D.C. United entered tonight's match with a chance to draw level on points with Atlanta and Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference standings.
Instead, it was another poor showing at Audi Field.
“We shot ourselves in the foot on two plays, and they capitalized on it," Head coach Ben Olsen said. "One of those plays resulted in a red card. You can’t do that in big games. Over the course of the day, I think they had more guys show up than we did. That’s a concern.”
United allowed a goal to the visiting Philadelphia Union just two minutes into the match. The scoreline would read 5-1 to the visitors after 90 minutes.
“It’s something that we need to look at seriously," midfielder Paul Arriola said about allowing early goals. "The past few home games we’ve started like this, and it’s something we need to figure out within ourselves. As players we need to talk about it and understand what we’re doing wrong and what we need to improve on. Because that’s a serious issue.”
D.C.'s slow start was evidenced by only having one shot in the first half before fighting back with 10 in the second. Only three were on goal.
“To be honest, I think it’s B.S.," Arriola said. "I think we should be able to do that from the beginning of the game."
Since the start of May, United have only won three of their eight games at Audi Field. Olsen said he understands it is not fun for the fans to watch.
“You have a lot of fans that are looking for entertainment, but they're also looking for wins," Olsen, who has been in charge of the club since 2010, said. "We have not given them enough of that as of late in this building and that hurts."
After a strong start to the season, D.C. have only won two of their last 13 matches. Although they still sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, United are only four points from missing out on the playoffs. With just nine games remaining in the regular season, four of which will be played at home, Olsen said his team could go either way from here.
“It’s a moment," Olsen said. "It’s a gut check. It’s a punch in the mouth, and we’ll see who can respond from this. Who can now respond in the right way and get on board to give a little bit more and show up when it matters.”
“100 percent," he said. "It’s been like that for a few games now in my opinion. We’ve played ourselves into that situation. I thought we started off the season pretty well and we’ve let everyone back in … It’s definitely not good. We have to be better.
"I can't emphasize enough on the collectiveness … I think this is the time now for us to turn around, from the technical staff to the players that don’t make the roster. We all need to be in it together if we want to accomplish something.”
Olsen said he understands that improvements need to be made if his squad wants a chance at making a serious run in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
“We need to figure out how we tweak this because right now we’re not good enough," Olsen said. "We have got to make some changes. That could be tactical or that could be personnel. We’ll take a look at that.”
There will no doubt be a sense of urgency within the club as they head into the final stretch of the season.
"We feel like we have to win every game to stay above and push ourselves to stay in a playoff spot," Arriola said. "Maybe that’s good for us. I don’t know, we’ll find out.”
D.C. United will travel to face the Philadelphia Union again on August 24. That match will likely be even more important than tonight's.
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