It hasn't always looked pretty for D.C. United this year, but heading into Friday night's game against Orlando City, United are just about where they hoped to be at this point.
Sans 2014 co-leading scorer Fabian Espindola due to suspension, and without fellow co-leading scorer Luis Silva and Eddie Johnson due to injury and health issues, the six points have accrued thus far United have them sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference. And as the calendar turned to April, with Silva healthy enough to play again, and Espindola nearly done with his suspension, there's not much cause for concern at RFK Stadium.
"At this point, we have to be happy with the points," veteran midfielder Davy Arnaud told Black and Red United on Thursday. "You obviously want to win games at home, and we won our first two."
At Red Bull Arena was a different story . United were thoroughly outclassed for most of the 90 minutes, leaving manager Ben Olsen to refer to their first half performance as passive. So while there is still room for improvement, the team is at least in a good position early on in the season.
"We would obviously like to go back to New York and get a point," Arnaud added. "But as of this point, I think we can be happy with the results. We can play better, but where we're at with points is good."
Arnaud's presence on the field for the Black and Red this season has been highlighted by his two secondary assists on the two goals United have scored in the league so far. The 14 year vet has twice delivered long balls that have lead to United goals in two separate 1-0 wins.
Against Montreal, his long ball to Chris Rolfe started a picture perfect counter attack that led to Jairo Arrieta poking home the winner. Last week against the LA Galaxy, Arnaud's precisely placed ball found Nick DeLeon beyond the back line, allowing DeLeon to deliver the game winning assist.
"In the last few weeks, we have talked about third line running, and making teams be a little more honest" Arnaud said. "I think we have guys, like [DeLeon], [Chris] Pontius, and Rolfe, that we can use to our advantage."
"When you have someone like [DeLeon] running into space with how strong and fast he is, you have to use that as a weapon."
Olsen hasn't had the ability to tinker much with his side yet this season due to the various injuries and suspension. But with center back Steve Birnbaum sidelined for the next four to six weeks with an ankle injury, Olsen will have to lean on seldom used Kofi Opare to fill the void in the back line.
Opare had an opportunity this preseason to work with Bobby Boswell, as Birnbaum was away on national team duty, and then injured. The fact remains though, that the 24 year old has appeared in just 13 league games in four seasons, which translates to learning on the fly now that'll he'll be called upon.
"They haven't had a lot of game time together. But they've practiced together, and I think they are pretty familiar with each other," said Olsen of the Boswell and Opare partnership. Now it's Kofi's job to be a consistent center back for us, and prove that he can be a starting center back in this league, which we all think he can be."
"The reality is that he doesn't have a lot of games, back to back, for long durations in this league. So he's a type of guy who can't wait to prove that he belongs out there."
While the physical Opare was in his element last week against the Galaxy, playing against similarly sized Alan Gordon and Edson Buddle, Opare and company will face a different sort of beast down in Orlando, in the shape of the 2007 Ballon d'or winner. Kaka netted his second goal for Orlando last week in a 2-2 draw against Montreal, while adding an assist.
"There's a lot of tools out there," Olsen said of the threats that Orlando can pose to United. "Kaka has been as good as any player in the league so far. He's special, and he makes them go. Our ability to limit his impact on the game is going to play into this. But they've surrounded him with some good pieces, and some guys who have been around the block as well."