RFK Stadium’s home locker room was full of bleary eyes, distant stares and bewildered shrugs on Saturday night.
A 2-0 loss to the Chicago Fire left a downcast D.C. United side contemplating a four-game losing skid that has matched the club record for worst-ever start to the season, and wondering if they’re even giving the fans what they deserve.
“That wasn’t attractive for anybody,” said a dejected Santino Quaranta. “People are paying good money to see that – we’ve got to get better.”
One player after another was asked about their side’s persistent struggles and few could offer much in the way of insight, though there was plenty of anguish and regret to go around.
“I really don’t know,” goalkeeper Troy Perkins said.. “I’ve got no answers for you. It’s just something we’ve got to get ourselves through.”
A spirited crowd of 18,407 left RFK in similarly low spirits and team captain Jaime Moreno practically apologized to the loyal fans, who must now be wondering if they’re in for another gloomy season like the ones that plagued United at the start of the decade.
“I’ve never felt this way. I’ve never been in this situation. I don’t think anybody [here] has,” Moreno said. “It’s very hard to describe how deeply bad we feel, because the fans and all the people that support us, they don’t deserve this bad moment that we’re going through. But at the same time, they have to understand that we’re going through a really tough time and it’s not easy for us either.”
Passive in the attacking end, prone to mental lapses on defense and dreadfully low on confidence all around, United will struggle to find positive signs in yet another occasion where they were decent for long stretches but never really in control of the game.
Chicago’s array of attackers posed a constant threat to Perkins’ goal and when Marco Pappa finally converted a clear chance in the 80th minute, United once again encountered the familiar, sinking feeling of another late backbreaker. The Black-and-Red have now surrendered seven second-half goals and 11 in four games overall.
“It’s the same story as the last three games. We play well, we have good spells, for the most part we do well. We give up really what at this point, you’ve got to call stupid goals,” defensive midfielder Curt Morsink said.
“It’s not the coaches’ fault, it’s not the fans, it’s us players giving up stupid goals. You can’t ever win an MLS soccer game giving up stupid goals like that. It’s not just one person, it’s the whole team. It’s not just one game, it’s not just one goal, it’s been six or seven goals that absolutely should’ve been avoided at the professional level. And we don’t avoid them, and there’s your result: zero points.”
United have been rendered shorthanded by injury and suspension, and those woes continued when Chris Pontius limped off with a hamstring strain in the first half. The team can take some solace in the impending arrival of a bye week and the opportunity for healing and reevaluation it offers.
“Our backs were against the wall, and I was hoping that we were going to find a way to pull out a result under unfortunate circumstances, but that wasn’t the case,” said D.C. head coach Curt Onalfo.
“We just have to man up. We have to be better individually, we have to be better collectively. And we have to come to fight. It’s a very tough league, both physically, mentally and everything else. And right now it’s not good enough. It’s crystal clear it’s not good enough.”