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Refreshing words from D.C. United camp ahead of tonight’s big match

Sporting KC v DC United

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: Head coach Ben Olsen of the D.C. United looks on before a game against the Sporting Kansas City at RFK Stadium on March 10, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

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An over shipment of grumble and gripe tumbled out of the D.C. United’s side following Sunday’s 1-1 draw Sunday against Philadelphia. The worst of it wasn’t from players; it came from coach Ben Olsen and president Kevin Payne.

They have a right to say their mind, of course. But here’s the problem:

All that complaining about referee Mark Geiger leaves some impression that D.C. United’s top levels weren’t holding their players accountable. Such grousing tends to paint a picture of victimization.

But they aren’t victims. Mistakes were made on the field. Players lost their cool. (Besides, that kind of post-game complaining always smacks of selective memory; wobbly refereeing in MLS generally balances out in the long run. It is zero sum that way. For every “victim” there must be a beneficiary, only coaches don’t always acknowledge when they are on the better end of things.)

Bottom line: By abandoning composure, United players failed to put themselves in the best position to win. That should have been the message coming from highest levels all along.

(MORE: It’s wrong to fly the tattered flag of “Refs want to be stars”)

All of this is to say: It’s refreshing to see Olsen’s thoughts, and similar sentiments from his players, in this morning’s Washington Post.

Olsen was speaking specifically of the players’ hot-headed antics just before and immediately after Sunday’s final whistle – all very public, all there for the NBC Sports Network audience to see. From Steven Goff’s story in this morning’s Post.

That just can’t happen on camera. You want to come into the locker room and throw someone against the wall if they screwed up? That’s part of this. That’s emotional professional sports, but I can’t have it on the field in the camera’s eyes.

“Believe it or not, it happens more than you think, and most of it happens behind closed doors within our family. That’s normal. It just can’t happen on the field.”

United meets Chicago tonight, and it’s getting to being squeaky-bum time. The Fire, currently fourth in the East, has won three in a row and is unbeaten in over a month. United is fifth, 2-4-1 lately, with a huge match coming up three nights after Wednesday’s contest at home.

United travels to Montreal on Saturday; a quick look at the Eastern Conference standings reveals why that one is so important. That red line you see down there? It separates the teams currently “in” from those currently “out” of playoff grace.

East standings graphic