WASHINGTON – It was an offseason full of change and promise, but when the final whistle blew at RFK Stadium on Saturday night, 2014 looked an awful lot like 2013 for D.C. United.
After a season in which the club only won three of its 34 games, DCU opened its new season with a thud, losing 3-0 at home to the Columbus Crew.
“I felt we'd be in better shape than we were today,” head coach Ben Olsen said in his post-game press conference.
Sporting a starting lineup with seven new faces, including new designated player Eddie Johnson, optimism was high in D.C. For one game at least though, the lofty expectations of 2014 were muted.
“I don't think anybody had a good game on our side and as a group we weren't great, but some of this is to be expected,” Olsen said.
With so many new pieces, some growing pains certainly are to be expected. Still, a three-goal loss at home to a team that finished eighth in the Eastern Conference last season felt somewhat shocking.
“It's always going to be hard to get things right immediately, but we didn't expect to come in here and lose 3-0,” goalkeeper Bill Hamid told reporters.
Despite the result, there was still a slight sense of optimism around United after the defeat. Much of it was due to the feeling that the game was closer than the result may suggest. Columbus executed a beautiful team move for its first goal. The second was the product of a highly dubious penalty decision, and the Crew's third was late in the game with United pushed forward.
“They're not three goals better than us,” Johnson said.
“Yeah absolutely,” defender Bobby Boswell said when asked if he felt the 3-0 result was harsh. “But at the end of the day it doesn't matter how I feel, it's all about the scoreboard. I always say at the end of the year you don't really look back at how the game went down, you look back at points.”
There were moments when DCU was close to clicking offensively, but in the end, a lack of cutting edge in the final third meant the home side managed just one shot on goal.
“I think we were very good honestly,” Hamid said. “I think moving the ball forward we looked very good. I think at times we were organized. I think overall it was a very good performance.”
Olsen didn't quite agree with his keeper on the team's performance, but he did share his optimism.
"It's a long season, I still believe in this crew and you still see at times this group will be fine," Olsen said.
The performance wasn't terrible, but the result was. It was just the first game, but United will hope to put its growing pains in the rear-view mirror as soon as it can.