With Managing General Partner Jason Levien in attendance, D.C. United had the opportunity to erase all the bad memories from Wednesday night’s debacle. Blowing a three goal lead and losing to the Seattle Sounders was an opportunity wasted, but United were finally back home, facing a Houston Dynamo team that had not won on the road all season. To add to that, Houston were missing four players due to the Gold Cup, who had contributed 22 of the Dynamo’s 34 goals this season, to go along with 10 assists.
Instead, United slept through the first 17 minutes of the game, conceding three goals to the Dynamo on just three shots, on their way to losing 3-1. Those 17 minutes, combined with the final 39 minutes against the Sounders, meant that United had conceded seven goals in just 56 minutes. Despite a second half goal from Bobby Boswell, the Black-and-Red never really threatened to repeat the Sounders’ heroics from Wednesday night.
“We’re not ready to start the game. When that happens, I can look at myself and take some blame on that,” head coach Ben Olsen said about his team’s effort to start the game in his post game press conference. “We were in Seattle three days ago, that maybe had something to do with the start. Poor start, down 3-0, the game is very difficult at that point. They drop back, and there’s not a lot of space.”
Proceedings got off on the wrong foot in the 6th minute, when United conceded another set piece goal. Andrew Wenger lost Ian Harkes in the box, and bounced a header past Travis Worra for the goal. From there, with Houston’s tendency to play on the counter attack, it was going to be tough for United to find a way back into the game. But they went for it early any way, and conceded two more goals in quick succession to essentially put the game out of reach.
“We got out of our element, trying to chase the goal right back,” Bobby Boswell, who started in place of Steve Birnbaum, said after the game. “And they score another one. One, two, three, its pretty much game over at that point.”
The second and third goals were the back breakers, but in truth, it was the first goal that doomed United the most. In a similar fashion to last year’s playoff loss to the Montreal Impact, United gave up a set piece goal, and then were exposed looking for an answer at the other end.
Olsen, for his part, went back to the cross country travel as a reason why his team struggled from the opening whistle.
“We’ll be okay,” Olsen said, of how he thinks the team can regroup after two devastating losses. “Next week we’ll have a full starting lineup. We’ll put together probably our best lineup of the year. And we’ll be rested. We’re not two days off of a West Coast trip. I know you guys don’t understand that part, because you haven’t done it. It’s tough. It’s not a full excuse, but sometimes that’s part of this.”
But as it stands, United’s season is slipping away from them. With a goal against Houston, United finally scored for three consecutive games for the first time this season. At the other end though, they’ve conceded 11 goals in those three games. And those goals aren’t exactly from opponents being better than United. Time and time again, United are breaking down defensively, flummoxing their head coach.
“Our inability to find ways to make plays in the defensive is very poor. We given up very soft goals over the last couple of weeks,” said Olsen. “If we can fix that, if we can get back to being a sound defensive team, we’re bolstered offensively. I know you guys don’t believe it when I say it, but I do have a lot of belief in this group.”
Unsurprisingly, United have lost all three of those games. And they lost the two prior to that as well, all off the heels of a 2-1 win over Atlanta United. The win happened just a month ago, but it seems like an eternity given how D.C.’s last five games have gone.
That five game losing streak has their playoff hopes, if there are any left at this point, on life support.
“We’re trying to push through it. It’s been tough, it’s just one of those stretches,” defender Chris Korb told B&RU after the game. “Everything that can go wrong goes wrong, and we can’t get a ball to bounce our way. It’s just not clicking right now.”
And while Olsen was willing to take blame for the slow start, Boswell said it was down to the players to fix the issues currently plaguing this team.
“Players need to look in the mirror, myself included, and realize that no one has a spot on this team,” said Boswell. “You got to earn it everyday, and if we do that, we give ourselves more of a chance.”