D.C. United continues slide
Lack of communication. Lack of focus. Lack of defense. Lack of offense. Sometimes when it rains, it pours. And it's monsoon season in D.C. right now.
Wednesday night's 4-0 loss to Houston was just the latest chapter in what has been a dismal season start. With just one win and one draw in nine outings, D.C. United sits at the bottom of MLS standins (1-7-1) and ranks dead last in points per game (0.44) and goals allowed (17) for a -13 goal differential.
For the fourth time in as many games, United found themselves in an early hole less than 30 minutes into play. Sloppy defensive play allowed Will Bruin to strike in the 16th minute and again at the 28th.
Boniek Garcia won a contested ball at midfield and played it ahead perfectly to Bruin, who broke away easily from Dejan Jakovic as the DCU defender misplayed the chip. Bill Hamid was then left on his own to stop Bruin, forcing the keeper to make a deep challenge. As Hamid slid, Bruin flicked the ball easily over the sprawling goalie and into the net.
Just 12 minutes later Jakovic and Hamid combined once again to spell disaster. Under pressure, Jakovic played the ball back to his keeper instead of out to the sideline. Hamid rushed his clearing attempt and sent a weak kick directly to Bruin, who was waiting at the edge of the box. This time when Hamid came out to challenge, Houston's striker skipped it over expertly to Giles Barnes, who drilled it in for a two goal lead.
"It's tough," said Jakovic. "You go down 2-0 and you've got a big mountain to climb. You never want to go down and the way we went down was just bad mistakes. Bad mistakes by me and we get punished. We get put in a hole and it's tough to get out of that."
The team retreated to the locker room at the half with a two goal deficit to meet their fuming head coach.
"I still don’t get how it takes a coach to throw things and yell at you to now play with aggression and with the right spirit. It's mind boggling to me," said Ben Olsen. "I don’t get it. If that’s what it takes, to get you to play desperate and with high concentration, some guys are in trouble. Some of this has to come from within. It's confusing to me."
It was a sentiment that captain Dwayne De Rosario echoed in the locker room after the game.
"I’ve been doing a lot of screaming and a lot of yelling and you see it’s the same thing ... Guys have to really look in the mirror and take a gut check cause this is our life. You have to play with that passion- I just don’t see that consistently from everyone. I think it’s there from quite a few guys that come out and give it all. But hey, things go wrong, those things happen, it’s the response that bothers me. The heads go down and you dig a deeper hole for yourself. And that part is unacceptable.”
United responded at the start of the second half with eight attempts on goal in the first 21 minutes, including an agonizing pair of denials by Kofi Sarkodie on De Rosario in the 63rd minute that kept United off the board. Though DCU picked up things on offense, increasing their attempts on net from three in the first half to ten in the second, things on the defensive end did not improve. In the 78th minute Bruin struck again for his fourth goal of the year and ten minutes later, set up Andrew Driver to leave his finger print on every Dynamo tally.
"It’s lack of communication I guess, lack of focus," said Nick DeLeon, who returned to the pitch for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury on March 23 in a 2-1 loss to Columbus. "Defense is just about hard work and communication, I just want say it’s a lack of communication is what is going on.”
The tight bonds that united the club during their first playoff appearance together last season are now being tested as frustrating mistakes cause the losses to pile up.
"These are my guys, so I don’t want to be too critical," said De Rosario. "We just can’t do that to ourselves in the game. We cant give up 2,3 goals in the first half— especially at home. We work too hard on a lot of things last couple of weeks to come in and the momentum and the hype that we had going into the game and to just give away two goals just like that is frustrating. I know I am speaking for a lot of the guys when I say its frustrating and it’s frustrating for the guys that are in the play giving up the goals. But, like I said, the response has to be better. If you give up two goals you need to be a little bit more urgent, get into some tackles. Then I would have to say, 'hey relax, calm down.' I just don’t see that. I have to yell to keep them motivated. There’s only so much talking you can do.
"Most of all I’m disappointed in the lack of character right now. I think when we give up two goals you get out-bodied, out muscled in a couple ways that are just unacceptable. We have to have one of our guys cleaning up somewhat. It’s just not there."
"Our team is a lot different from last year but everyone is on the same page," said Jakovic. "That's the one good thing about this team is that we're all a family. We're all in it together. We believe in each other and we believe we have enough talent to get ourselves out of this mess that we're in"
Mired in the worst start in club history, DCU has shown no signs that a turn around is near, prompting uncomfortable questions about job security.
"I don’t worry about my job because I understand coaches get fired," said Olsen. "I’ve seen coaches get fired for less than 0-7 in the last seven games. But I don’t worry about it because that’s completely out of my control. Is my job on the line? It better be: I’m the leader of this team, but I have faith in what I’m doing and I’ll continue to go about my work.”
And players alike face the same uncertainty.
"We have to make some changes. I’ll look to make some moves and try to make some adjustments," said Olsen.
The Black and Red will have just two days to lick their wounds before heading to Dallas on Saturday to face the number one team in the MLS. FC Dallas has six wins, three draws and just one loss this season and leads the league in points per game at 2.1.
But while United is clearly frustrated with the rut they're in, they have not abandoned hope.
"Every day's a new day. That's the thing about sports: you lose a game and you have another one the next week or for us luckily in three days," said Daniel Woolard. "You kinda start anew. That's refreshing. You've got a chance to get out there and get a win. We can't do anything to change what happened tonight. We have to move on and prepare mentally and physically for Saturday."