This weekend’s tilt between D.C. United and Real Salt Lake looked less than appetizing several weeks ago, with both teams struggling through the 2017 season. But United had a major overhaul in the final days of the transfer window, and a wicked storm turned Saturday night’s game into a weekend event. In the end though, despite the debut of Paul Arriola and Bruno Miranda, United’s season continued in the same fashion as they lost 1-0 to RSL.
It was the first time in their history that RSL had won a game at RFK Stadium, and of course, it was former United player Luis Silva who provided the game winning tally for the Claret and Cobalt.
The delay and eventual decision to push the game back a day made for all sorts of weird situations. The first “half” on Sunday consisted of just 17 minutes, followed by a normal 15 minute halftime. On top of that, the game resumed from a corner kick, which was the point Saturday night’s game was stopped.
But United couldn’t take advantage of their chances in the first half, and couldn’t muster much in the attack in the second half, succumbing to their 15th defeat of the season.
“60 minutes. Great? Good. 60 minutes of what we need to do, to win games. 60 minutes? What's that worth?,” said head coach Ben Olsen in his post game press conference. “Nothing. Another loss is what 60 minutes of high-level stuff gets you.”
United came close twice in the latter stages of tonight’s first half to breaking the deadlock without any luck. Patrick Mullins redirected a cross from Luciano Acosta, but keeper Nick Rimando was well placed to make the save. Then, minutes later, Kofi Opare beat Rimando with a header, but the ball teasingly bounced off the crossbar. That was the closest United would come the rest of the way to scoring a goal.
“On the day it's just not good enough,” added defender Sean Franklin after the game. “We don't have enough chances, good chances in front of the goal, and we shoot ourselves in the foot.”
“You can't allow teams to stay in games and get chances because even though you might have 10 shots in the game, their one shot is a goal and that's just unacceptable,” he added. “We've got to figure this out ASAP because it's not good enough.”
In addition to the awkward nature of playing the same game on two different days, United also had to try to incorporate Arriola into the squad after just two training sessions. Arriola played at 90 minutes, and had some good moments in contributing at both ends.
But it was clear that his arrival alone won’t fix what’s ailed United throughout the course of the season. He’s not the type of player that can take over a game and dominate proceedings over the course of 90 minutes. Arriola could become one of the most exciting players in MLS, but after the game against RSL, it’s clear that it will take some time in integrate with the Black-and-Red.
“I don’t want to make an excuse, that I’m new to the team, or that the chemistry isn’t there, but the fact is, the chemistry isn’t quite there yet,” Arriola told reporters in the locker room after the game. “We all hoped it would have been there right off of the bat. Because we’re trying to kick start [the season].”
That said, Arriola saw some potential for his new team, even if it didn’t translate well against RSL.
“There’s a lot of growth, and a lot of understanding, to be made between everyone,” said the right winger. “It was rough, but we walk away with the optimistic side that we’re going to get better from this.”
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about how the game progressed was United’s response after going down a goal. Immediately afterwards, RSL had a couple of chances to score again, which surely would have put the result away. Even so, without that insurance goal, RSL held firm defensively, really limiting what United was able to create offensively.
Rimando was hardly troubled in goal in the second half, as RSL seemingly didn’t put a foot wrong for the remainder of the game.
“We have to give them credit, they did a great job after the goal. I thought they did well defensively,” said Arriola. “We felt the pressure after that. A lot of our heads went down in frustration and disappointment. We tried to play a little bit more of the long ball, but I think where myself and [Luciano Acosta] need to take control of the game, and put the ball on the floor, and try to speed up and create chances within ourselves.”
For United, now the focus is on getting a normal week of practice in ahead of Saturday’s trip to the Colorado Rapids. After all of the excitement this week, the team can get back to normal, without all the hoopla surrounding the new signings. That practice just might help United find the chemistry they are looking for as they continue to try and incorporate their new acquisitions.
“You just expect that we make some signings and we train for a day and a half that it's going to change who we are? No,” said Olsen. “It takes time. It takes time to incorporate these guys and so, you know, I'm sure we'll be better next week and each week moving forward as we incorporate some new life and some new talent, because it's here.”