In search of their first win of 2016, in any competition, D.C. United were again undone by a new foe this season, as United conceded their third set piece goal in a 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids. Despite having the better chances of throughout 90 minutes, United fell behind halfway through the second half, as Dillon Powers headed home a Marco Pappa corner kick.
The Black-and-Red eventually responded, Fabian Espindola netted the equalizer 11 minutes later, but for a team in search of a win at home, the damage had already been done.
"It's a concern. It cost us. We're not built like we were on the last two years on set pieces," United manager Ben Olsen said of his side's set piece defending after the game.
In the Champions League, Queretaro FC were never really a threat from set pieces. They aren't built that way, and the Mexican side was able to beat United using it's own strengths. But in three MLS games this season, United has now conceded twice from corner kicks, and once from a free kick routine.
In the opener, the LA Galaxy scored twice from dead ball plays, as they stormed back in the second half to a 4-1 win. On Sunday night, the Rapids hardly threatened Travis Worra in goal for United, until they were ahead through Powers' header.
"Now it's just a matter of guys have to do a little bit more. You got to be more responsible. In some situations, people are going to be outmanned," Olsen added. "It is what it is. There's no excuses. We have to sort that out, and that starts with the coaching staff, putting the right guys on the right people, with the right responsibility."
The Powers goal highlighted United's own issues in front of net, as they have scored just three times in five games this season. A Lamar Neagle cross to the back post found Steve Birnbaum with, but the recently called up US defender volleyed his effort over the goal, failing to challenge Zac MacMath.
"It's one of those weird plays - you almost score a goal and then they come down and score a goal," United captain Bobby Boswell said. "We didn't let it bother us. We just kept pushing. This group has shown that we can come back."
It was Espindola who got United on level terms, finishing off a scramble in the box after MacMath was unable to deal with a Taylor Kemp cross. But for a side that was eager to get their first win of the season in their home opener in MLS play, the goal conceded meant the sides would only share the points.
"We got to figure it out, and we have to figure it out quick. You don't want to be giving up goals on those," Boswell told B&RU. "They had a big team tonight, they have big guys, but we did it against LA as well. We really need to sort that out. Coaches are figuring out the right guys to mark, but at the end of the day, it's man against man. You got to go win the ball, you got to hunt the ball, and we aren't doing that right now."
With the likes of Perry Kitchen and Chris Pontius gone this season, United is dealing with a smaller side than they have been used to in years past, which puts more emphasis on other players to mark up against bigger players on opposing teams.
But that is something that the team will have to figure out, while also finding a way to score at the other end from their set piece chances.
"[There's] a lot of concern for me," Chris Rolfe said of his own defending. "It was my guy both times, the one in LA [scored by Daniel Steres], and the one tonight. We'll be fine. We'll sort that out. We're a little bit smaller than we were last year."