Tampa Bay Sports Day

It’s time for DC to play free

There is no more time for talking, no more tactical or technical points of soccer to sort out and direct learning is going to have to be put on hold. It’s very simple: its win time and that’s it for DC United.

That’s all there is to do at this point and what exacerbates the situation is that winning still doesn’t guarantee you anything after all of the point squandering that was done earlier in the season.

“I’m tired of looking at the standings and what we need and what other teams need; we need to win now. It’s pretty simple,” said United Coach Ben Olsen.

United (9-10-11, 38 points) are currently 6th in the Eastern Conference with four games remaining and two games in hand on every team ahead of them. They travel to Vancouver for a late Wednesday game then return home to face Chicago on Saturday, who stand just a point behind United.

United are likely to take on Vancouver without the league’s leading scorer, Dwayne DeRosario (14 goals), who may not be fit for play after a hectic travel schedule with the Canadian National Team. Central defender Dejan Jakovic (R hamstring strain) is listed as questionable but is “hopeful” according to Olsen and may be healthy enough for consideration by game time.

After squandering points on a regular basis throughout the season, especially at home, United have no one but themselves to blame for this predicament. Whether it’s giving away leads and settling for draws, a league wide problem not exclusive to just United, or just diabolical mental breakdowns, they have been pushed to a state of singular focus.

On a positive note, they have had a nice break to get healthy, clear their heads after two divergent loses on the road and to get ready for these last four matches.

They crawled back to level before halftime after conceding two early tallies to Philadelphia before failing to hold on for what would have been a worthy point. United took the lead late in the first half two days later at Columbus before conceding two, including an unlucky own goal for the equalizer, to drop another winnable game.

“I don’t look at those two games as bad efforts. We made some mistakes and down the stretch when you tend to make mistakes, you get punished. I’m not disappointed in the effort overall but we need results now so in one way we know what we have to do now and that’s a good thing,” Olsen said.

Regardless of the results, at some point these mistakes have to go away or unfocused may be just who they are this season.

“Ties on the road are good,” said Josh Wolff. “Ties at home are not so good… When you get to this point in the season it would be nice to be in before these games start but like I said to a lot of the guys you are not in the playoffs until you are in and you are not out until you are out. We lost our way a bit in two games on the road where we were in position to get some points and we let them go.”

Young or old, tired or spry, that doesn’t matter at this point either. “Throughout some of these games we lose our focus and our concentration and it’s not just one play. A play may lead to a goal but it’s usually a compilation of many things,” added Wolff.

“You keep pressing and try to make the points that need to be made with the entire group; it’s the group being able to assess it and make more plays that are there to be made. The last game we didn’t do that and we need to and we got punished for it.”

United still have the youngest starting XI in the league but that excuse, though perhaps still viable, is irrelevant as well. “I don’t think they know any better but these playoffs are not easy to make,” Santino Quaranta said about the team’s young players.

“We haven’t been in the playoffs in a couple of years so you try and stress to them that getting there is not easy and it’s been a long year and you try and reward yourself with something.”

Finally, the finer points of technical and tactical soccer are for another day and time as well. It’s all about making plays and the plays that win games. “It’s not technical; we’ve been through all that stuff. You know what you have to do. It comes down to one-on-one battles and more mental stuff for us, like can we see a game out,” Quaranta said.

“This has been our problem this year; 1-0 against Columbus…we should probably see that game out. Guys are getting real uptight and I am getting more uptight; you are thinking more about every play, every situation instead of playing on instincts and playing free.”