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D.C. United left lamenting performance in late loss to Philadelphia Union

Second loss of the season stings after United's subpar performance against the Union

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Struggling for 90 minutes on Sunday night against the Philadelphia Union, D.C. United looked like they were about to escape PPL Park with at least a point. United was short a man in stoppage time after Luis Silva had to be pulled with no subs left, with United at the end of their third game in nine days. But the score was 0-0 heading into stoppage time, with five additional minutes to be played.

That point wasn't to be though, as Union substitute Zach Pfeffer fired home in stoppage time, condemning United to their second loss of the season, a 1-0 defeat.

After the game, a solemn mood descended over the locker room, with the Black-and-Red left to ponder the dropped point after conceding for the second time this season in the 90th minute or later.

"I don't think it was a great performance, no," United manager Ben Olsen said when asked of his team's performance. "[The Union] earned that win tonight. I think they were the better team in a lot of aspects."

Fatigue and having to give time to a couple of guys who don't usually play together seemed to have an adverse affect on United's performance in Chester. After Wednesday's game against Orlando City, Olsen made five changes, giving Markus Halsti his first MLS appearance and start.

"I'm not overly concerned that our third game in [nine days], that we looked a little off," said Olsen.

Three of the five new starters on Sunday night however, were the three subs who came off the bench on Wednesday in the come from behind win against the Lions at RFK. But with Chris Rolfe, Jairo Arrieta, and Miguel Aguilar on at the start, it was clear after the early on that United was going to labor to any points they might come across.

In the end, the managed just five shots throughout the 90 minutes, none of which forced a save out of Union keeper Brian Sylvestre. That's a far cry from that second 45 against Orlando, in which United more or less took up residence in the opposition half.

"It was a tough way to end a week. It stings right now. We got to learn from it. Between the guys that were new, and the guys that were tired, we weren't very dominant tonight. I do think we were good enough to get a point out of it, but credit to Philly. We busted our asses, but it didn't pay off at the end."

One of the bigger talking points after the game for Olsen though, was the goal that United scored that was called back by referee Alan Kelly in the 65th minute. In the first half, Union had a goal called off after it appeared that Conor Casey handled the ball in the buildup to his goal.

Nothing seemed too awry as United managed to force home a Taylor Kemp free kick in the second half though. But Kelly called for a foul, much to the chagrin of Olsen.

"We scored a goal. A legitimate goal for my money, on the road, and it gets called back," he said afterwards. "We're in good shape to gut out a win or a tie, and then Luis Silva comes off, and we're playing down a man"

"Those type of things change games. But we'll get a good bounce here one of these days. We've had good bounces, and those types of calls go our way so they usually even out."

The situation with Silva was what might have costed United in stoppage time. Silva had entered the game for Miguel Aguilar in the 65th minute. But late on in the match, Silva was limping around on the field. After being handed a brace to put on his left leg, he had to come off the field, leaving United to play the last five minutes plus stoppage time with just 10 men.

"No, it's a little different. I don't think it's as bad," a despondent Silva said after the game. "I was just running into a sprint, and I felt a little tweak."

It was clear though that Silva was affected by the injury. While trying to move around the locker room after the game, he was clearly limping around, moving at a pace that seemed to indicate more than what he said.

Olsen, for his part, said that getting Silva back fully healthy was something that was the utmost importance for United.

"I feel for him. No one wants to have a set back, and certainly no one wants to have another set back after that," said Olsen. "We're going to find out what's going on here. It cost us tonight. We got to do a better job of getting him healthy, somehow."

The loss was visibly frustrating for coaches and players alike. Tied at the top of the league with FC Dallas, United were facing off against a Philadelphia team that had just six points, one more than bottom of the table Montreal, despite playing five more games.

No game in MLS is a given though, as United was reminded of on Sunday. But in seeing their 8 game unbeaten streak come to a disappointing halt, according to Olsen, it's not reason for any panic or self evaluations. Instead, with 10 games left in this daunting stretch of the schedule, it's time to regroup, and prepare for next weekend's trip to New England.

"As easy as it is to throw things against the black board right now, I thought they brought a lot more to the table tonight,' Olsen said. "Energy wise, physicality, it was tough to deal with tonight. I'll take blame for that."