NEW YORK – D.C. United entered Yankee Stadium enjoying their best form of the season, riding a six-game unbeaten streak that pushed them above the playoff line in the Eastern Conference.
But coach Ben Olsen knew there was bound to be some pain. And it came late in the second half of a 3-2 loss to New York City FC Thursday night.
“That one hurts. But there are games in the season that hurt,” Olsen said. “I’ve never gone through a season in my career as a coach or a player that you don’t have games like this. They hurt for a day or two and then you move on.”
A tidy 1-0 road win turned on a defensive gaffe when David Villa picked off a poor back pass from Luke Mishu. The NYCFC captain clinically finished with his league-leading 17th goal of the season, giving the home club, and its fans, some life.
“It’s one of those things that we need to get rid of before playoffs come around,” said Lamar Neagle, who headed in a stoppage-time equalizer. “If we plan on getting in the playoffs, it’s something that’s going to get us through is going 90 minutes. We need as many points as we can get especially against East Coast teams and it’s a really unfortunate loss for us.”
However, the blame wasn’t placed on Mishu, rather on the inability to add a second goal to put away NYCFC.
“Against quality players it is never easy and you have to take your chances,” Olsen said. “The lesson is the one we continue to learn which is when you have a change to go 2-0, you go 2-0. You punish them. Because there are plenty of times we could punish this team and it couldn’t be done.”
For much of the match, the story was about D.C. United’s collective -- and Jalen Robinson’s individual -- defending to stifle NYCFC’s vaunted attack.
“I thought he was good overall. I think he is going to be a good center back,” Olsen said. “For guys like Luke and Jalen, it is vital for his development. He is going against one of the best forwards in the world…for 90 plus minutes. That is a great experience for him. I thought for the most part, he had a good game. “
So while it’s a painful lesson and a long trip back to Washington D.C., the focus shifts to a critically important game against the New York Red Bulls on Sept. 11.
“I don’t think against New York Red Bulls concentration will be an issue,” Olsen said. “We have some days off. We can get away and regroup and be ready for another great team, the Red Bulls.”