Nothing like playing the Union to get your season kickstarted.
After failing to score through the first three games of the 2017 season, D.C. United capitalized on what head coach Jim Curtin called "two self-inflicted errors" to score twice and hold off the Union for a 2-1 win Saturday at RFK Stadium.
In this week's Inside Doop, we'll take a closer look at the game and what lies ahead for the Union, who return home still seeking their first win of the year.
Three thoughts about Saturday's game
1. It was not the best first half for the Union's defense. D.C. striker Jose Guillermo Ortiz, in for the injured Patrick Mullins, scored their first goal after a silly giveaway from Fabinho and a shot that appeared to ricochet off Oguchi Onyewu. And the second goal came on a Luciano Acosta penalty kick after Richie Marquez was whistled for a questionable hand ball just inside the box. Marquez, who ranked third in the league in minutes played last year, then came out at halftime with a head injury, which only added to his rough night and led to a daunting debut for rookie Jack Elliott. A center back pairing of Onyewu and Elliott was certainly not something anyone could have predicted in the preseason, and at this point, many Union fans are probably clamoring for the quick return of Joshua Yaro to add a much-needed boost to the beleaguered backline.
2. Don't tell C.J. Sapong that his role has been diminished. Despite being turned into a reserve this year after two seasons as Philly's starting striker, Sapong has been the team’s hottest player, scoring three goals in as many games after netting the team's only goal Saturday less than 10 minutes after coming in. And he could have very well added a second if not for a sparkling save from D.C. goalie Bill Hamid. At this point, you have to wonder if Sapong will get back his starting job over Jay Simpson -- who struggled to get involved in his first game back from a ribs injury -- or if Curtin prefers the spark that Sapong brings off the bench.
3. To be fair to the Union, they did dominate parts of the game and won almost all of the major statistical categories, including possession (57.4 percent-42.6 percent), shots on goal (9-3) and passing accuracy (80 percent-73 percent). And while that will do little to appease fans who are used to seeing this franchise make untimely mistakes to blow games, it does perhaps show that the Union do have the ability to go on a run once they get out of their own heads and into the win column.
Three questions for the week ahead
1. The Union are coming home at just the right time. After playing three of their first four on the road, their next three will be at Talen Energy Stadium. But getting their first win still won’t be easy as they meet one of the league's top teams in the Portland Timbers on Saturday before then facing star-studded New York City FC and the Montreal Impact. It's still too early to call anything a must-win or say head coach Jim Curtin is on the hot seat. But if they fail to get more than one or two points over their next three games, might his seat get a little bit warmer?
2. The health of Richie Marquez will be a major concern heading into a matchup with a dynamic Timbers team that leads the league in goals scored. With Yaro already hurt, that means the center back pairing could be a player who, until last month, was out of pro soccer for over a year (Onyewu) and a fourth-round pick in the 2017 draft (Elliott). That could be a recipe for disaster against a very dangerous Portland attack.
3. One of the big questions circulating around the Union right now is of the play of Alejandro Bedoya, their star and captain. It's no secret the team hasn't won too many games since Bedoya came on board last summer and that he hasn't really been "the guy" that the Union need him to be. It also remains to be seen if the No. 10 position is his best spot on the field. Will Curtin consider moving him into more of a box-to-box role while unleashing perhaps their one true attacking midfielder in Roland Alberg, who’s played a grand total of 15 minutes this season?
Stat of the week
Including the playoffs, the Union haven't won in their last 12 games dating back to last season. Their last victory was a 2-0 home triumph over Sporting Kansas City on Aug. 27.
Quote of the week
"I know this group. The performances are not indicative of the point total that we are on right now." -- Union head coach Jim Curtin
Player of the week
Sapong only played 31 minutes but, along with fellow second-half sub Elliott, proved to be a major bright spot for the Union.