You didn't have to be an expert to see that D.C. United threw away an eminently winnable home game Saturday night against San Jose. The Black-and-Red had a chance to extend their unbeaten streak to six games and temporarily vault past Columbus into third place and the last guaranteed playoff spot in the Eastern Conference (The Crew host Columbus tomorrow afternoon).
Instead United conceded four goals, three of which were scored by Steven Lenhart (he also assisted on the only goal he didn't score); lost at RFK for the first time since Apri 21; and brought back memories of the ugly period in late April when they got waxed 4-0 and 4-1 in consecutive games against New York and Houston.
"I was disappointed in the way we went about that game tonight," D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen said after the match Saturday night. "We looked like young kids.
"This is going to happen," Olsen continued. "I've always said that we are going to have games where young kids make mistakes. That I can live with. But the commitment and energy we showed, or didn't show, that was unacceptable ... I think we started reading our press a little bit. Everybody thought we were on a roll, and started thinking that we didn't have to do the things that brought us a little success. And it is a little success. We're a mid-table team if you look at this whole league (Through all games played Saturday, United would be 13th in an 18-team league table) ... San Jose came in here and did exactly what we did in LA and Portland. They got the message and we didn’t. That is unacceptable, and will change next week."
In particular, Olsen pointed the finger at his defense for playing too passively on Simon Dawkins' 49th-minute goal that proved to be the winner. "We botch[ed] a play in our box where we're just not aggressive enough and we let [Dawkins] play a one-two. We were not aggressive tonight in our box."
The players largely echoed their boss's words, and the story of the night was, of course, San Jose's hat-trick hero Lenhart. When asked about the striker's physical play, United centerback Ethan White said, "He's one of the more physical ones, up there with [Seattle's Nate] Jaqua and [Colorado's] Conor Casey. But it wasn't much different from what we expected, and we should have known how to deal with it."
"He's a good player," said White's center-back partner Perry Kitchen. "We just didn't adjust well."
When asked in his press conference if Lenhart was a "hat-trick type of player," Olsen responded, "The way our defense played tonight, he probably is."
But if any statement of Olsen's summed up this thoughts on United's performance, it was this: "Maybe it was a good thing that we got punched in the face and knocked out, because maybe we will get the message that, even at home, you don't get games handed to you because you're probably a better soccer team. Guess what? That doesn't mean anything here. You've got to match the fight, and we didn't early.
"They came in with a very good game plan, and basically just kicked our [expletive]."
United return to the road next Saturday night with a difficult test against Real Salt Lake. That match kicks off at 9:00 and can be seen on Comcast SportsNet.