Jaime Moreno sounded like a broken record, uttering eerily the same words he did over a month ago when DC United was mired in a stretch of eight games without a win.
“We’ve been in this situation before and it’s disappointing because overall you do want to do better but we keep making the mistakes we’ve been through already,” the Bolivian forward said. “We talk about it and it keeps happening.
“We’ve had a good three days of rest and we go back to work with set mind in the right place. It’s been good practice so far and hopefully we can bring that to the game.”
With no players named to the All-Star team for the first time in their history, a disappointing run of home losses, and a rash of injuries to critical players in critical roles, things once again look disconcerting.
After an early June match in Chicago, United’s schedule for the next two months consisted of 10 consecutive home games. But coming off the all-star break, United is reeling from four straight home losses at RFK Stadium, a franchise record, after winning their first five home matches, that included two US Open cup match wins at the Maryland SoccerPlex in suburban Washington.
The four losses, the first three in SuperLiga competition with the fourth being a less than inspiring effort against Houston in a league match, were preceded by a seven game unbeaten run.
United is still the only team in MLS not to record a shutout in league play. Their only clean sheets were against the inferior Jamaican side, Harbour View, in the CONCACAF Champions Cup and the USL side Rochester Rhinos in the Open Cup.
United will conclude the long home stand this Saturday night against the Kansas City Wizards. Both Marcelo Gallardo and Gonzalo Martinez are still out recovering from hernia surgery and Santino Quaranta is questionable nursing a hamstring.
DC will also be missing versatile defender Gonzalo Martinez who received a red card in the marathon 2-0 loss to Houston last Wednesday.
In that match and the previous SuperLiga match against Houston four days earlier, United was barely competitive. The rigorous schedule, playing two games a week for the three weeks prior to the all-star break, clearly has left the team weary.
“We were a little tired as a team,” said midfielder Clyde Simms. “Going two games a week for a month almost is tough and taxing. I think the biggest thing is to get our legs back.”
The recent run of poor play at home has boosted the confidence of any team coming in to play United and shattered their seeming invincibility at the esteemed old stadium. The loud and passionate fans are still intact and so is the bigger field which has always been conducive to their possession style of play.
The cohesive and menacing attack however is missing and the rock solid defending has been AWOL all season.
United averaged a shade below three goals per game in their first eight home matches but scored a total of four goals in the three SuperLiga matches and the Houston loss. United captured the Supporter’s Shield the previous two season, amassing an impressive 19-5-7 league record at home in the process. Both those seasons, however, ended with home playoff loses.
“You treat your home as a sacred environment, an atmosphere where teams come in and it’s a tough place to play,” said defender Bryan Namoff. “That was always the mentality when teams came in here they knew they were in for a long haul; they knew they were in for a tough game and we kind of let that slip..”
Namoff started as a center back against Houston for the first time in his career but was moved back to his customary right back position 25-minutes after Houston scored five minutes earlier.
“I’ve always sensed that we’ve had the momentum, that we have always had the confidence when we were at home against other teams,” Namoff continued. “I think teams have taken a step back against us when we are on and when we are clicking on all cylinders, when everyone is playing and the chemistry is there, we’re keeping possession of the ball and we have ten guys that are on the same page.”
Head Coach Tom Soehn removed rookie Pat Carroll in favor of attacker Rod Dyachenko, adding another attacking option in hopes of sparking some type of fluidity to get the equalizer.
Several young players including Carroll, who played respectably before being removed, will get opportunities to impress Soehn in the coming month. United sits in fourth position in the Eastern Conference and is still alive in the US Open Cup.
They will also open home-and-home play in CONCACAF Champions League play with Cruz Azul (Mexico), Saprissa (Costa Rica) and a team to be named later.
“It’s a great opportunity for the young guys to step up and do their thing,” said Moreno. “Obviously it’s not that easy to do everything but at the same time you gotta work as a team and at the same time you just can’t look at Luci (Luciano Emilio), and myself, and guys with experience to do everything.
“Sometimes that might work but it’s not going to work all the time. They are working hard to earn their place and earn their chance but having said that it’s just a matter of them taking that chance and if not we’ll see what happens.”
Carroll should see time in the back while Ryan Cordeiro, Craig Thompson, and Joe Vide, a midfielder who was recently acquired from San Jose, could see significant action in roles to which they are not necessarily accustomed.
“We have to look to the depths of our bench to secure these positions where players have been out,” said Namoff. “You are probably going to see some players who have had limited time trying to step in and play a bigger role than they are normally expected and that is something we are going to need just with the amount of games we have coming up.”
“They are all good players so we have to instill that confidence in them and let them know that they are able to play in this league and we are behind them,” added Simms about the insertion of the young players. “I think that’s the biggest thing-the confidence and we might have a different mentality going into games missing some of our attacking options.”
With that in mind, Soehn focused his training on getting numbers behind the ball and not giving up goals, according to Vide, not a method of play United as a team is accustomed to playing.
“Maybe, I don’t know,” Moreno said, about Soehn’s implementing a more defensive philosophy with his shortage of attackers. “We don’t have a clean sheet this year so it’s definitely something Tommy is thinking about.”
United Notes: Forward Jaime Moreno has been called in to the Bolivian National Team for their international friendly against Guatemala at RFK Stadium next Wednesday.
Moreno joined Bolivia for two World Cup qualifying matches last October, playing against Venezuela and as a reserve against Colombia.
What did players do on their break? With United’s busy schedule getting in the way, Bryan Namoff took a “Quasi-Honeymoon” with his relatively new bride at the renowned Inn at Little Washington, Virginia’s only 5-Star restaurant about 90-minutes outside of the city.