WASHINGTON — New D.C. United head coach Hernan Losada didn’t expect his players to be at their best coming into an opening day showdown with NYCFC, but the Argentine was pleasantly surprised after 90 minutes.
For the second time out of the past three years, D.C. United was victorious in its home opener, picking up a comeback 2-1 victory over its Eastern Conference rivals at Audi Field. Despite conceding an early goal and almost allowing a second, DCU did well to become relaxed and eventually play the way that Losada wants them to play, picking up a first three points of the 2021 campaign.
“I am full of emotions because my players gave everything out there tonight,” Losada said in a post match conference call with reporters. “We didn’t hang our heads after conceding first and I was proud of the guys because we played our game and we got rewarded for it with two good goals.”
“My players went in for every tackle like it was the last and they ran their legs into the ground in Week 1,” Losada said. “It’s good to see because we knew it was going to be a test and the players were up for it. Now we have to recover and get ready to do more of the same next week.”
Losada admitted in preseason that due to fitness issues, his players might not be up to the speed they wanted to be. Throw some new players in the mix paired with a new 3-5-2 formation and tactics to gather, it was going to take some time for the D.C. United squad.
Still, Saturday’s performance was one that should give some insight on how DCU will go after plenty of MLS’ best. Central defender Brendan Hines-Ike and defensive midfielder Russell Canouse both chipped in their first goals of the season, providing a positive spark when the attacking players overall still looked in preseason form.
First goal of the season: an absolute rocket 😱 pic.twitter.com/JVTWhpO1EL
— D.C. United (@dcunited) April 18, 2021
It was a job well done for Losada and his players, who not only pressured NYCFC until the final whistle, but limited the attacking abilities of both Maxi Moralez and Jesus Medina.
“It’s good that we got goals from Brendan and Russell because honestly as long as score I don’t care who gets them,” Losada said. “We want to pressure teams and make things difficult for them and I think we did that tonight, whether that was pinning them back or passing around the field.”
“I think we still have a lot of room to grow in this system,” Canouse said. “It was great to get off with a win in our opening game, but we know there are things we can improve on and try to get better at. Taking in a new system was going to take time and we have plenty of more opportunities to get better.”
Offensively, the team did well to keep possession and try to move NYCFC around the field, even if it didn’t end with dangerous opportunities on goal. Erik Sorga, Yamil Asad, and several offensive substitutes did well by pestering NYCFC’s center backs Maxime Chanot, James Sands, and Alex Callens down the stretch and grinding the final minute away.
The good news for Losada is that reinforcements will be returning from injuries. Ola Kamara and Yordy Reyna are experienced MLS players who are expected to be back soon, providing additional help in the final third.
— D.C. United (@dcunited) April 18, 2021
D.C. United will now try to build off this win ahead of a three-match road trip starting with New England next weekend. After delivering a strong debut in Losada’s debut as an MLS head coach, D.C. United will try to follow that up against another Eastern Conference contender.
“It’s important to take the positives from this match and build off them because things can change right away,” Losada said. “We know we did some things good and started the season in the right way, but we want to be consistent in every match and it will be hard if we don’t fix the mistakes.”
“Definitely happy with the goal and the win, but now its about improving for the next match,” Hines-Ike said. “It was good to give the fans a lot to cheer about and we want to keep doing that throughout the season. It’s on us to follow up this performance with a better one.”