By THOMAS FLOYD
WASHINGTON — D.C. United have work to do in the possession department. That much, if nothing else, was abundantly clear during their scoreless draw Saturday at Red Bull Arena.
As New York wore United down by moving the ball with ease, the visitors struggled to cope with the pressure, failing to build while lazy long balls and cheap giveaways becoming all too common.
“The old cycle hits where you defend, you win the ball finally, and nobody moves for each other because you’re exhausted from defending,” coach Ben Olsen said Monday. “It’s a vicious cycle, and it gets worse and worse as the game goes on. … But it’s completely fixable.”
Olsen noted an improved build is in the nuances, saying “2 or 3 yards of work” can make all the difference when it comes to players making themselves available for passes.
But United can take solace in knowing goalkeeper Bill Hamid, named the MLS Player of the Week on Monday for his performance against the Red Bulls, is capable of stealing some points for the team — even if he’d rather not have to.
“I don’t want to make those saves,” Hamid said. “You want it to be a complete team performance and they’re not having that many chances. But when I’m called upon, I’m going to do my job and be there for my teammates.”
Here are some more notes from United training:
OLSEN TALKS BOYS FROM BRAZIL
Olsen on Saturday scratched 20-year-old Brazilian striker Rafael, a pricey offseason acquisition, from the game-day roster in favor of compatriot Raphael Augusto, an attacking midfielder who struggled with knee tendinitis throughout preseason.
“I wouldn’t look too into it,” Olsen said. “It was more just positional need. You go through scenarios — ‘What if this happens?’ — and we thought the odds were that we might need the midfield Rafa over the forward Rafa if we got in trouble.”
Furthermore, Olsen said “it’s a taking a little bit of time” for Rafael to adjust. But he added he still sees “the qualities there that I think fit this league.”
Augusto, on the other hand, has impressed Olsen, though the playmaker on loan from Fluminense since last summer still has made just one appearance: a stint as a substitute in the first leg of the Eastern Conference final against Houston in November.
“He has unbelievable technical qualities, better than I’ve ever seen, better than I’ve ever played with and better than anything I’ve ever coached,” Olsen said. “But there’s a lot more to being successful other than being just a wonderful technical player. We’re evaluating how he fits our group. So that’s my job, and we’ll see how that goes going forward.”
SANCHEZ, RUIZ LEAVE STRONG IMPRESSIONS
Midfielder Marcos Sanchez and forward Carlos Ruiz earned the praise of Olsen after aiding United’s possession game during the second half of the draw at New York.
Sanchez, who will miss United’s game Saturday versus the Columbus Crew while with the Panama national team, came on for the final 14 minutes in place of playmaker Dwayne De Rosario.
“Sanchez kept the ball three or four times, just simple one-touch passing to the next guy, under pressure,” Olsen said. “And those add up over 90 minutes.”
Ruiz, on the other hand, spelled striker Lionard Pajoy for 19 minutes, providing what Olsen said was useful hold-up play as United tried to relieve the pressure.
“Ruiz made a couple plays where it looks so easy,” Olsen said. “Checking, gets the ball off his feet, back and release pressure, and then we go out the other way. He did it a couple times.”
WOOLARD SIGNS NEW DEAL
United on Monday announced they had extended the contract of defender Daniel Woolard. The journeyman, who started 26 matches in 2011 and 20 games last year before being sidelined by a concussion, has appeared in one contest thus far this season.
A left back who also provides cover centrally, Woolard figures to compete with third-year player Ethan White for the opportunity to replace center back Dejan Jakovic (Canada national team duty) against the Crew.
“Daniel has been one of our most consistent defenders over the past two years,” general manager Dave Kasper said. “His versatility and experience helps to make our group of defenders among the best in MLS.”