WASHINGTON – Even as coach Ben Olsen maintained his optimistic tone, D.C. United midfielder Jared Jeffrey admitted his side’s scoring woes had taken almost a supernatural, cursed feel following Saturday’s 0-0 draw against the LA Galaxy.
“I think it’s very frustrating,” Jeffrey admitted after United were shutout for a ninth time in 14 games this year and fifth time in their last six outings. “It feels like there’s a force field in front of the goal.”
It’s an understandable mindset after D.C. was denied for the second time in as many games by a desperate goal line clearance, this time from Ashley Cole in second half stoppage time.
Luciano Acosta also rattled the post from distance in the 72nd minute. And Jeffrey reacted just fractions too late to redirect the rebound of Taylor Kemp’s 50th minute free kick past goalkeeper Jon Kempin.
And while D.C. just can't sneak the ball into the back of the net, there is some merit to Olsen’s argument that D.C. has looked decidedly better recently, goals or not.
United were fortunate to earn their penalty in a 1-0 victory at the Vancouver Whitecaps a week ago. But it took some woeful finishing and a near-miraculous intervention from Jonathan Spector and Joe Bendik to keep D.C. from earning at least a point in a 2-0 loss at Orlando City SC on Wednesday.
Then they shaded affairs against one of the hottest sides in the league Saturday.
“We don’t have the points that we want up until this point of the season, but overall it’s been a good week,” Olsen insisted. “We’ve played some good stuff, we’ve been unlucky in front of goal. And we picked up an away win. It’s not doom and gloom.”
“I felt like we’ve been doing a lot better, though, creating chances,” he said. “There are some games where we’ve only had a couple half chances, but the last few we’ve been getting very good looks.”
There were even momentary flashes Saturday that brought to mind D.C.’s sizzling offensive form of the latter portion of 2016.
Take the 34th minute, when Jose Guillermo Ortiz’s backheel to Lloyd Sam highlighted a slick sequence that appeared to culminate in Patrick Nyarko scoring off the rebound. Only Ortiz was correctly judged fractionally offside as he took Acosta’s initial pass.
That instant, however fleeting, also reflected the stats. D.C. completed more passes than LA (410-371) and at a higher rate (77 percent to 74 percent).
“I’m encouraged with, in particular the last two games, how we’re building up, how we’re creating chances.” Olsen said. “And I think if we can continue to do that [we can] start getting the wins that we need to compete for a playoff spot.”
Even so, United have now gone 575 minutes since their last goal from open play, a 55th minute strike from Sebastien Le Toux in their 3-1 win at Atlanta on April 30. The timetable for the return from knee injury for forward Patrick Mullins, the flashpoint of so much of D.C.’s 2016 success, is uncertain. And it will be two weeks before they have a chance to end their goal drought, with their next match not coming until June 17 at MLS leaders Toronto FC.
“I think we’ve just got to stay confident and not get too frustrated and keep focusing day-to-day on getting better,” Jeffrey said. “With the break, it’s a big week now that we have where we can just focus on training and really getting after it. It will come, I think. Hopefully we can keep building.”