Thorrington: 'We have to dig ourselves out of this'
Stats only tell part of the story. There are numbers that indicate D.C. United has had an advantage in possession in seven of its last ten games. Ahead of Saturday’s home game against San Jose that stat is of little consolation.
In a 2-1 loss last Saturday to Toronto FC, United had the ball 58.2% of the time. It was possession in need of more purpose. An electrifying run by Nick De Leon that led to a Dwayne De Rosario penalty kick saved United from being shutout for the 8th time in 15 games. The loss to Toronto extended United’s record winless streak to 13 games.
“It’s one of the hardest things every one of us has dealt with, but going into the game with the right mentality is the key to get out of this situation,” goalkeeper Bill Hamid said.
The right mentality seemed to be there with United eager to build on its 3-1 midweek U.S. Open Cup win over Philadelphia. Trouble defending set pieces, a haunting problem for United all season, then surfaced again with Toronto responding to the 1-0 deficit with two unanswered goals off free kicks.
“It’s always tough when you come off, you’ve put a lot into a game on Wednesday to come back on Saturday,” said midfielder John Thorington. “Excuses are like opportunities, if you look for them they’ll be there. We saw this as an opportunity to get out of last place and continue the work we’d built up on the last two games, which were by and large positive.
The Open Cup win and the 0-0 road draw against New England had given United hope that a new day was about to begin with head coach Ben Olsen talking about a “silent confidence”. It was hoped that a new resolve on defense would be matched by more enterprise on offense. Instead United’s confidence was hit with another body blow.
Perhaps a return to better health will make a difference for United. If Chris Pontius is able to return from a one game absence because of a concussion, then he could partner at forward with Dwayne De Rosario. It is also hoped that Kyle Porter is fit after missing the Toronto game with a calf strain.
A lineup with Porter and De Leon on the flanks with Pontius and De Rosario at forward has attacking potential. A big part of United’s success last season that ended a five-year playoff drought was with the combination of De Leon, Pontius, and De Rosario leading the offense. Because of injuries and suspension, the trio has only been in the starting lineup together twice this season.
The Black and Red also need Alain Rochat to build on his promising team debut last Saturday. Rochat started at left back and also played some in the center of the midfield. Let go by Vancouver to free up salary cap space, Rochat might introduce a new dynamic to United’s offense with his ability to jump into the attack from his left back position.
Like United, the San Jose Earthquakes are suffering through a dramatic turn of events. Last season the Earthquakes had the best record in the league, Frank Yallop was coach of the year, and Chris Wondolowski scored 27 goals to win the MVP award. It was a dream season spoiled by an early exit from the playoffs.
The Earthquakes have yet to wake up. Heading into Saturday’s game the Earthquakes are on 18 points from 16 games and are three points out of a playoff spot. Yallop is no longer the head coach.. Assistant Mark Watson is now the interim coach and in his first game the Earthquakes were able to secure a 2-1 win over Colorado
The win over the Rapids was the Earthquakes first road win of the season. Steven Lenhart also scored his first goal of the season. For only the second time all season Lenhart was paired at forward with Alan Gordon. Their partnership worked and might continue Saturday against United with Wondolowski coming out of the midfield.
The Earthquakes want to prove their success in Colorado was not a one-off prompted by players eager to impress a new coach. United would like to atone for a poor home showing against Toronto that muted gradual progress the week before.