D.C. United Notes: Olsen puts players under microscope; Pontius feeling pressure; and more

Olsen (Getty)

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.”

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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?

Share your thoughts below.

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21 Responses to D.C. United Notes: Olsen puts players under microscope; Pontius feeling pressure; and more

  1. ed - houston says:

    So much for Pontius to be included in the USMNT talk.

  2. DCUnitedWillRiseAgain says:

    The main change they need to make is to get a forward who can finish. Pajoy is not that guy. Ruiz is no longer that guy. Rafael is not that guy yet.

    Get a guy.

    Maybe it’s the little kid from Chivas – Casey Townshend. Or maybe it’s the Jamaican kid -Michael Seaton. Maybe we have to spring for another DP (they still don’t have to purchase the third slot since Rafael is young DP). If Pontius is not keyed on, he’ll be fine. So once we get a guy, and they can’t key on him and DeRo, his production will be back.

    At any rate I am not going to panic. Long season. Bad start with lots of projects and injuries/suspensions. They will have to hoof it to make the playoffs of course, but this team is not as bad as their current record.

  3. Sergio of SF says:

    Carlos Ruiz, throw him in please.

    • DCUnitedWillRiseAgain says:

      You mean throw him out of course. Have you actually seen him “play” lately? He runs like my gran. Still got the magic feet, but can’t get open to use them.

  4. DCUnitedWillRiseAgain says:

    By the way, Lewis Neal’s injury should be referred to by it’s correct medical terminology… a pubic stress reaction.

    Why would you ever pass up the opportunity to use those words in an article?

  5. elgringorico says:

    United are a sad story right now. They aren’t the worst team in the league but their record doesn’t show it. They lost a lot of passion from last season, somehow. It’s amazing how important both Andy and Basko were to this team. Pontius and DeRo need to put on their big boy pants and start making something happen. I hope this Rafael signing wasn’t a total flop, like all other DP signings in this team’s history.

    In conclusion: =(

    • Josh D says:

      And that’s the thing that bothers me. We were promised a DP striker and given a kid and Ruiz. We got rid of three great players and replaced them with mediocre players.

      This quote really bothered me: “It’s on the players now.” Way to distance yourself Benny. You picked the players. You set us up for this situation. And your tactics have been awful. It’s on you, the coach, not the players. We already know Pajoy sucks. Change it up.

    • fischy says:

      More than passion, they lost speed.

      With Najar, their defense was quicker. Woolard has been abused. Also, although Najar didn’t create or score a lot of goals, opponents had to respect his skills and his dribbling prowess. Without him, United are much easier to attack and much easier to defend.

      Plus, everyone else is a year older and slower. DeLeon gained weight and lost speed. Pontius is probably still a little cautious about his groin. DeRo and Ruiz are both showing their age. And Pajoy is no Salihi…or Santos.

    • JAY NT says:

      ” They aren’t the worst team in the league but their record doesn’t show it.”

      you’re not the only DC fan who feels this way, but…who is worse?

  6. a says:

    DC JUST PLAINS SUCKS THIS YEAR. THEY NEED TO GET A REAL COACH AND REAL PLAYERS.

  7. PD says:

    B.O. is holding up the wrong fingers….

  8. Johnathon says:

    Big reason why they don’t seem as good in attack is due to the loss of Najar who is wasting his time on the bench in Belgium, having him and DeLeon on the right side together caused defense’s fits all season. Team just isn’t the same w/o him.

  9. bryan says:

    /facepalm

  10. Enos says:

    DC doesn’t have anyone in the middle of the field that can do anything with the ball. Christian Gomez has never been replaced. The team is trying to squeak by on the cheap until the new stadium is built — that’s why Olsen’ is coaching. Nobody else wanted the job (see Caleb Porter). Don’t expect any improvement until then.