It would be easy for D.C. United to dwell on Sunday's poor performance in a 5-0 loss to the Columbus Crew SC. A bad opening 30 minutes was moderately improved upon late in the first half, but it all fell apart after the break. Columbus added four goals to drop United from second place down to fourth in the Eastern Conference. That loss seemingly could have undone everything that United had accomplished in the previous two weeks -- ending a six game winless streak in league play, qualifying for the playoffs, putting themselves in position to earn a first round bye in the playoffs.
It didn't work out that way on Sunday, but United manager Ben Olsen refuses to dwell on that loss too much. With the one game playoff game that his side now faces, the focus has turned to how the Black-and-Red can be successful for those 90 -- or potentially 120 -- minutes.
"I'm not putting too much stock into the Sunday game. I'm not going to throw everything out the window because we got handed a hefty defeat. It's not that simple, and there are a whole bunch of different reasons for Sunday," said Olsen on Tuesday.
To Olsen, there are two ways of looking at his lineup ahead of the game on Wednesday. Having fielded what was presumably his best lineup the past three weeks, something that wasn't afforded to him during the season due to injuries and suspension, there have been some aspects of the team's performances lately to potentially keep with the same group.
On the other hand, there is also the bad taste from that Columbus loss that might necessitate a change or two on Wednesday: "You can't discount leading up to that, some of the positive stuff we played. Does that mean I won't make a change or two for tomorrow? No. We might throw a change or two in because New England is a different team than Columbus."
There's been a lot of talk about form recently, and how it pertains to United going into the playoffs. In 2012, United ended the season strong, but couldn't make it past the Houston Dynamo in the Conference Semifinals. Last year, United had a mediocre finish to the season, and then crashed out at the first chance to the New York Red Bulls.
After the horrid stretch to end August and throughout September, United seemed to get back on track with wins over New York City FC and Chicago, only for Columbus to derail any of that momentum on Sunday.
Olsen, for his part, refuses to look much into whether his team is in good form or poor form heading into the playoffs. To him, that matters little to how a team can navigate MLS' second season.
"If you're not in good form, it's a new lease. It doesn't matter. It's a new season. If you're in great form, you use your momentum. [That's] horseshit," Olsen said of narratives and form going into the playoffs. "Show up tomorrow and do the business. That's what playoff soccer is about."
So while the Columbus result still exists, and it will provide an extra incentive, an extra motivation for United tomorrow against the Revs, there are still aspects of that game that the game moved on from immediately. And really, United must be move on from immediately if it wishes to get past New England.
"It's one of those, we have to have a good night. If you don't go out and get the job done, it doesn't matter," United defender Bobby Boswell said. "Sometimes a game is so bad that you throw it out. You learn from those things, but it's a new season. That's the way we are looking at it."
Now United has turned their focus to the New England Revolution, for a chance to play the Crew and Metros in the semifinals. Two previous games against the Revs this season netted United with four points, following a 1-1 draw at Foxborough, and a 2-1 win at RFK in June.
One of the complications of facing the Revs, in addition to the short turnaround, is the fact that United hasn't played against their Eastern Conference rivals in over four months. And with only two games against them this year -including one in which New England finished with 9 players - makes gathering information from those games even more difficult. So United changed tack, relying on tape from games the Revs have played recently over those experiences from the previous games against them.
"We probably take more away from games that we've have seen them play in than [ours] since it's been a while," Chris Rolfe told B&RU on Tuesday. "But I can tell you Charlie [Davies] is in form right now, he has a lot of confidence. Lee [Nguyen] is starting to play well, and Jermaine [Jones] is solid, and [Scott] Caldwell is an unsung hero, a lot of stuff goes through him, and he does a lot of things defensively."
Through all this, the gloom from Sunday's game against Columbus, the difficulties in the quick turnaround, and facing a team they haven't played in half a season, Olsen has tried to keep his message simple this week. Only one thing ensures that they'll play in the Conference Semifinals on Sunday, and that's what Olsen has preached.
"It's go win a game. Find a way to go win a game."