After the worst start to an MLS season in the history of DC United, what's next? Personally, I've asked myself that question on numerous occasions, and I just cannot seem to figure out the answer. Each week I convince myself "This is the week DC will turn things around" but week after week, those thoughts seem to go out the window, quite quickly.
Portland Timbers defeated DC United 2-0 at RFK Stadium on Saturday night, once again showing these two MLS squads heading in entirely different directions. DC now sink to 1-9-2 and last place in the Eastern Conference while the Timbers now ride an impressive 11-game unbeaten run. After the match DC United manager Ben Olsen was frustrated with the level of intensity his squad failed to maintain throughout the match as he told the Washington Post:
"It's embarrassing how soft we are, everywhere around the field. The lack of anger that a few of our guys play with, the lack of a chip on some of our guys' shoulders is mind-boggling to me. Perry Kitchen, Nick DeLeon? Any day of the week. Carlos Ruiz? Any day of the week. But I'll tell you what: we have a long way to go."
The third year coach certainly has a point as well in regards to his players lacking consistency and above all, heart. Kitchen and DeLeon once again had a fire underneath them – maybe it's because they are still young and do not know any better. Olsen even favored the veteran Ruiz ahead of his captain Dwayne De Rosario which has to be saying something about the lack of intensity from his leader. And the decision to leave De Rosario out of the starting may be more beneficial for the time being as the Guatemalan was chasing down balls and actually worked very well through the midfield with Kitchen. The creativity between the two was a breathe of fresh air on Saturday, despite the loss, as those two DC United members offered hope that a change in form could be found. As Ruiz is no longer a speedster, his quick one touch passing offer a greater sense of attacking pressure to keep the ball on the ground and knock it around rather than hold the ball and wait for support, something that has not been working when Lionard Pajoy has been at the forefront of the attack.
In terms of defense, another upsetting from Brandon McDonald. At the beginning of the season, McDonald was flourishing in his central defensive role; however, in recent weeks his defensive abilities have been frail and may continue to ride the bench as he's quickly become out of favor. As Dejan Jakovic was out with injury against the Timbers, Ethan White and the Canadian may resume their central defensive duties next match.
Troubling times have been brewing over the nations capital for quite some time but his weekend seemed a downpour. As De Rosario was benched to start the match, post match he was furious with Ben Olsen's decision to leave him out of the lineup and even went as far as to (via Washington Post) "question Olsen's handling of the roster." Indeed, Olsen has every right to change around the roster as he sees fit – but of course leaving our a captain is obviously going to cause quite a stir.
But maybe this is all in Olsen's master plan to get De Rosario back into form and rediscover his potent attacking prowess that has gone missing this season. Whether or not DC are too late into the season is another question yet, better late than never. Plain and simple, the Black & Reds are not good enough and change is necessary. Almost half way through the MLS season, is here any hope for a playoff run or should DC United just focus on getting better? Well, one step at a time.
The change can be brought through Gambian winger, Sainey Nyassi. Nyassi was released from the New England Revolution and seems to found a new home with DC United in which he will look to make an immediate impact. As the details begin to emerge be certain to check back for updates.
Follow Robert on Twitter at Robert_Moore24
(image courtesy of Tony Quinn)