of draws.
“Philly’s a good team, and especially when you get the goal late you feel good about that,” United defender Taylor Kemp told MLSsoccer.com. “But we’re getting to the point in the season where ties really just aren’t good enough no matter how they come — against good teams, bad teams, home or away, we have to start picking up wins to give ourselves a chance to make the playoffs.”
The way United have drawn their past couple of games likely only adds to their frustration. After struggling to control the ball through the first half of their campaign, United looked comfortable in possession against the Union and set the tempo during their game last week with the Montreal Impact, as well.
And D.C. put in an inspired late-game performance Saturday. Perhaps spurred along by watching their head coach get sent off just before the end of regulation, they threw numbers forward and sent a barrage of attempts toward goal before finding the equalizer.
But again, it wasn’t enough to get a win. And their next two matches – home encounters against the Portland Timbers and the New York Red Bulls – now carry added weight as United still hover just below the red line.
“There’s no panic button,” said United outside back Sean Franklin. “If you look at the standings right now, we’re just outside the red line. It’s still pretty tight in the east right now as far as making the playoffs. In these home games, we need to get maximum points. We just gotta get three. We gotta find a way to get a win and we have to do a better job of just playing better at home.”
“It’s obviously a positive that we fought back and got a goal and got the point, but on the day it’s just not good enough,” added Franklin. “We can’t let a team come into our home building and out-compete us. That’s what I think Philly did tonight. They were just first to second balls, 50-50 balls — they were just better than us on the day. We have to be better next week.”