- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 22, 2011

There’s an adage in soccer: “Win at home and tie on the road.” Ties on the road are fine, but at home they taste bitter.

D.C. United’s 2-2 tie with Chivas USA on Wednesday night at RFK Stadium in front of 14,849 was indeed bitter for their coach and players, and certainly endemic of the club’s poor form at home this year.

The four-time MLS Cup winner has only three wins at RFK in 13 games and is tied for the worst home record (3-3-7, 16 points) in the league. Now United have to face red-hot Real Salt Lake, who arrive at RFK on Saturday riding a five-game winning streak.

After taking a two-goal lead against Chivas on goals by Dwayne De Rosario and Ethan White, United (8-8-11, 35 points) allowed Chivas striker Juan Pablo Angel to score two late goals. The club again shot a lead, squandered crucial points at RFK and blew a chance to get back into the playoff picture. To make it even more painful, De Rosario missed an injury-time penalty kick. Only 11 days before, United had thumped Chivas 3-0 in Carson, Calif.

United were eager to get total points from the Chivas game and then hopefully beat Real Salt Lake for their first two-game winning streak since June 2009. The club has gone 73 matches without back-to-back wins. Getting that monkey off United’s back will have to wait.

“It’s absolutely going to stop — it has to stop, or we will not make the playoffs, it’s that simple,” said United coach Ben Olsen, who was livid with his team’s performance against Chivas. “The way we fade in and out of games as a group, the way we take breaks, is the reason why we haven’t had two games in a row.”

With seven games left in the regular season, four at home, United need to solve their home-field woes quickly. But it doesn’t get easier. High-flying Real Salt Lake is second in the Western Conference and coming off a stunning 3-1 midweek win at the New York Red Bulls.

To get result against Real Salt Lake (15-7-6, 51 points) United will have to deal with team captain Kyle Beckerman, who has a career-high nine assists. The Crofton, Md., native is the heart and engine of the Utah team.

Against Chivas, Olsen said his players played “like boys” and were “soft,” and he questioned the mentality of some players. He was baffled at why the club keeps stumbling at home.

“It’s there — the talent is there, but talent is not enough,” Olsen said. “I have been on terrible teams and won games because we had guys that would do anything — anything to win a game. And that means if they are tired, if they lose the ball, they don’t stop. If you have to run 40 yards as hard as you can to tackle or to help a teammate, you do it. And that part is missing, and it has got to stop.”

The Eastern Conference is so tight that with a good late run United could not only make the playoffs for the first time since 2007, but even snatch the conference title. United are only six points adrift of conference leaders the Columbus Crew and have two games in hand over the Ohio club.

“We have games in hand, but we have to get points in these games,” said midfielder Stephen King. “We have great fans, and we want to award them. It stings not be able to do that at home.”

Veteran midfielder Clyde Simms felt the team did better on the road because for the younger players there was more team discipline regarding eating habits and sleep.

“We are a young team and on the road all the team meals are provided for you,” Simms said. “You have to be at meals on time and staying with the guys in the hotel you get the right amount of sleep. Maybe some guys are not doing that [before home games].”