Facing a FC Dallas side that was missing 7 players due to international duty, D.C. United came into Saturday's game at home looking for their first win of the 2016 season. A loss and a draw in Champions League play, coupled with a loss and two draws in MLS play, had left the Black-and-Red stuttering to start the season.
Two plays in the first half against Dallas meant that United would have to wait for that first win.
Michael Barrios scored twice in the opening half, and Maximiliano Urriti added another for Dallas in the second half, before Fabain Espindola missed a penalty kick and Marcelo saw red in a 3-0 result. Not what United was looking for.
"The effort is there, it was just a poor night of defending, United manager Ben Olsen said after the game. "The way we defended -- the goals were very preventable goals."
Both goals in the first half were plays in which United's defending did not shine the brightest. On the first goal, Taylor Kemp and Kofi Opare both tried to make a play on a bouncing ball in United's half. Instead of one giving way to the other, they collided, allowing Barrios to pick up the ball in a dangerous position. His left foot did the rest from there, curling a ball into the far post.
"A lot of other guys can make plays, that's what we pride ourselves in doing -- helping out the next guy," Olsen added. "That wasn't the case tonight."
The second play wasn't quite as egregious, but still exposed United defensively. Barrios won a header at midfield, and the ball bounced over to Mauro Diaz. Bobby Boswell started to close down Diaz 45 yards from goal, which opened up space for Barrios to make his run. Diaz found Barrios on the move, allowing Barrios to take a touch before deftly finishing over Travis Worra.
"The whole concept is defend first, and then we can create chances off of that," United midfielder Patrick Nyarko said. "We started off going two goals behind, and it's really tough, the whole game plan changes, and you're pushing a little bit more."
United had actually started off the better side early on, creating openings, even if the finishing left something to be desired. But with 10 shots in the first half, United failed to challenge Chris Seitz, who was filling in for Jesse Gonzalez, even once.
And so instead, United found themselves down a goal after 14 minutes, and down two goals after 28 minutes. There might have been a way back in for D.C. in the second half, but Urruti scored off a quickly moving play to ensure all three points for the Hoops.
"When results don't come, there is a red [flag]. I think, especially today, we should score at least three or four goals," said Sarvas, who saw the straight red in the second half after picking up a yellow in the first half. "We had a lot of chances. But even if the goal doesn't come, we can't concede goals like today."
In the second half, Patrick Nyarko seemed to have won a penalty after 60 minutes, to no avail according to Jose Rivero, the man in the middle. Lamar Neagle was then denied by Seitz from close range, before Sean Franklin won a penalty in the 66th minute. But Fabian Espindola, who scored last week against the Colorado Rapids, was denied from the spot by Seitz.
United is now missed both penalty shots this season, as Tiago Volpi denied Chris Rolfe in the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinal game against Queretaro. A worrying sign for a team desperate for goals.
"We're getting the chances, we just have to put them away," Nick DeLeon told B&RU. "And we can't give up goals like that, cheap goals at home. It puts you in a hole from the get-go, and you're chasing the game. We just got to start putting away our chances."
That said, United is ready to hit the panic button yet. With 30 games remaining in the MLS season, there is still plenty of time to right the course, even if things aren't on the up and up after four games.
"We'll lick our wounds. It gives us a chance to take an early look at ourselves, and get back to some hard work and training better, and holding ourselves to a higher standard," said Olsen.