Tampa Bay Sports Day

Young DC United seeks consistency against Houston

There has been very little middle ground for DC United so far this season especially regarding how they have played versus their results. They have rarely been mundane for an entire match and when they have played well they have been as good as any team in the league.

But when they have been bad, well, forget about it, they have been a marginally competitive and for the most part, these bad performances have been at home.

Professional soccer is a results oriented business and in this league especially, there is a fine line between winning and losing, and turning good performances into wins.

“Winning games that we’re tying,” said United coach Ben Olsen about what the next phase is for his young team. “Across the league you are seeing a lot of ties right now and no one is separating themselves and it’s about that time we can start focusing on getting three points both home and away.”

Other than a 4-1 loss at Houston at the end of April they have been remarkably productive on the road in league play, getting points in all but one of the five (2-1-2) other road game this season. United gets a rematch with Houston at home this Saturday.

This team is young. Asked which of his young players had made the most strides so far this year, he rattled off six names in short order; five of which are starters, three are teenagers and two are just twenty.

Compound that with losing their one and only truly creative player, Branko Boskovic, to season ending knee surgery, and it’s no wonder why inconsistency has been the only consistent feature to this season.

They also will be without Fred, their only other semblance of a creative player in the middle of the park, whom they have agreed to let join Melbourne Heart in Australia on a free transfer when the transfer window opens at the end of next month.

“We knew we would have some ups and downs with a young group. That is part of this process this year but it’s about limiting how many bumps we have and when we do put on good performances can we get the three points instead of one, I think that is the first step,” said Olsen.

“I am optimistic with this group and I feel we are making strides and each week our identity is a little bit more secure and hopefully if we get a little bit of a bounce here or there we’ll start getting those three points.

The youth across the back line for a good stretch of the season with Perry Kitchen, Ethan White and Chris Korb has been very productive but has had their fair share of low points, including giving up four goals in a listless performance against San Jose at home two weekends ago.

“They have all kind of been thrown to the wolves. Perry, Ethan, Blake (Brettschneider); all of them have had games where you have been very, very impressed and they all have had games where you haven’t been as impressed and you realize they are young kids,” said Olsen.

“But I am still very, very happy with their attitude and overall performance this year. And Conor (Shanosky) that comes out and works his tail off and we still have Andy (Najar) and Bill (Hamid)…we have a long way to go but it’s an optimistic time I think.”

United have not won consecutive league games this season but have lost back-to-back games only once as well, at New England and at Colorado to end March and start April. However, they have drawn consecutive matches on two different occasions.

“Unfortunately when we (have) played at home we have had a little confidence off a road trip,” Hamid, 20, said. “We went to Toronto and we got a good result there and then we came home and kind of stunk it up and then we got a good home result against Seattle, which is good for us, and then we came back and stunk it up again and then we went on this Portland/LA trip and got a little bit of confidence and then we came back and stunk it up again.”

After bashing Toronto 3-0 at BMO Field in mid-April, United came home to be equally pummeled by New York 4-0. That loss opened the levee and they promptly leaked eight goals in three games to close out April, including a 3-2 loss to a grossly undermanned New England team to be ousted from the U.S. Open Cup.

They played a strong match and beat Seattle at home to open May but were pedestrian and unoriginal in draws with Dallas and Colorado, also at home. So to perplex themselves and Olsen even more, they hand Portland their first ever loss at home, 3-2, and should have had the full six points in a scoreless draw with Los Angeles later that week. And to maintain the status quo, they come back home only to get smacked down by San Jose.

“We can’t keep that mentality of doing well away and then we come home and thinking that it’s easy cause we are at home in front of our fans. We have to come out and have a higher standard that we had against Salt Lake,” said Hamid, also referring to last weekend’s well deserved draw at Real Salt Lake.

“We have mental lapses in different points in the game and I hate the fact that I keep repeating this, but that happens to guys that aren’t really experienced,” Hamid continued. “So that’s when we need to buckle down as young guys; tune in for full a whole 94-minutes, not just the 90 but every single second of the game and extra time and definitely buckle down in our final third.”