D.C. pride takes a hit in opener

After flop against Wizards, United forced to take stock

A strong preseason runup gave D.C. United some reason to feel bullish heading into their 2010 league opener in Kansas City last weekend. But at the final whistle United had surrendered as many goals in 90 minutes as they had in their final four warmup matches combined – another cringe-inducing reminder that preseason prep is a limited predictor of competitive results.

A strong preseason runup gave D.C. United some reason tofeel bullish heading into their 2010 league opener in Kansas City last weekend.But at the final whistle United had surrendered as many goals in 90 minutes asthey had in their final four warmup matches combined – another cringe-inducingreminder that preseason prep is a limited predictor of competitive results.

“I think we had a nice preseason where we were playingpretty good soccer and enjoying playing. We hadn’t played a team that wasreally edgy like that, and aggressive,” D.C. striker Adam Cristman said of the4-0 thumping at CommunityAmerica Ballpark. “We just weren’t prepared for afight like that.”

The Wizards underwent the same sort of roster re-engineeringas United over the winter, but looked like a dramatically different productwith a ruthless display in their home ground’s tight, rain-slicked confines.

“It was a terrible field, terrible situation to go into.Granted, I don’t think we had the best mindset going into it to begin with,”noted goalkeeper Troy Perkins. “That’s our fault as players, not beingprepared.”

Perkins and his mates have absorbed their sobering egocheck, even if the final result was seen as a “fluke” by some players.

“Maybe it’s a matterof having some success – some good success – the three weeks and winning theCarolina cup and then having a solid showing in Mexico against a top club,” assistantcoach Kris Kelderman said. “Maybe that affected our attitude. Maybe we thoughtthe game was going to come easier than we should’ve, and Kansas City jumped onus early.”

The experience has provided a stinging backdrop topreparations for the home opener against New England, in spite of the sunnyspring weather which has warmed the capital city this week. Such a loss cannothelp but prompt doubts among fans, and usually players as well.

Curt Onalfo’s charges might wish to carry a bit of bothoptimism and pragmatism as they gear up for Saturday’s tilt at RFK Stadium. Thealarm bells aren’t ringing quite yet, but even with their own lengthy list ofpotential absentees, New England will likely pose another challenge to a youngD.C. squad that must find their feet quickly.

“I don’t see too many drastic changes, even though we didn’tget the result we wanted,” said Kelderman. “We felt we were very strong thethree, four games previous to that in preseason. So I don’t think it’s asituation where we panic and we need to change things. We just need a betterperformance from the people that are on the field.”