DC United

Union still winless after 2-1 loss to D.C. United

Union still winless after 2-1 loss to D.C. United

WASHINGTON -- Jose Guillermo Ortiz and Luciano Acosta each put through first half goals and DC United hung on to beat Philadelphia 2-1 on Saturday night.

The victory is DC United's first of the season snaps a three match winless streak for DC United against Philadelphia. It is their first victory over the Union since July 2015.

Ortiz found the net first, taking advantage of a Philadelphia turnover in its own zone to give DC United (1-2-1) a 1-0 in the 18th minute. After making a save, Union goalkeeper Andre Blake's pass to Fabinho was mishandled, ricocheting off his head to Lloyd Sam who promptly found Ortiz for the goal.

Acosta added the second goal nine minutes later via penalty kick after the Union were called for a handball in the box.

Philadelphia (0-2-2) got on the board in the 71st minute, when C.J. Sapong scored on a rebound after Alejandro Bedoya's shot was saved by Bill Hamid.

Union-D.C. United 5 things: Union desperate for first win

Union-D.C. United 5 things: Union desperate for first win

Union (0-1-2)  at D.C. United (0-2-1)
7 p.m. on TCN

Fresh off a much-needed international break, Sebastien Le Toux and stumbling D.C. United host Alejandro Bedoya and the Union (0-1-2) on Saturday night (7:00 p.m., TCN) at RFK Stadium, in what has become a crucial early-season battle between the two winless clubs.

Here are five things to know:

1. Looking for three points
Three games into the 2017 campaign and the winless Union are already feeling pressure. 

"I do know we lost a game to Orlando, which we weren't happy about,” said Union manager Jim Curtin regarding his club's recent 2-1 loss to Orlando City SC. "We would have liked to get at least a point out of it, we would have liked to get three out of [Toronto FC on March 11]. We didn't, so our players and staff know the task at hand. We have to get points early on in the year because it's important." 

While it was only the first defeat for the Union in 2017, the loss was another reminder that the club hasn't won a game since August 2016. Still, Curtin isn't worried about the continuation of last season's late struggle.

"It's important to recognize that this year's team is different from last year's in terms of personnel," Curtin said. "It's a new year, a new group. While we were happy to make the playoffs, we weren't happy with the ending of the year. It's in the past. We had months and months of off time between that, so I don't think you can connect the two years together."

But Curtin does recognize that if the Union don't begin to pull in points soon, starting on Saturday against D.C. United, the situation could get dire for the Union. You can only go so far without a win before the hull begins to crack.

"You don't want to be a team that's chasing," he said. "It's a hard league to come from behind and chase in. You saw last year with the [Seattle Sounders] and D.C. getting hot late in the year. But that's not a situation we want to put ourselves in. It starts with a good performance against D.C. and building into the three-game homestand that we have."

2. Keeping D.C. at Zero
Although the Union and D.C. United are cuddling at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, the scenario appears much more dire for Ben Olsen's club. Through three games, United has yet to score a goal and has conceded a conference-worst six.

"It's a scary thing," Curtin said. "You don't want to be the team they break out against. Ben is as hard a worker as there is in our league and he has a good team. If you actually look at their performances and watch the games as we have now on tape, they are creating chances. They are dangerous."

More troubling for United is that their primary striker, Patrick Mullins, is out for three or four weeks with a left hamstring injury. That leaves the club to lean on Jose Guillermo Ortiz, Lamar Neagle or former Union legend, Sebastien Le Toux as the go-to forward.

"I'm sure he'd like to be out there," Curtin said of Le Toux, who played six seasons with the Union before being traded last season to the Colorado Rapids. "I'm sure he'd like to score against us. You see it so often, guys move from one club to another and there's a chip on their shoulder to score against their old team. Knowing Ben, I wouldn't be surprised if [Le toux] plays a bunch of minutes against us."

Regardless, the Union are treating United as a defensive problem.

"They have a lot of dynamic attackers," Curtin said. "You look at guys like Lloyd Sam. [Patrick] Nyarko has given us fits over the past years. [Luciano] Acosta, when he gets going, he's a handful, he pops up all over the field."

3. United Urgency
While the Union may have had a rougher than expected start to their season, D.C. United's season has been a nightmare. The club kicked off the year with a scoreless draw but followed that effort up with a 4-0 loss at the hands of New York City FC. 

On March 18, Olsen's team dropped a 2-0 decision at home to the Columbus Crew.

"We have to trust in the process of getting better right now," Olsen said. "We're getting plenty of looks and plenty of chances, we just have to clean up the final stuff on the offensive end."

But according to Olsen, the pressure United feels to find a result on Saturday isn't irregular, despite the team's rocky start.

