It wasn’t the start anyone wanted, but there is still strong optimism withing D.C. United. With a new squad, we knew it would take more than just preseason for everyone to click, and now the Black-and-Red has two weeks to solve the problems from last night’s match.
“For the most part, the backline was pretty solid,” said Assistant Coach Chad Ashton. Though DCU lost 3-0, the talent level of our back four is evident. There were breakdowns that lead to goals, but, again, it’s a new group with time to work it out.
“The first goal and the penalty kick were the two biggest moments of the game for us,” said Ashton. “Can we communicate and have a center back over closer to Cristian [Fernandez] to help solve the problem? Can Cristian keep the play in front of him? There are multiple ways to solve that problem, but you can certainly see the experience from Jeff [Parke], Bobby [Boswell], and Sean [Franklin] and we’ll get Cristian there from a communication standpoint.”
“The problem” Ashton was referring to was how the first goal was scored—a cross was played on the ground behind our center backs after Cristian and Nick DeLeon were beat by combination play out wide and put away by Jairo Arrieta.
“Nicky’s energy was a little bit low; he was sick and not too many people know that,” explained Ashton. “I think that showed. But, when Cristian is going to step, he needs to get there, and if he can’t get there he needs to foul so he isn’t giving that chance away. We did it three times before we gave that goal away, so we need to solve problems quicker on the field.”
The other two goals came from Frederico Higuain, whose movement off the ball caused some issues for United.
“Higuain causes problem,” Ashton said. “His movement is different, but there are other teams in the league that play similarly. We have to be able to solve that, when players are dropping into the midfield, creating extra numbers in there. We need to be able to handle that. It seemed like we were a man down in the middle of the field.”
But we have offensive weapons that are difficult to defend as well; it will just take some time for our new faces to gel and fit together.
“[Eddie Johnson] needs to figure out where he fits within this puzzle,” explained Ashton. “I thought too many times tonight, he played backwards or faced backwards. That’s not really Eddie’s strength. His strength is to stay high and stretch the defense and get into the box. Maybe at times we didn’t get numbers forward, so he felt like he needed to come back to get the ball. But moving forward, we want to get him high and more aggressive.”
To reiterate, it’s just match one. Not one person in Black-and-Red was satisfied with that result, but, as Boswell said post-match, “it’s a work in progress.” We knew it would be. We knew there would be problems to solve, but we also know we have the tools to solve them.
The communication will get better, the chemistry will come with time and ability to solve breakdowns quickly on the pitch will come along naturally with that improved communication.
Heading into this bye-week, Ashton is optimistic.
“We feel confident we will be able to fix everything,” he said.