It may have marked New York’s first league win in the nation’s capital in five years, but for D.C. United, Saturday’s 2-0 loss to the Red Bulls at RFK Stadium was all too familiar.
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Five games into their 2010 campaign, United find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle that threatens to turn their early-season slump into an outright tailspin towards historic levels of impotence.
All three of the team’s home matches have unfolded in nearly identical fashion: D.C. start well, look the better side in the first half but fail to capitalize on the scoreboard, allowing their opponents to snatch victory with late, backbreaking goals.
Little wonder that frustration has turned to anguish around RFK Stadium.
“It’s the same story every single home game,” lamented midfielder Kurt Morsink. “We play well, we dominate the first half, we have chances, we don’t finish. We give up two soft goals and lose the game 2-0. Honestly, it seems like the same nightmare, to be honest, three straight times.”
The pattern has sent United tumbling to their worst-ever start and leaves them flirting with league records for wretchedness like the 0-6 spring endured by New England in 2001 or even Kansas City’s 0-7 beginning to the 1999 season.
United seemed to have turned a corner with Wednesday’s 4-2 U.S. Open Cup play-in victory over FC Dallas. But a return to league action marked a return to some of the same bad breaks—and bad habits—that have plagued the Black-and-Red since First Kick in Kansas City, and on Saturday Salou Ibrahim’s opening goal shortly after halftime prompted a noticeable sag in the squad’s collective body language.
“When you’re fragile, like we are at this point because the results haven’t been going our way, more than anything in the second half, giving up that goal, I thought, really hurt us,” D.C. coach Curt Onalfo said. “Our response wasn’t good after that. There was a good effort in the first half and I thought that we were outcompeted in the second.”
The unhappy situation has even driven goalkeeper Troy Perkins to contemplate some distinctly unconventional schemes to break the hex that has settled over his side.
“I don’t know what it is,” admitted the D.C. goalkeeper. “Maybe we need to sacrifice some goats or chickens to get this off of us. But you know, we’ve got to stay positive, we’ve got to keep our heads up. It’s going to come.”
Charles Boehm is a reporter for MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.