By THOMAS FLOYD
WASHINGTON — Over the past few weeks, Ben Olsen took a long look in the mirror. In search of an explanation for his club’s slugglish start, the D.C. United coach scrutinized himself and the coaching staff he’s assembled.
But he’s done with that. After a 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Union on Sunday dropped United to 1-5-1, it’s now up to the roster itself to prove its worth.
“It’s on the players now,” Olsen said. “I’m going to put them under a microscope. We’ll see if that works because they were prepared [Sunday]. I trusted my staff to get these guys prepared. I’ve done that part. I’ve looked at myself and them, and now I’m going to hold [the players] to very, very high standards.”
So after largely maintaining faith in his first 11 this season, mostly adjusting his lineup because of injuries, Olsen has made one thing clear: ”If it’s not working, we’ll make changes.”
Going into Saturday’s trip to face the Columbus Crew, United’s players are officially on notice.
“I believe in the group, but maybe it’s not the players on the field,” Olsen said. “Maybe it’s guys that are waiting. That’s all stuff we’ve got to figure out this week.”
Here are some more notes from RFK Stadium on Tuesday:
PONTIUS SAYS HE IS ‘UNDERPERFORMING’
Following a breakout 2012 campaign that saw him earn Best XI and All-Star Game MVP honors while compiling 12 goals and four assists, United midfielder Chris Pontius has struggled to get going this season.
Although he has gone the full 90 minutes in all seven of United’s matches, Pontius has notched just a single assist with opponents now focusing on his runs cutting in from the left flank.
“When you do go on a bad run like this, your confidence is low,” Pontius said. “I think players have been underperforming, including myself — very much so. I’m my own biggest critic. I know I haven’t played up to my potential, so I’m trying to figure that out.”
Added midfielder Perry Kitchen: “I guess that’s in his own mind, but he just has to continue what he’s good at, and that’s running at guys, being dangerous. I think he’s done that at times. He’s a huge piece for us. We know he can do it. Obviously he’s done it before.”
MIDFIELD PLAGUED BY INJURIES
Against the Union, United were without midfielders Nick DeLeon (hamstring), Marcos Sanchez (ankle), Lewis Neal (groin) and John Thorrington (knee), while playmaker Raphael Augusto was limited with an illness.
Olsen said he is optimistic Sanchez, who did exercises on the side Tuesday, will be available against Columbus. While DeLeon did ball work for the first time since his injury in late March, Olsen noted the winger is “still a ways away.”
“It’s two rosters we have right now,” Olsen said. “We have the healthy roster and we have a roster of some guys out. It’s reality. Are we good enough right now? I think we have the talent to be good enough. The mentality? I’m not sure. That part has to get better.
“There was plenty of talent on that field the other night. I’d take that team talentwise over the Philly team. That’s with three or four injuries. But the mentality wasn’t there, so it’s useless.”
Do you think it’s time for Olsen to make some changes? How much has Pontius’ drop in production contributed to United’s struggles? And how much are injuries to blame?
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