Before Saturday night, in the last three home games, D.C. United had somehow managed to win three times, despite giving up four goals within the first ten minutes of those games. Comeback wins against the New England Revolution, the Philadelphia Union, and Real Salt Lake had papered over the early goals in each of those games.
The game on Saturday against the San Jose Earthquakes followed a similar pattern, as the Black-and-Red conceded a 4th minute goal to Chris Wondolowski. The similarities to the previous games ended there though, as United failed to score at home for the first time this season, in a 2-0 defeat.
"It's something we've got to continue to work on. That's it," United manager Ben Olsen, unprompted, said after the game about his team's slow start.
In fact, the last time United had not conceded an early home goal was on June 6th, in a 2-1 defeat to Toronto FC that ended their club record of 20 games unbeaten at RFK. But after finding different ways to come back in the previous three games, United failed to do so against the 'Quakes.
"If you give up early goals, and continue to give up the first goal, it's going to hurt you eventually, and it did tonight," veteran midfielder Davy Arnaud told reporters after the game. "We started by playing from behind again. It would be nice to play from in front at home."
Despite giving up goals within 7 minutes each side of halftime, United had their own chances to make a contest out of the matter. But 10 shots in the first half failed to yield an effort on target, and a barrage of 13 shots in the second half didn't quite test keeper David BIngham, despite several good looks.
"We missed some easy chances," said Olsen.
Arnaud and Alvaro Saborio were the guiltiest parties, wasting opportunities late on from Jairo Arrieta. Arnaud failed to get a shot off with Bingham rushing out off of his line, and then Saborio bounced a header wide of the goal with Bingham beat at the far post.
At that point though, a loss might have already been in the cards for United.
"Over the course of the 90 minutes, I don't think we were outplayed. Maybe out-competed," said Olsen. "I thought we were a little bit unlucky not to get our goal. But they made two plays, both early in each half. And that's something that's haunted us."
United have little time now to fix whatever is ailing their slow starts. The Black-and-Red have their second CONCACAF Champions League game on Tuesday against Montego Bay, before they head up to Red Bull Arena to take on the New York Red Bulls.
With two consecutive league defeats, that game has more importance now for United than 10 days ago. United currently lead the Red Bulls by five points, but the New York has four games in hand. Anything less than a win there, and United might be looking at a fall down the table.
"I don't know what it is," Arnaud said of the slow starts, "but it's something we need to take care of. Because we can't be playing from behind."