Never has a soccer match's statistics had less meaning in the result of a game. On Sunday night, according to every statistic but one, D.C. United outplayed the Philadelphia Union. More shots, more shots on target, vastly more open play crosses, more than 55% duels rate and roughly 2/3 of the possession. But all of that means very little, because the Black-and-Red lost their fourth straight, dropping a 2-3 result.
United didn't wait long before their first moment of stupidity. In the 7th minutes, Dejan Jakovic, given space to move forward, carried the ball into the midfield and played a ball straight up the middle. But his pass was intercepted and then recovered by Connor Casey, who released Jack McInerney behind the rest of the D.C. defense. After holding the ball against Jakovic and cutting back to lose Brandon McDonald, McInerney finished to Bill Hamid's far post.
The second moment wasn't far behind. With Philly looking to counter, Danny Cruz beat Daniel Woolard to a ball played from midfield into the corner. He cut back and payed to an only very loosely marked Casey at the top of the 18, and he finished his shot into the bottom corner.
After United pulled one back through Perry Kitchen - atoning for his poor marking of Casey on the Philadelphia second - Philly again pushed the lead to two before halftime, thanks to a Sheannon Williams long throw that was flicked on to an open Jack McInerney at the back post. Of course, with the Union's third shot on frame of the match, he netted their third goal.
D.C. would again pull back to a one-goal deficit early in the second half through a Lionard Pajoy headed finish of a Daniel Woolard cross. But the Black-and-Red never found the equalizer, even after shifting to a three-man back line and pressuring Zach McMath's goal for long stretches.
And so we see a 1-5-1 record and four points through seven games, good for the bottom of the table. On the bright side, we saw this team score a couple goals. Which was enough to double the team's tally for the season. But it still wasn't enough, even against a Union side that hasn't looked wholly convincing at any point this year. A defense that allowed two goals in the first three matches of the year let three in tonight, making it five goals allowed in the two most recent games, both of them against putative rivals and both of them at RFK Stadium.
So what now? Ben Olsen's sarcastic answer to the question at tonight's press conference ("I don't know. Got any suggestions?) notwithstanding, next weekend United travels to Ohio to face the Columbus Crew and then has a 10-day rest before facing the Houston Dynamo at home. Olsen and his team will have to show that they do have an answer to that question if they're going to get results from two teams that have already beaten them this year.