United Aims to Right Ship in Dallas

By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 5, 2009

The day after D.C. United's disappointing 2-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders in Wednesday's U.S. Open Cup final, the frustration and fallout could still be felt around the team's facility at RFK Stadium.

The front office dealt with goalkeeper Josh Wicks, whose meltdown on the field -- his second in as many games -- resulted in his ejection from the match, by announcing Wicks would face internal punishment.

Players moved slowly in the locker room after practice, while some took the day to rehabilitate and recover. And midfielder Santino Quaranta was frank in his analysis of United's current situation, voicing concern over the direction of the team and decisions about personnel.

The downbeat atmosphere was to be expected after the loss, players and coaches said, and the training session allowed the team to release some of its negative energy and simmer about the defeat at RFK -- just the second in all competitions this season.

The hope was that the day spent revisiting the result would allow United to move forward and prepare for Saturday night's game at FC Dallas, D.C.'s last league road date until the season finale at Kansas City on Oct. 24.

"To lose a championship game in this building is tough to take, so that's what it is," midfielder Ben Olsen said on Thursday. "Saying that, we have to move on and win this weekend. So we'll feel sorry for ourselves for a day or two and then [Friday] it's back to business and trying to get back to the playoffs."

In the midst of a crowded playoff race, the match at FC Dallas is a critical opportunity for United to collect points -- and momentum -- before returning to RFK, where it has yet to lose a league game this season.

D.C. has struggled on the road this season, winning just twice away from home in league play -- though its last trip resulted in a strong performance and a 1-0 win at Chicago.

That result snapped a four-game winless streak in league play and provided United its first MLS road win since April 26.

On Saturday against FC Dallas, a team that sits near the bottom of the Western Conference and has dropped two straight games, United has a prime chance to steal some more points on the road.

To do so, however, formations and personnel may need to be re-thought, Quaranta said Thursday.

In Chicago, United used a four-man back line and was stout defensively. But on Wednesday night, D.C. returned to the 3-5-2 formation that it has employed for the majority of the season, and the defensive struggles returned. United allowed far too many opportunities, and defenders were often left isolated one-on-one.

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