Sometimes after a loss in the first game of the season it can be said, at least it’s a start. D.C. United’s madden voyage into the 2014 campaign never really got going in a 3-0 loss to the Columbus Crew in the home opener at R.F.K. Stadium.
The memorable playoff season of 2012 started with a similar thud in a 1-0 loss at home to Sporting Kansas City. United then went unbeaten the rest of the way at home. Including the playoffs it was run of 17 games without a defeat for United at R.F.K. before a loss to Houston in the Eastern Conference finals.
In short there is no need to panic after one game, but United has plenty of work to do to give fans reasons for optimism.
- Attack—There has to be more of one. United head coach Ben Olsen made it clear after the game his belief in this group and it comes with reason. We have witnessed Eddie Johnson and Fabian Espindola slice through MLS defenses in recent years and they will have better days. Johnson and Espindola can’t do it alone and the failure to generate any sustained offensive flow is a team problem. On Saturday there was no connection. United managed only one shot on goal and that was from distance by defender Cristian Fernandez. It didn’t help that the Crew enjoyed an early 2-0 lead and United struggled to find rhythm through the Crew’s disruptive tactics. By the game’s late stages United had brought on Conor Doyle, Kyle Porter and Lewis Neal. The introduction of Neal started in a surge on my twitter account that we would see a dramatic goal. It was Neal that secured the playoffs in 2012 with a goal against Columbus. It was not to be on this night.
- Possession—The Crew dominated possession at 57%. United needs to be better in the midfield to assert its will on the game. It was far too quiet night on the flanks and in the middle Columbus kept United in check.
- The Crew—Give credit to the opponent. The same questions that have been asked in preseason about United were being asked about the Crew. Like United the Crew went through a roster overhaul. The Crew also had a slow start to preseason, but finished with a 4-1 win over Sporting Kansas City. It obviously carried over. Even with Dominic Oduro, 13 goals last year, suspended, the Crew had brightness to its attack. As we said in the preview on Friday, Frederico Higuain is a game changer and he was on Saturday.
- Faith—United fans are amazing. Before the game a large banner that read, “Dear Clyde thank you for everything. Love, DCU supporters. Former United player Clyde Simms announced his retirement last month because of a kidney ailment. I think you hash tag that first class. Perhaps fan Ben Owen said it best on facebook: “Legs hurt, throat sore, voice shot. It's good to be back.”