For D.C. United, Any Victory Would Help

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 21, 2009

D.C. United is in dire need of a victory Saturday night against the Los Angeles Galaxy at RFK Stadium, and not just to remain in the thick of MLS's playoff chase.

The mood has grown darker in the past week following a woeful road trip marred by individual shortcomings, a simmering locker room situation in Honduras and the mysterious absence of a recent acquisition.

"It's not panic time," veteran midfielder Ben Olsen said, "but it's certainly time for concern."

After claiming first place in the Eastern Conference early this summer, the club has fallen to fourth and is in danger of missing the postseason for the second consecutive year. United (6-5-10) is on a 1-3-3 skid in league play and 0-4-3 in all games since beating a second-division opponent in the U.S. Open Cup more than four weeks ago.

Following a 3-1 loss to Honduran club Marathon on Tuesday in the CONCACAF Champions League, Coach Tom Soehn said the team's locker room "got a little hot."

He declined to go into detail but said the players "are tired of the way results are going and the mistakes that are happening. There's some accountability right now. We'll see if that translates to the field."

Soehn was critical of defender Greg Janicki, whose blunder led to Marathon's first goal and who was largely responsible for the other two goals.

"Some of the mistakes he is making are mistakes you shouldn't see at the professional level," he said. "He has had a rough stretch."

Rookie Chris Pontius, expected to return Saturday from a quadriceps injury, didn't like what he has seen either. "I was mad watching [the two road games] on TV," he said. "It was just lethargic performances. There wasn't any energy, people weren't working for each other."

Danny Szetela, a prized signing last month, did not travel to Honduras or Toronto for a 2-0 league loss last Saturday, odd absences amid United's busiest stretch of the year (10 games in 31 days). Fitness issues limited his playing time when he first arrived from Italian club Brescia, but he did start a Champions League match and entered as a reserve in four other games.

Soehn described his decision to omit Szetela as a "coach's choice." Szetela said "there were a few personal things that came up" and wouldn't elaborate.

Soccer Notes: RFK Stadium, FedEx Field and Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium were among 32 venues to survive the latest cut in the USA Bid Committee's selection process in formulating a proposal to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.

Although about 18 stadiums will be included on the formal bid next May, the list is largely ceremonial and can change if new facilities are built. FIFA will name the host countries for both tournaments in December 2010.

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