In the week leading up to D.C. United'sseason-opener against Sporting Kansas City, the message from Head Coach BenOlsen was clear. The Black-and-Red had to win possession andkeep it. Allowing a dangerousKansas City side to have control of the ball was not in United's bestinterests.
But from the first minute of Saturday's 1-0loss, the club missed out on its prime objective. Long ball after long ball bypassed D.C.'s midfield asSporting poured pressure on United's back line. The resulting lack of possession played to Kansas City'sfavor as the visitors quickly took control of the match.
"We were pretty one-dimensional as awhole," Olsen said afterwards."We wanted to [play direct] early, but we needed to find forwards'feet and then come back and switch the point of attack, and that part wasmissing."
Aware that Kansas City would throw numbersforward early, United hoped to weather the first quarter-hour by playing as faras possible from their own goal.But by the time the match settled down, the Black-and-Red defense hadbecome too comfortable simply launching the ball forward. Forwards Dwayne De Rosario and Hamdi Salihi then spent mostof their energy engaged in aerial duels with Sporting's physical defense.
"The backs weren't putting their heads up,myself included," admitted Robbie Russell. "It's a tendency that you can kind of revert to andwe've got to be better at not doing that.We have guys that can possess the ball and we need to take advantage ofthat. It was our fault for notfollowing the game plan."
"We tried to go to goal and to score inthe wrong way I think," added Salihi. "We have to move the ball, to waitand to be patient. [We can't] justkick it and go with no idea to goal."
On the rare occasions that United did findsuccess in build-up, the side failed to threaten Kansas City's goal. In fact, Sporting goalkeeper JimmyNielsen wasn't forced into a single save all night. A perfect example came in the 39th minute, when ChrisPontius combined brilliantly with Dwayne De Rosario atop Sporting's box. Pontius pushed his effort just wide, anopportunity the Californian was loathe not taking full advantage of.
"I broke through that one time, and I need to put that ball onframe. At least make [Nielsen]make a save and I didn't do that," Pontius lamented. "I should have finished it. That should've been a goal fromme."