For all of the anger directed at referee Mark Geiger in the final minutes of D.C. United’s 1-1 draw with Philadelphia on Sunday, United players did plenty of yelling and screaming at each other as the game spiraled out of control.
Chris Pontius took Emiliano Dudar to task after the Argentinian center back got himself red carded. Brandon McDonald got caught spitting fire at fellow defender Chris Korb. Watching the usually composed Branko Boskovic get himself red carded might’ve been the most surprising of all.
“I’m encouraged at that 60 minutes and that guys like Branko showed me that it matters to him, and it matters to a bunch of these guys that we’re in a little bit of a tough patch,” United coach Ben Olsen said. “You can look at it in two ways, but I prefer to look at it as we’re an emotional team right now, and you need to play with emotion in these games.”
Olsen addressed the team’s behavior behind closed doors. It’s not that he wants it to stop; it’s just that behind closed doors is where he prefers it takes place.
“That just can’t happen on camera, that’s my message,” Olsen said. “You want to come in the locker room and throw someone against the wall if they screwed up, that’s part of this. That’s emotional professional sports. But I can’t have it on the field in the camera’s eyes because believe it or not, it happens more than you guys think. Most of it happens behind closed doors and within our family. That’s normal. I’ve been through that, it just can’t happen on the field.”
Pontius clarified that he has anger with Dudar had only to do with the tackle from behind on Antoine Hoppenot.
“It’s just because I want to win games,” Pontius said. “I have nothing personal against the guy. I want to win games, though. Whatever happens on the field happens on the field, and go you back into the locker room, and none of that stuff is brought back in there. I think that’s the main key point.”
Korb also equated his incident with McDonald to “fighting with your brother.”
“Everyone was kind of on edge,” Korb said. “Then just the end of the game, we’re barking at each other, but it’s over in five minutes once you’re in the locker room. We’ve just got to take care of that a little bit better. I think it got blown out of proportion. We talked it over in the locker room, two minutes, it’s over with and back to normal. It happens all the time in practice, all the time in games, and you’ve just got to work your way through it, and I think that’s what we did.”
With Dudar out against Chicago on Wednesday, Korb is likely to shift to right back after playing on the left against Philadelphia while Dejan Jakovic moves back into the middle to replace Dudar. Boskovic was a substitute against the Union, meaning the starting D.C. attack should remain unchanged. Olsen said Nick DeLeon, who was limping noticeably at the end of the Union game, is fine and that United came out of the contest no worse for the wear on the injury front.
Full strength or no, handling the surging Fire (12-7-5, 41 points), who have won three in a row and now sit four points in front of United (11-8-4, 37 points), won’t be easy.
“[Chicago is] a team that’s hit a bit of a stride here,” Pontius said. “They got this [Sherjill] MacDonald guy up front who seems to be pretty dangerous. Attacking-wise they’re very good. [Chris] Rolfe in there too, he’s dangerous, always finding spots on the back side of the defensive mids, in front of the forwards. He’s kind of got that free position to roam, and yet they’ve still got guys like [Patrick] Nyarko and [Marco] Pappa, [Alvaro] Fernandez, who are smart soccer players and can make things happen. So we’ve got to be aware of that. But on the other side, I think at times, just watching video, they get a little complacent, and hopefully we can kind of exploit some of those spaces.”