Tampa Bay Sports Day

Onalfo ‘pissed off’ at slow start

Curt Onalfo

DC United’s 0-3 start and an injury list deeper than the available regular roster can test even Curt Onalfo’s unwavering positive attitude. After a smooth pre-season filled with optimism and positive results, United have hit the inevitable jagged patch far earlier than expected in the protracted MLS season.

“I told them I am pissed. I am pissed off. We shouldn’t be 0-3, and we are,” said Onalfo. “The only way to get through it, you have two decisions: You can cry and whine about it and complain and make excuses and over-analyze it like everybody else is going to do, or we can actually get back down to business, continue to work and fight through it. We’re going to get through it. I have all the confidence in the world.”

United will be without three more players as they take a nearly equally struggling Chicago Fire Saturday at RFK Stadium. Brandon Barklage joined the cavalcade to the neurologist’s office with a concussion after knocking heads with former United midfielder Fred during a challenge in the second half but has no recollection of it and still played the full 90-minutes.

Juan Pena is out 2-3 weeks with a hamstring strain and Dejan Jakovic got popped hard in the jaw but will not have any lasting effects. Jakovic will miss the Fire match regardless after receiving a straight red card for hauling down Alejandro Moreno just outside United’s penalty area in 80th minute leading directly to Sebastian LeToux’s splendid hat trick-completing free kick that gave the Philadelphia Union a 3-2 win in their home debut last Saturday.

Jakovic will miss the Fire match regardless after receiving a straight red card for hauling down Alejandro Moreno just outside United’s penalty area in 80th minute leading directly to Sebastian LeToux’s splendid, hat trick-completing free kick that gave the Philadelphia Union a 3-2 win in their home debut last Saturday.

United did sign defender Jordan Graye, the 55th pick and their only selection in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft.

The call, and subsequent goal, spoiled an encouraging second half in which United clawed back to level terms after a listless and disjointed start that saw them down 2-0 at the intermission.

“We had a really good training session, a good response and we are going to build on the response we had in the game this past week when we were down 2-0 and getting back to 2-2,” said Onalfo after Tuesday’s training session.

“It was pretty clear we gave up goals on set pieces. We come back and totally change the game and I am thinking we are going to get a point, if not three, and then an unfortunate call…and having said that, it could have been prevented; the initial ball could have been cleared and it’s not even an issue and we are sitting here with at least a point and things are looking a lot brighter as we go into the next weekend. But that is the game of soccer; it’s very odd.”

On top of the LeToux free kick winner, both of the Union’s first half tallies were off restarts. After Troy Perkins parried away a Roger Torres free kick, United pinned Moreno and Torres in the right corner off the rebound.

Not only did United not close down the crafty Colombian Torres enough, allowing him to float the second ball into a dangerous position, they ball watched as Le Toux got onto the end of the cross for the Union’s first ever franchise goal in the 4th minute. United had two opportunities to break up the counter attack off their own corner that spurred Le Toux’s second goal just before halftime.

“It’s not like we are giving them up in the run of play and they are really going right through us. They are silly mistakes, mental mistakes that we can avoid and we can clean up real quick,” said holding midfielder Kurt Morsink.

The goals for New England in United’s 2-0 home opening loss were on a counter and a restart and the three goals they gave up against Kansas City were off losing the second challenge coupled with a few unlucky bounces.

The higher energy level and greater sense of urgency that produced the two second half goals were positive steps in getting the team back on track. But the sense of attacking urgency did leave a good bit of space in the defensive third.

Le Toux could have completed his hat trick 27-minutes earlier when he slipped behind a less than responsive back line for a clean break away that Perkins did well to foil and keep United in the match.

United are perhaps being too reactive to plays defensively versus anticipating and cutting down the space.

“There was,” concurred United defender Carey Talley about the abundance of space in the defensive third. “We had guys reacting instead of anticipating in spots where they should have been before the ball is even played and just being in areas.”

“Instead of being all together as a unit, and working together I think some guys are reacting off of plays instead of knowing they are going to have it,” Talley continued. “You see a lot of teams get good form toward the middle and end of season so hopefully that is what it takes. It’s going to be an adjustment.

“We have guys that are out this game so we will have to adjust to a few new players so it’s going a little bit of a growing process and we have to make sure we help those guys collectively.”

Onalfo disagrees on the assessment of over-thinking and not instinctively playing, “I think you are overanalyzing it and I think at the end of the day, we are going through a stretch where things aren’t going our way and we have to keep plugging away and get through it.”