They may be tied atop the Eastern Conference, but after a 2-1 loss in Houston in Week 12, D.C. United didn't sound like a first-place team.
“I think we were not good enough," star forward Wayne Rooney put it bluntly after the match. "I’ve said it before — we’ve gotten lucky in games and we’ve gotten results and today we didn’t. We didn’t deserve anything out of the game and as I keep saying, we need to learn. And if we can’t learn when we’re top of the league, then we never will.
“It just wasn’t good enough,” Rooney continued. “You can make excuses and say whatever you want to say, but at the end of the day we weren’t good enough and we need to improve. I think individual players need to look at themselves and we need to look at ourselves as a team.”
D.C. United took a 1-0 lead against the Dynamo at the start of the second half. But Houston responded with a burst of two goals in a 99-second span to claim a 2-1 advantage that would hold up as the final score.
A straight red card shown to Paul Arriola with five minutes remaining didn't help D.C.'s quest for a late equalizer.
Rooney's teammates concurred with his observations. Veteran defender Frederic Brillant said D.C. United "were not there ... it wasn't our real face" partly due to a midweek road game in Toronto (0-0 draw). D.C. forward Quincy Amarikwa also felt his side didn't do enough to deserve the win in Houston.
“I think we’re lucky to get that goal early," Amarikwa said postgame of the Rooney goal after the halftime break. "We were rewarded with luck, but we didn’t take full advantage of our luck. I think it’s going to be a good thing that it came back to bite us because we can’t assume that things are just going to keep falling our way.”
The Dynamo goals coincided with a D.C. substitution that saw midfielder Chris McCann enter the match for attacker Ulises Segura, a move that Olsen explained was meant to give D.C. more passing ability in midfield and allow Arriola to move into his preferred wide attacking position.
“[The substitution] was in the plans going into the game and we still thought it was the move that would settle the game down," Olsen said. "It coincides with those minutes of not doing so well. I’ll take that if we need to put it on somebody.”
D.C. hit the road again in Week 13 next Saturday at New England ahead of a four-match home stretch at Audi Field. Rooney's sense of urgency is clear.
“It’s come into an important part of the season and I want to win, we want to win as a team," he said. "And if we continue giving the performances that we’re doing, then we won’t.”