After D.C. United’s training session Tuesday, Ben Olsen began to list the factors contributing to his MLS team’s winless start through five matches.
“We’ve got to get healthy and have everyone available.”
“I think we’ve got to have more individual players play to their capabilities for the entire match. We’ve got to start making some plays and get better in the final third, which hopefully comes with time and partnerships.”
“We’ve got to stop giving up soft goals. Set pieces have to be better. We have to be tougher physically and mentally.”
Well, that about covers every aspect of soccer.
Oh, one more thing …
“We’ve got to have a few home games.”
That last item is out of United’s control, but all others, Olsen said, “are things we can change.”
United has enjoyed a few decent halves, some isolated moments here and there, but has not come close to assembling 90 quality minutes. Consequently, D.C. (0-3-2) is last in the Eastern Conference, tied for 22nd in points in a 23-team league and has gone nine matches since last fall without tasting victory.
The next opportunity is Saturday against the Columbus Crew (3-2-1) at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, the last of two off-site home matches before Audi Field opens July 14. After this weekend, United will play eight in a row on the road.
Despite the head winds, Olsen and the players remain upbeat, and the 34-game schedule stretching deep into autumn offers time and opportunity to reverse course. But as forward Patrick Mullins said, “You don’t want the season to get away from you.”
And that is what is creeping up on United. By the time it christens the new stadium, the playoff threshold might be too far in the distance.
All of which heightens the importance of Saturday’s match, the last at home for three months. The first off-site home game — March 17 vs. Houston at Maryland SoccerPlex — required a two-goal, second-half comeback to salvage a 2-2 draw.
“They’re all big,” Olsen said, playing down the must-win feel enveloping this weekend’s outing. “You want to get a win. This is a very good opportunity for us to get the first one. If we don’t, the sky will not fall.”
>> United’s midfield is getting healthier. Junior Moreno, who has missed two matches with a hamstring injury, is close to returning. Midfielder Russell Canouse, out since early in the preseason with knee and hamstring issues, is training at full speed and working toward regaining full fitness.
>> David Ousted, United’s first-choice goalkeeper, missed Tuesday’s workout with a foot injury suffered a day earlier. X-rays were negative, and Olsen expects him to resume training this week. If he is not able to play Saturday, Steve Clark would make his first start of the year. … Forward Darren Mattocks took a blow to the jaw and missed the last portion of training. Forward Dane Kelly left early with a sore knee.
>> Based on ticket sales and projections, the crowd Saturday in Annapolis will probably end up being around 12,000. The weather forecast is almost perfect: mostly clear and 65 degrees after a sunny day in the 70s. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. (NewsChannel 8). United drew 5,128 to the 5,200-capacity SoccerPlex last month.
>> Olsen, on reports of Erick Thohir selling his majority share in United: “I got nothing. It’s not my business. I’m the coach. It’s not my world.”
>> The United Soccer League is targeting next month for a formal announcement welcoming D.C. United’s second-division team to the nationwide circuit, the Insider has learned. The team would play in a 5,000-seat stadium at Bolen Park in Leesburg, Va., starting as early as next year. The park is also going to be the site of United’s new training facility, replacing RFK Stadium’s facilities and outer fields.
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