- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2007

D.C. United always has been known for a stylish and attacking brand of soccer. But after giving up six goals just two games into the new season, United is being forced to re-examine the way it plays the game.

“Maybe we think we are too good of a team that we can be lax on the field in defense, and you can’t do that,” veteran midfielder Ben Olsen said yesterday. “Everybody is going to come flying against us in this league, and if you make a mistake you are going to be punished. We made six mistakes and gave up six goals.”

Last season, United didn’t give up its sixth goal until the sixth game of the season. Only one of those games was a loss.

United has a bye this weekend and doesn’t play again until a trip to Columbus to face the Crew on April 28. First-year coach Tom Soehn will put his team through a double-training session today and likely will tinker with his lineup before the next game.

Midfielder Devon McTavish is an option for Soehn in the left-back role for the erratic Facundo Erpen.

“We are going to take two weeks and fix it,” Soehn said after Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Kansas City Wizards in the home opener at RFK Stadium.

United added a number of offensive players in the preseason, including forwards Luciano Emilio, Brad North and Marc Burch, as well as attacking midfielders Fred and Kasali Casal.

But United failed to add any defenders, now an area of concern for the team.

“We put an awful lot of pressure on our defenders the way we play,” Olsen said. “When you have defenders on the flanks involved in the attack and the ball gets turned over, if players don’t get back, it’s a goal.”

United has only four pure defenders on its current roster, whereas a similar attacking team like the Los Angeles Galaxy lists eight defenders.

“Do we need more defenders? We could always use a couple of pieces,” Olsen said. “We need players on the bench fighting to get onto the field if people don’t shape up.”

Soehn, though, did not blame his defenders for United’s two losses, which include a 2-1 loss to the Colorado Rapids in the season opener April 7.

“What you have to remember is that defending starts with the whole team,” Soehn said. “It starts with the front, how you break down, your reaction to counter-attacks and giving balls away …”

There have been questions whether United should change its traditional attacking 3-5-2 formation and move from three defenders at the back to four.

“It’s not about the formation or the way we play; it’s about giving it all out there and putting the work in and getting the job done,” defender Bobby Boswell said.

With an abundance of midfielders on its roster, United usually plays with three defenders. However, the formation can be susceptible if the offensive play breaks down and a team launches a counter attack like the Kansas City Wizards did Saturday.

“We’ve always had success with three in the back,” defender Bryan Namoff said. “It’s just a matter of everyone being in the right place at the right time.”


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