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D.C. United use bye week to recharge, focus on scoring first goal of season

United welcome the Philadelphia Union to RFK Stadium, looking for their first win in 2017

The start of the 2017 season has not been the best for D.C. United. Through three games, the Black-and-Red have just one point, gained from a season-opening scoreless draw against Sporting Kansas City. That was followed up with a 4-0 loss at New York City FC, and a 2-0 defeat at home to Columbus Crew SC. All of which adds up to the longest scoreless streak to start a season in club history.

As such, last week’s bye week due to the international break might have come at the right time. Since United weren’t building much momentum, there was not much worry about breaking up any they had generated thus far. But the break afforded the team a chance to get away from each other, and refocus their energy on righting the wrongs that plagued their season thus far.

Still, slow starts are nothing new in D.C., especially with this group.

“We always like to start slow with the goals in D.C. for some reason,” United defender Nick DeLeon told B&RU in an interview on Thursday.

So the break, as early in the season as it might have been, might be the perfect remedy for a team that currently sits last in the Eastern Conference, and 21st of 22 clubs overall in MLS.

“It was a good break for everybody, especially with the rough start, and the results not going our way,” said DeLeon on Thursday. “It was a good chance for us to step back, and evaluate where we are, and where we want to go.”

United spent most of the two weeks trying to rectify their early season woes. They were given the weekend off, a chance to take their minds off of the game, and their poor start to the season. But while at practice, their focus was on the Philadelphia Union, a team that they saw two times in preseason.

“It’s always a combination of getting away from the game a little bit, but also pushing ourselves,” United head coach Ben Olsen told B&RU about the break. “The last two weeks, we got at it. It was competitive, we worked on our fitness, and we used the time to get better.”

And there are positives to build upon. Aside from the New York City loss, in which United might have had a legitimate goal called back for an offside call, United wasn’t overtly poor against Kansas City or Columbus. There were chances to score, and for the most part, the defense held up. But at the end of the day, they have just the one point to show for their performances.

Hardly the look of the same team that ended 2016 by setting a team record for consecutive games with multiple goals scored.

“That’s the mentality, to get the first steps, to get the first win, to put us on the right track,” midfielder Marcelo Sarvas told B&RU on Thursday. “We need to bring back the confidence we had at the end of the season last year. But everyone is positive. We trust each other, and we hope we can put everything on the field and take this first win.”

And United have two final chances to get points and goals at home before they embark on a three game road trip. Games at home against Philadelphia and NYCFC are followed up by road trips against the New York Red Bulls, the New England Revolution, and Atlanta United.

“At home, we’re always looking to get three points,” said Olsen. “We have to trust in the process of getting better right now. We’re getting plenty of looks, plenty of chances.”

As such, panic hasn’t found it’s way into United’s ranks. Last year’s start to the season is similar to this year’s. And though the Black-and-Red had hoped to start the season off brighter, knowing that they made the playoffs last year under familiar circumstances means that the team is far from being in a worried state of mind.

“There isn’t panic in the locker room. Because the results don’t always mirror the actual game,” DeLeon said. “Everyone is still going into it with a good frame of mind. We could have snuck away, especially in the first game, with a win. Overall, the play isn’t that bad. If we just keep building on that, the goals will come.”