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Maintaining the Fight

"There just has to be complete focus all the time.”

Regroup. Look ahead. Maintain focus. Improve the mentality.

All of those, and more, are phrases which D.C. United players and coaches are likely growing very tired of using.

But when your club hasn’t won in 13 matches, when your club is on pace to set an MLS-worst mark of 0.40 points per game, when your club has totaled more own goals (3) than any individual has scored (2), what else can be said?

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“It’s difficult,” said United assistant coach Chad Ashton when asked if this was the toughest thing he’s had to deal with in his professional career. “It definitely ranks up there. I give the guys credit, though, they’ve definitely maintained a good attitude. They’ve maintained fight.”

Saturday’s match presented a new opportunity for United to crawl out of the monotony of their dreadful campaign by potentially leaping ahead of a team in the standings. With a victory at home against Toronto FC – a club that hadn’t won in 11 matches – United would no longer be in last.

But on a field where D.C. only lost once last season (a season, mind you, where the team reached the Eastern Conference Finals) mistakes on set pieces and offensive impotence led to a 2-1 loss, perhaps the most gutting of the season.

“It’s one of the hardest things every one of us has dealt with, but going into the game with the right mentality is the key to get out of this situation,” said United goalkeeper Bill Hamid.

LOOKING AHEAD: D.C. United hosts the Earthquakes this Saturday. Purchase tickets.

Following the loss to Toronto, coach Ben Olsen said he felt his team lacked a bit of energy after its 3-1 Open Cup victory against Philadelphia three days prior. D.C.’s upcoming stretch will again test the club’s fitness. Beginning with Saturday’s home match against San Jose, United are scheduled to play five times in 16 days, including a cross-country trip to Seattle and Colorado at the start of July.

As playoff hopes continue to fade into the distance, arguably United’s biggest task in the coming weeks will be June 26 against New England in the Open Cup. Buy tickets online.

“You continue to go over the film, you continue to look at what happened,” Ashton said. “These are the mistakes that are happening. Unfortunately we’ve had too many of the same mistakes happening again and again.

“At some point, you have to start to believe, ‘I’m going to make a difference, I’m not going to allow a goal, I’m not going to have a lapse in concentration.’ … From [the players’] perspective, there just has to be complete focus all the time.”