With a key road-trip on the horizon, United must quickly move past Saturday's disappointment
With the reality of Major League Soccer's 34-match schedule, getting too caught up in a single result is an exercise in both futility and foolishness. And so, despite the disappointing nature of Saturday’s defeat, D.C. United forges ahead with plenty of opportunities left to erase the sour taste of opening night.
Still, the manner in which the Black-and-Red fell - giving up a stoppage time goal - brought back some familiar emotions for a group that saw point after point slip away late in 2011.
"It brings back memories," admitted Perry Kitchen on Saturday night. "The only thing we can do is respond in the next game and not let that become another habit."
Though simple in principle, Kitchen's words won't be easy to carry out. The months-long build up that accompanies opening day carries with it a certain amount of emotional baggage. So close to delivering a blank-sheet against one of the most talented attacking teams in MLS, the Black-and-Red must overcome the psychological blow of last-minute disappointment.
"It's heartbreaking," added newcomer Robbie Russell. "It can really kind of take the wind out of your sails and really demoralize a team. But we've got to remember it's the first game of the season and they are a really good team."
Good may be an understatement when describing Sporting Kansas City. Peter Vermes' front line is so loaded the young coach has the luxury of bringing U.S. National Team forward C.J. Sapong in off the bench. Sapong dealt the fatal blow on Saturday from - of all places - a corner kick. In light of last year's struggles, defensive set pieces have been a priority this preseason, making the manner in which Saturday's game-winner was scored as difficult to swallow as its timing.
"It was on a corner kick. That was the most disappointing part," Josh Wolff confirmed from United's locker room. "[Last year] we did give up a lot of set pieces and we did give up a lot of late goals. It's not something that we are too happy about."
If United's players need a model for how to shake off Saturday's malaise they need look no further than their coach. During 2011 - when home results continuously eluded his team - Ben Olsen's post-game press conferences became tense affairs where the coach's facial expressions often told more than his words. On Saturday night, a more upbeat Olsen praised his players for their work.
"The guys put on what was a hell of an effort," said United's second-year coach. "They fought through fatigue and I thought should have earned the draw. There are a lot of disappointed guys in that locker room."
When the team returns to training on Tuesday, that disappointment must give way to focus. With an impending road trip that includes reigning champion Los Angeles and a much-improved Vancouver side, D.C. has little time to sulk.