The only thing that changed for D.C. United was there were fewer witnesses.
But the early lapses, the shaky offense, the unlucky calls and bounces were all too familiar in a 4-0 defeat against the Houston Dynamo that pushed United's losing streak to six games in a row.
A season-low crowd of 10,116 was announced at RFK Stadium, but maybe half that many were in attendance to watch a team that crumbled defensively, lacked composure with the ball in attack and can't buy an ounce of good luck anywhere.
"Most of all, I'm disappointed in the lack of character right now," United midfielder Dwayne De Rosario said.
Will Bruin scored twice for the Dynamo (6-2-2, 20 points) - giving him nine goals in nine career appearances against D.C. United (1-7-1, 4 points) - and had two assists. Houston ran its unbeaten streak to five games and ran roughshod even though it was the squad playing on short rest after beating the Los Angeles Galaxy on the road three nights before.
"That's one thing we knew that if we could get on them early their heads would go down and maybe they wouldn't have as much fight," Bruin said.
On a swift attack in the 16th minute, United center back Dejan Jakovic's faulty lunge left Bruin alone to put the visitors in front by chipping the ball just over the outstretched arms of onrushing goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who was forced to come well off his line.
Bruin could've doubled his total only to blast his shot off the crossbar from close range in the 25th minute, but three minutes later, Jakovic and Hamid again erred badly. Jakovic's late back pass was scuffed by Hamid, who sent it directly to Bruin's feet. Jakovic tried to sweep the ball away, but instead Bruin centered to a wide open Giles Barnes for an easy 2-0 lead.
"I shouldn't have played that ball to him at all," Jakovic said. "It put him in a tough situation on his weaker foot. Just overall, a nightmare of a game for me. A lot of mistakes."
Meanwhile, United coach Ben Olsen didn't get anything from swapping forward Lionard Pajoy out of the starting lineup for the first time all season. Rafael took Pajoy's place and was a physical presence but struggled to connect passes and get off shots.
Olsen raged in the locker room at halftime to spark an improved stretch to start the second half, and D.C. couldn't have come any closer to cutting the deficit in half in the 63rd minute. But Dwayne De Rosario was denied twice on goal-line blocks by Kofi Sarkodie, the second which may have been over the line as it was saved with Sarkodie well inside the goal.
With United pushing numbers forward, Bruin shed Jakovic again for his second goal in the 78th minute and set up Andrew Driver in the 88th to put United away.
Olsen lamented the readiness of his players but was also asked about his own job security.
"I don't worry about my job because I understand coaches get fired, and I've seen coaches get fired for less than [D.C. United's current losing streak]," Olsen said. "But I don't worry about it. That's completely out of my control. Is my job on the line? It better be. I'm the leader of this team, but I have faith in what I'm doing, and I'll continue to go about my work."