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A new mindset

DCU players and coaches push each other to be better

Following D.C. United’s most recent match against Toronto FC – a 1-1 draw at RFK Stadium after United took the lead in the first half – the players vented their frustrations in an open forum in the home locker room.

“Some guys spoke their mind after the game and it was about really trying to regroup and keep moving forward,” said midfielder Jared Jeffrey. “I think there was really a sense of urgency, you know, day-in and day-out we’ve got to keep it going.”

In a season of frustrating results, there’s been the feeling for the last month and a half that United are very close to turning the corner, to getting back to a consistent pattern of winning. Beating Toronto, the team directly ahead of United in the Eastern Conference standings, would have been a nice step in the right direction. Instead, D.C. must regroup and attempt to play spoiler against New York at Red Bull Arena this Saturday (8 pm ET, NBCSN).

“I don’t mind that stuff. I think everybody knows me well enough that I don’t mind a good argument or some emotion spilling over,” United coach Ben Olsen said. “In a season like this, that’s normal.”

And over the course of what has likely been the most emotional campaign of Olsen’s career, as well as many of his players, it’s quite understandable as well.

“Overall, the last month, we’re going from losing games in a row, to when we tied last game and everyone was yelling and kind of pissed that we tied that game because we thought we should have won,” said defender Chris Korb. “That’s a good sign. It kind of sucks that it’s coming together late, but it’s a good sign.”

Korb said United are still looking for the full “90-minute performance” but feels the club’s play overall has been improving. Part of that could have to do with the fact that many of United’s players are healthy and the coaching staff, in turn, is able to accomplish more at training. During Tuesday’s session, the team broke into four groups of five for short-field scrimmages, with less running time used an incentive for the winner. It was the first time in a long time nearly everyone on D.C.’s roster has been healthy or very close to healthy.

“It’s not far, it’s just that every little part of it needs to be tuned up,” Olsen said. “It’s a tough thing to do when you’re out of the playoffs, but it’s a necessary thing. There is a lot to play for. There’s jobs, there’s a rhythm side to this for the Open Cup [final on Oct. 1] and there’s just a pride issue in starting to win games and not be in last place.”