United Eyes Future, Despite Another Loss

Olsen juggles priorities as the season progresses and the future looms
by Peter Muller   |   Monday, July 29, 2013

United Capitol – column on DC United (DCU) & the Washington DC/DMV area soccer scene.

As D.C. United plays out the remainder of the 2013 season, manager Ben Olsen is balancing short- and long-term goals for the club.

“I’ve got one eye here presently on the week-to-week MLS,” said Olsen following United’s 2-1 loss to the New England Revolution Saturday night. “I have another eye on the Open Cup, which is a big deal, and finding out what the best team is that we would have out there. And I have my third eye on the future of this club, and that’s a very important thing now.”

Signs of improvement in loss

The present state of United appeared slightly improved against the Revolution despite a loss that extends D.C.’s latest streak without a win to 5 games.

United started the match more aggressively than usual this season, applying sustained pressure whenever New England had the ball and showing better movement when in possession themselves.

They even took an early lead on Luis Silva’s 8th minute strike from distance, his 2nd goal in 2 weeks for D.C.

But United wore down as the game went on and they displayed characteristic sloppiness on defense to let the match slip away.

New England equalized shortly after halftime when Dimitry Imbongo put away a cross from Chris Tierney and minutes later, following Saer Sene’s shot of the crossbar, Diego Fagundez scored the game winner from the rebound.

It was another loss for United, which is heading to one of the worst records in MLS history. But Olsen saw enough to suggest improvement from the 4-1 drubbing his team suffered a week earlier.

“It was a step in the right direction from last week,” said Olsen.

Focus on U.S. Open Cup

The U.S. Open Cup is the only competition in which United remains competitive and Olsen is looking for the right formula when D.C. travels to Chicago to play the Fire in the semifinals on August 7.

With Chris Pontius and Perry Kitchen unavailable and Dwayne De Rosario returning from injury, the New England game gave Olsen the opportunity to provide debuts to 2 of United’s new signings: midfielder Jarred Jeffrey and striker Conor Doyle.

Both contributed to the positive early start and, while they were substituted in the 2nd half, they provide options to Olsen that he didn’t have previously.

It remains to be seen whether Doyle can put the ball into the net in a way that United’s other strikers have failed to do this year.

But for United to advance in the Cup they are going to have to find goals somewhere. Silva’s strike against the Fire on July 20 was just United’s 2nd tally on the road all season.

Another key question for the Open Cup is who will be healthy? Pontius has missed time recently and De Rosario has started only 10 of United’s 21 matches his year.

Dejan Jakovic has returned to provide veteran leadership on the backline but it seems likely that, if in doubt, Olsen will withhold players from upcoming MLS matches to make sure they are fit to face Chicago.

Looking to the future

Off the field, D.C. United’s future looks much brighter following last week’s announcement of a preliminary agreement between the club and District Mayor Vincent Gray to build a new stadium at Buzzard Point.

Olsen’s challenge is to pick up the remnants of a 2-15-4 squad and build a competitive team for 2014. He has the remainder of the MLS season to determine which players are worth brining back next year.

“Silva is a real piece,” said Olsen, “and we are looking to add as many real pieces to the club right now.”

The question over the final 13 league games is whether the likes of Jeffrey, Doyle, other young players like Taylor Kemp and Casey Townsend show enough to be considered “real pieces”.

NEXT UP: August 3 – D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact, RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C., 7:30 p.m. EST, Comcast Sports Net.


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Peter is a government relations professional in Washington, DC, and Los Angeles, CA. He has been a DC United season ticket holder since 1997 and has attended every MLS Cup except one – in 1998 when he was busy helping his boss get re-elected to Congress.