D.C. United's Hernán Losada's focused on elevating play in first MLS season

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Julius Long
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D.C. United's new coach hopes change can spark new level of play originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Just three months after arriving from Belgian club Beerschot, new D.C. United coach Hernán Losada will get his first taste of Major League Soccer competition when New York City FC visits Audi Field for the club's home opener on Saturday, April 17. For the coach who spent most of his playing and coaching career in Belgium before becoming the youngest coach in the MLS, establishing his identity in a new country and new league will go hand-in-hand with his quest to restore D.C. United’s lost identity as a title contender.

Losada spoke frankly to reporters earlier this week about the challenging circumstances he and the team must overcome to play a competitive brand of soccer this season. After a preseason preview of next Saturday's home opener ended in a 2-1 loss to NYCFC, he said his expectations for this season would not center around results, but an established system of play.

“The expectations are to settle a way of play that D.C. United haven’t been playing for the last 15, 20 years. To have an identity, to play every game to win, that’s my biggest expectation for the first season, not only the first couple of months,” Losada said.

“I don’t believe that the results are going to be there so quick. I hope and we are working for that, but our main goal is that when you guys are watching D.C. United that at least you have a good feeling with the way we’re playing and you know exactly what we want.

"You’re going to see a D.C. United going for the win every weekend. That’s the biggest part. To have an identity, a way of play where the players know exactly what to do in every situation of the game. That’s my goal. I don’t focus too much on results, especially in the first months.”

April 17 will be D.C. United's first competitive match since November 8, 2020--which was a 3-2 defeat to a 10-man Montreal Impact that closed the curtain on a disappointing season and Ben Olsen's 10-year tenure as head coach. A six-month layoff from competitive play is unheard of in the world of soccer. But it is by no means an acceptable excuse for the Black and Red.

Last year, as Major League Soccer celebrated 25 years of competition, it was impossible for the club and its supporters to avoid the harsh reality of how far they’ve strayed from their original dynasty. Internally, that realization has only heightened expectations.

External expectations, however, have perhaps reached an all-time low after winning just 5 of their 21 matches last season. Pointsbet, NBC Sports’ official betting partner, has given Losada’s side the worst odds of winning the Eastern Conference (+5,000) and the MLS Cup (+10,000).

But with veteran contributors returning from injury and young offseason acquisitions expected to make an immediate impact in Losada’s high-pressure, fast-paced system, it’s entirely too early to place a limit on what this team can do.