D.C. United Need To Get Luciano Acosta Back Into 2018 Form After NYCFC Loss

D.C. United were hoping to get back to a bit of normalcy on Sunday at Audi Field but instead lost 2-0 to New York City FC. Last year, in the inaugural season at the new stadium, United never had a winless streak. In winning 12 of the 15 games on Buzzard Point, United never had setbacks in consecutive games. 

With Sunday's loss, D.C. have now gone three games without a win at Audi Field, having not scored a single goal. Offensively, United never got out of first gear against City, failing to really test keeper Sean Johnson over the course of the game. At the other end, United were probably lucky to have only conceded twice, as Maxi Moralez missed a penalty at the end of the first half. 

United have two games on the road this week: at the Columbus Crew and Minnesota United. After starting the season so well, D.C. will now have to try to get back on track on the road, where they are currently undefeated in 2019.

Here are a couple of talking points from Sunday's loss to City:

1. Where's The Offense?

On March 31, D.C. United scored a 2-1 win at Orlando City to end the month with three wins from four games, scoring nine goals and conceding just once. The Black-and-Red were held scoreless just once — during the second week of the season at New York City FC. It was a small sample size, but United were feeling good about themselves four games into the season.

Fast forward to April 22 and the outlook isn't quite as bright for D.C. 

Since that win against Orlando, United have one win, one draw, and two losses in four games. United have been shutout in three of those games, all at home, scoring three times and conceding eight. And the three goals scored came in an eight-minute stretch against the Colorado Rapids, the only team left in the league without a win after Week 8.

On Sunday, United's attack lacked any semblance of the squad that was finding the back of the net all sorts of ways in the first month of the season. Opportunities to stretch City's defense, or get in behind were few and far between, and when those occasions presented themselves, D.C. didn't have the ideas or ability to make the chances count. 

A big part of the equation right now is having to use Paul Arriola out of position with two injuries at left back. That's robbing United of a pacey option in midfield. On Sunday, Arriola started at left back and had little influence on the game in the attacking end. In the second half, the USMNT player was moved further up as United changed formations, and Arriola was able to get more involved. Ben Olsen needs to find a way to keep Arriola engaged offensively for United to find a way out of their funk.

2. Getting Lucho Back In The Grove

Luciano Acosta is by no means having a bad season, but the Argentine magician seems to be falling short of the impossible standards he set in the second half of last season. Acosta, through eight games this season, has two goals and two assists. After Lucho did as he pleased last year after the arrival of Wayne Rooney, teams in 2019 have seemed to be able to key in on the playmaker, limiting his production.

Acosta scored last week against the Rapids, helping United turn a deficit completely around. Acosta didn't get an assist for Chris Durkin's goal, but the feed into Lucas Rodriguez was pivotal in creating the go-ahead goal.

But on Sunday, New York City — who had not won a game yet this year — were able to get the better of Acosta. United's No. 10 had just one shot, one key pass, and one successful dribble through the course of 90 minutes. The key pass probably should have led to a goal, as Rooney mistimed a jump on the cross, but it was clear that Acosta just didn't have the kind of influence on the game that fans became accustomed to last year.

And that's not gone unnoticed by his manager either.

"He’s not at his best right now. Teams are doing a good job on him," said Olsen after the game.

It might not take much to get Acosta back in his top gear, but Olsen, Acosta himself, and his teammates around him need to find a way to get Acosta back playing at his best.

3. The Week Doesn't Get Any Easier From Here

There are no sure things in MLS, but coming off a week of rest, at home against a team without a win, United probably were counting on picking up three points on Sunday. Instead, they head out west with zero, putting a bit more emphasis on Wednesday's game against the Columbus Crew and Sunday's tilt against Minnesota United.

Both opponents are coming off losses of their own, but both trips will present difficult challenges for the Black-and-Red. The Crew lost at home on Saturday to the Portland Timbers, the surprise result of the weekend. However, MAPFRE Stadium has been a house of horrors for United.

The last time D.C. walked away from the Ohio capital with all three points was on August 18, 2007, when United won 2-0. Since then, the two teams have faced off 11 times at MAPFRE, with Columbus winning eight, and drawing three. The Crew hold a 22-5 advantage in goals scored in those games.

If United find a way to win on Wednesday, it will put an end to years of pain in Ohio.

And if that task wasn't daunting enough, United then have to go to Minnesota to play at the brand new Allianz Field. The other United opened their brand new stadium last weekend, and played a thrilling 3-3 draw against NYCFC. Not quite the performance that D.C. had when they opened Audi Field last July, but the hosts will be hoping to taste victory for the first time at their AF.

If the Black-and-Red can get a couple of results, they'll feel better about themselves after Sunday's loss. But that loss has put a bit more pressure on the next two games than expected.  

Roma Defender Chris Smalling Has Been Stellar In Italy

As if he’d not made enough of an impression since joining AS Roma on loan from Manchester United in the summer, defender Chris Smalling really stood out as an exceptional talent on the week of his 30th birthday. 

Hofstra Coach Simon Riddiough Doesn't Need The Power 5 To Define Success

By Jerry Beach

Simon Riddiough, the head coach of the Hofstra women’s soccer team, spent about two minutes of a 21-minute interview Tuesday afternoon discussing why he’s content at the Long Island school and not planning to see if he can replicate his success with a higher-profile Power Five school that would offer the resources and opportunities to make a deep NCAA Tournament run that are generally lacking in the mid-major arena.

Carlo Ancelotti, Aurelio De Laurentiis & Napoli Are In Complete Chaos

It’s hard to believe that only as far back as April 22, 2018, Napoli beat Juventus 1-0 in Turin to move top of the table with only four games remaining. Maurizio Sarri — himself now in charge at Juve — had broken the club record points total in each of the previous two campaigns, and would do so again in 2017-18, but the Naples men ultimately finished second, albeit with yet another unseen total of 91 points.

Canada Has An Opportunity To Prove Their Standing On Friday Against USMNT

This is the moment of truth for Canada's men's national team. 

Concacaf Nations League Returns For Final Group State In November

After nearly a month of waiting for the Concacaf Nations League to kick back into gear, the tournament is finally back this week with the final two matchdays in group play. 

Seattle Sounders & Toronto FC Clash With The MLS Cup On The Line

Just over a week after the Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC went on the road and upset the favorites, MLS Cup 2019 is on the horizon as the 24th season in league history comes to a close. CenturyLink Field in Seattle will be the epicenter on Sunday at 3 PM when the two sides face off in the MLS Cup final for the third time in the past four years. 

Paulo Fonseca & The Unlikely Resurgence Of AS Roma In Serie A

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Potential USMNT Contributors From The Nations League Pre-Camp

November 15 could be a day of reckoning for Gregg Berhalter and the United States men's national team. After last month's 2-0 defeat to Canada — the first loss to their neighbors in 35 years — Berhalter needs a win in Orlando to help rectify the USA's position in the first-ever Concacaf Nations League. Anything other than a win would mean that Canada will advance to the semifinals, a shocking result for the U.S.

10 Things In Italy: Mario Balotelli, de Ligt Handballs & Conte's Inter

With the action in Italy heating up both on and off the field, it’s time to get you caught up with what’s been happening in the world of Serie A and, as always, “10 Things” is here to bring you right up to date.

Concaclusions, Ep. 9: Pulisic Strikes Again, Jiménez Haunts Arsenal

Another round of club play is in the books, and several of the region’s top players were in the headlines once again through clutch goals, quality performances, and even uncharacteristic errors.