CHESTER, Pa. — With six starters absent and no victories since it returned from the novel coronavirus pandemic shutdown, D.C. United’s vulnerable troupe bused up Interstate 95 on Saturday seeking its first point at spectator-free Subaru Park in more than six years.

Faint hopes were extinguished before 21 minutes had transpired, and the 4-1 humiliation to the Philadelphia Union extended D.C.’s winless streak to six.

Winger Paul Arriola (knee ligament), attacker Edison Flores (facial fractures, concussion) and defenders Steven Birnbaum (bone bruise), Frédéric Brillant (ankle) and Russell Canouse (hamstring) are injured. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid did not travel for personal reasons, D.C. officials said.

“I don’t care necessarily about the personnel,” Coach Ben Olsen said. “We could’ve made it much more difficult on them. I am disappointed in myself and the group in that the first 20 minutes just wasn’t good enough.”

United (1-4-3) has not won since March 7, five days before the MLS season was suspended. Since then, D.C. failed to advance out of group play at a tournament in Florida, and after the league’s return to home markets, it has played to a 0-0 draw and been outscored 6-2 in consecutive defeats.

Kacper Przybylko scored twice in an early nine-minute window and Sergio Santos added a first-half goal as Philadelphia (4-1-3) stretched its regular season unbeaten streak to seven and beat D.C. at this riverside stadium for the seventh consecutive time.

Brenden Aaronson also scored for the Union, which has won seven straight in the series, the past four by a 14-3 margin. United’s Julian Gressel posted his first goal of the season.

Given the personnel issues and the strength of the opponent, United was not going to win this one. But the performance and effort in the first half were shockingly bad. With few options, Olsen assembled a back line that had never played together and two wing backs with attacking tendencies. Time and time again, they were exposed.

“We can’t give excuses,” said midfielder Felipe Martins, who served as team captain in Birnbaum’s absence. “The guys coming in are part of the group. We believe and trust in those guys. . . . It’s no time to point fingers.”

Without any fans allowed, the most prominent sounds came from Philadelphia’s sideline celebrations and the rumble of trucks crossing the Commodore Barry Bridge beyond the east stands. United generated a few good chances before intermission but remained scoreless in first halves this season.

Hamid is on the executive board of Black Players for Change, but his absence was not directly related to racial issues affecting the country over the past week, two people close to the team said. On Wednesday, five MLS matches were postponed in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by police in Kenosha, Wis.

“He needed a few days to deal with some personal stuff,” Olsen said, “and we will leave it at that.”

Chris Seitz replaced Hamid and made his first league start in 13 months.

Birnbaum and Brillant might return Wednesday at the New York Red Bulls, Olsen said.

With defenders Oniel Fisher and Chris Odoi-Atsem also hurt, United had just 17 players available. Three homegrown teenagers saw action: Kevin Paredes, 17, made his third consecutive start, and Griffin Yow, 17, and Moses Nyeman, 16, entered in the second half.

Axel Sjoberg, a 6-foot-7 center back acquired from Columbus this month, made his D.C. debut. He lined up next to 6-5 Donovan Pines in a three-man back line that also included Joseph Mora.

Philadelphia needed less than seven minutes to go ahead. Jamiro Monteiro’s corner kick was flicked at the near post, then skipped under Pines’s right foot, sliding to Przybylko for an easy tap-in.

“You give up an early goal on a set piece — it’s super disappointing,” Olsen said.

Four days earlier, United conceded two first-half goals to New England off corner kicks, the first after failing to alleviate trouble and the second on an open header.

Just nine minutes passed before Przybylko scored again. Kai Wagner shuffled past light resistance offered by Gressel and Ola Kamara, then crossed. Pines and Sjoberg stabbed at the ball but failed to clear. Przybylko settled the ball at the top of the box and, with perfect location, scored on a 20-yard shot into the lower-right corner.

In the 21st minute, Santos was left with acres of space on the left side. He cut into the box and beat Seitz to the near side.

In the 61st, Przybylko ran free of Sjoberg and turned provider, setting up Aaronson for a simple one-timer. Gressel answered two minutes later on a 15-yard shot off the gloves of usually sure-handed Andre Blake.

Nyeman made his MLS debut in the 79th minute, well after the outcome had been put to rest.

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