"There's always an urgency to win games in this league," he said. "It doesn't matter if it's the first game, third or what your record is. We're always looking to get three points at home and this is no different." 

4. Keep an eye on …
Patrick Nyarko: The speedster, with a goal and two assists in his last three games against the Union, continued that into the preseason when he fired on the Union with a goal in the 14th minute of a United win. He's a problem the Union will have to solve on Saturday.

Jay Simpson: Simpson's first goal with the Union came minutes before he had to leave the match against Toronto FC and head to the hospital with a rib injury. But after a few weeks of rest and recovery, the forward is healthy and ready to make an impact against D.C. United on Saturday. 

5. This and that
• The Union are 7-7-4 against D.C. United all time and 2-0-1 in their last three games against the rival club.

• Union goalkeeper John McCarthy has been diagnosed with a concussion and will not travel with the team. Third-string goalkeeper Jake McGuire will travel. 

• Union forward Chris Pontius suffered a broken hand against Orlando City but is expected to play in a full capacity Saturday.

Reenergized Oguchi Onyewu ready to keep 'silencing the critics' in DC homecoming

Reenergized Oguchi Onyewu ready to keep 'silencing the critics' in DC homecoming

CHESTER, Pa. — Oguchi Onyewu isn't sure yet how many of his family members will be in attendance at RFK Stadium for Saturday's game against D.C. United (7:00 p.m., TCN). But the first-year Philadelphia Union defender is guessing there will be quite a few.

"You can definitely expect a double-digit number," Onyewu said after practice Thursday, before adding with a smile: "If not triple."

That makes sense considering Onyewu grew up in the D.C. suburbs and used to train in the summers with United as he was beginning his long professional career overseas. And as his time in Europe drew to a close, the 34-year-old center back admitted that D.C. United could have worked well as a soft landing spot, especially when you consider that head coach Ben Olsen was a former teammate of Onyewu's on the U.S. national team. 

But when it came down to it, Onyewu never got a chance to play for his hometown team. And now he wants to do the next best thing: beat 'em.

"For me, D.C. was always an option," Onyewu said. "It would have made sense, in terms of proximity and my roots. But the reality of the situation is the club never approached me for an opportunity like that."

"Right now, I'm more than happy in Philly," he added. "This is probably the best situation MLS-wise I could have ended up in. We have a great training facility, a great stadium, great fans — and outside of that, I have a number of friends on the team I've known prior. The locker room is probably the best locker room I've ever been a part of in my career."

The fact that Onyewu calls the Union locker room the best he's ever been a part of is quite the statement, considering he's played for more than 10 teams during a 16-year professional career. And his success with the US national team as a key player in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups is well-documented too.

Still despite his past success, there were questions coming into the 2017 MLS season as to how the veteran center back would fit in during his first spell in MLS — and also how he'd be able to perform after missing more than a year due to injury.

To both points, Union head coach Jim Curtin thinks he's thus far passed with flying colors.

"I think he's been excellent," Curtin said. "I think if you take each game, he's faced a different challenge and has done really well. … He's worked very hard to get his body back to full fitness and to be able to go 90 [minutes], 90, 90 three games in a row, we're really happy with where he’s at."

At some point soon, Curtin will be faced with a tough decision as second-year center back Joshua Yaro is progressing nicely from shoulder surgery and could supplant Onyewu in the starting lineup.

But at the moment, Curtin is more focused as to how Onyewu has interacted with Yaro and other young defenders. How the playing time shakes out with everyone healthy is almost a secondary concern.

"Gooch has a ton of experience and has done a lot for Jack Elliott and Auston Trusty," Curtin said. "Maybe people don't see it from the outside. But I'd have to say Jack's growth as a player has been accelerated really quickly. He's a guy we now pick for our 18 and part of the credit needs to go to Gooch for talking with him, keeping him going."

Curtin also has liked the on-field partnership Onyewu has honed with fellow starter Richie Marquez through the first three games, calling the 34-year-old "our anchor back there."

But after a shutout on opening day, the Union have given up two goals in each of the past two games and are still searching for the first win of the season as they prepare to take on a D.C. team that will be hungry to score their first goal of the season.

How does Gooch assess both his own performance and that of his new team's so far?

"I don't feel like I've hit my peak performance yet," Onyewu said. "That's to be understood. It's early in the season and the reality of the situation is I had a year off playing due to injury. But I don't think there's any visible rust as people would have probably assumed and I read. For whatever reason they made assumptions early on. But I think thus far I've kind of silenced the critics.

"Right now, it's up to us to kind of turn the corner on the season," he added, "and start getting some wins."