DC United have talked about needing to make a “move” in the standings for the last few months to make the playoffs. And while the results and performances in that same time frame have ranged from bad to brilliant, talk time is over.
Too many draws, too many squandered points, especially at home to reach their stated goal of getting into the playoffs.
George Allen, the legendary Hall of Fame former coach of the Washington Redskins, coined the phrase “the future is now” and perhaps they should heed those words because they are currently at the door of the club talking to the bouncer trying to worm their way into the party.
United is close; very close which makes their predicament both tantalizing and frustrating. It’s not how often you make a play but when you make it so it boils down to one question- who is going to make the play that wins the game?
Though they have played the fewest games (24) in the Eastern Conference along with Philadelphia, they could quickly run out of games with a couple of bad results. On the flip side, a couple of wins and a few favorable results elsewhere, they could sneak into second place if the big bouncer turns his head for even a second.
“Playing a half of soccer over the last two games is not good enough,” said United coach Ben Olsen about the results of their last two matches, both on the road, that included a come-from-behind 1-1 draw with Chicago last Thursday and 1-0 loss to Kansas City where they were badly outplayed.
“We can’t wait to be in the playoffs. We can’t let others dictate whether we are going to be in the playoffs,” he continued. “We have to go take it and that’s collectively, it’s me, the staff and the players, we have to make sure we are ready to make this push or it will be a long off season if we don’t.”
United (31 points) have 10 games remaining, split evenly between home and the road. They have had some masterful performances on the road and some equal duds at home and vice versa. Other than Seattle (45 points), no team they play currently has more than 36 points.
“We have to bring the grit, determination and fight that these other teams are bringing,” said defender Brandon McDonald.
“It certainly isn’t going to be given to us we are going to have to go get it. Teams scrap and fight here in this league and this is what this league is. You have to make a play. It’s always going to be one or two plays, teams are very equal,” added Santino Quaranta.
“You find this time of the year that teams that work hard and outwork their teams win games. It’s going to certainly take creating more chances than we have been creating and playing more urgently.”
United have been plagued with bad starts through most of the season and last week’s two losses were no different.
“It’s the time we need to get a little bit better in every area. The area that has to be better is the way we start and our mentality and that wasn’t there in the last two games and it costs us,” Olsen said.
“The message to the guys was everyone else in the league is ratcheting up and everybody is making sure that the fight and the commitment is a little bit better because the weather is changing, playoff time is coming.”
Despite the miserable starts, especially against Kansas City, they were still just one play away from yet another draw. These matches followed one of their best matches of the year, a 4-0 home win over Vancouver.
“We have to be better with success. A win doesn’t mean we can let down for a game or two; it means we have to rev it up rather than be okay with it,” Olsen said. “We got the (expletive) kicked out of us against Kansas City and we still could have tied that game. That is who we are; we can do that because we have players that can do that.”
United’s big players, like Dwayne DeRosario, for the most part have been making plays. Josh Wolff scored the equalizer against Chicago but he admittedly can play better. Charlie Davies has been hampered by a knee injury and has not scored since a 2-2 home draw with Houston on June 25.
Someone else needs to step up and make the critical play that leads to the goal that wins the game-and it doesn’t necessarily have to be scoring the goal.
“We have to bring that tenaciousness, that willingness to compete every game and that fight because we have technical players but sometimes you got to be a little bit nasty and see out a 1-0 game,” said DeRosario. “Across the league those are pretty much the games you are going to see when teams are fighting for the playoffs; teams are going to battle, scrap, do whatever it takes and we have to get that mentality sooner or later.”
These results may just be who they are – perhaps a decent, middle-of-the-table team? Or maybe they are pretty good or pretty good but just not good enough. Or maybe they are just not that good.
“This is no surprise the situation we are in. This is what we said from the start of the season that it was going to be a grind,” said Olsen. “We are a young team. We are going to have ups and we are going to have downs and it’s important for us to stay in the hunt right now and push soon, very soon. It’s true we haven’t had that stretch that we’ve wanted to have.”