On Sunday, with a win over Atlanta United, D.C. United accomplished something that they had not managed since 2015: win a game in the month of March. That year, the Black-and-Red started the MLS season by beating Montreal 1-0 and then finished the month with a 1-0 victory over the LA Galaxy, thanks to a stoppage-time winner from Chris Pontius.
Since that March 28, 2015 triumph, though, United had navigated their first month of the next three seasons sans victory. That streak was up to 12 games, seven losses, and five draws, before Paul Arriola and Luciano Acosta fired the Black-and-Red past Atlanta United for three points at Audi Field.
Opening day successes or failures don't determine the outcome of the season, but for head coach Ben Olsen, it was good for United to get that first victory out of the way immediately.
"It’s always nice to get the first win," Olsen told media after Tuesday's open practice. "Sometimes it takes a couple of games, because you’re not sure who you are in the first couple of games or first month."
Of course, in 2016 and 2018, United made the playoffs, though they were left scrambling for points in the second half of the season. And both of those teams made significant additions during the summer. Lloyd Sam and Patrick Mullins were the key additions in 2016, while Wayne Rooney and Bill Hamid were big difference-makers last year.
And it seemed like on Sunday night, United quickly found out who they wanted to be in 2019. Olsen reiterated that D.C. caught a little break with Atlanta United maybe more concerned with the upcoming Champions League tie against Monterrey, but that taking advantage of teams trying to figure themselves out might help the Black-and-Red have early success.
"It’s a tricky first month," Olsen said of teams trying to find their identity and getting their fitness right. "Some teams are able to take advantage of it, and we’d like to continue to take advantage of the first four or five games, and see how many points we can get."
This weekend, United get a chance to build upon the Atlanta win by heading to the Big Apple to take on New York City FC. Yankee Stadium has never been kind to the Black-and-Red, but win against the Pigeons would continue to show that United mean business in 2019.
"When we play the Eastern Conference teams, those are our important matches," Arriola said after Tuesday's practice. "If we can go game by game, and have the mentality of each game we have to go out and win, I think we are in good shape."
Kickoff on Sunday is at 3 PM ET, and is the first game that will be broadcast locally in the Washington D.C. area on FloFC.