Positively Room for Improvement

For some teams in Major League Soccer, clear improvement from Week 1 to Week 2 would have been enough to please the coaches, players, and fans. But not for D.C. United. For D.C., the improvement was expected and it was important, but with back-to-back losses to begin the season, the thing that matters most is the bottom line. There are no moral victories, and the coaches, players, and especially the fans are starting to get a little cranky. Rightly so.

It was a decent performance from D.C. this weekend, but, after allowing the two late goals, there was no reward and the team is frustrated. When teams face adversity, it’s up to the coach to help keep the players focused. After only two games on the job, Curt Onalfo needs to act as a psychologist. In the post-game press conference, he gave us a taste of what his approach would be, “As far as I’m concerned there are a lot of good things to build on and that’s what I’m going to focus on… I’m just going to make sure our group stays positive and that we learn from these issues we had today.”

Onalfo is very honest and does not try to hide his positivity. He doesn’t make excuses, he doesn’t point fingers. Frustration can lead to a lot of other negative emotions, but Coach Onalfo seems determined to not allow that to happen to his team. Youth is served on Onalfo’s roster, as almost all of the players are either young in age or young in MLS. There may be some times when anger and derision can motivate a team that has been under achieving, but not with so many youngsters. Imagine a child learning to read while teachers were overly critical or publicly ridiculing. It’s hard to imagine that child staying motivated to continue. Imagine the same child struggling, yet receiving positive reinforcement and support. Which situation would you prefer? For D.C. United, everybody is going to have to learn and adapt quickly, but as with anything in life, it is much easier to learn and succeed in a positive environment. A positive environment is the one thing that Onalfo can control 100%.

The right attitude will help to correct the flaws that D.C. United has shown through the first two weeks of the season, but as noted earlier, the wins need to start coming. D.C. begins the season with six consecutive games against the Eastern Conference. A match against an intra-conference team means that standings points are worth twice as much. That is bad news since United has started poorly, but it also means that there is ample opportunity to gain ground in a hurry in the East over the next four weeks.