A 2-0 defeat to the rejuvenated Union, which improved to 12-11-3, good enough for fifth place in the Eastern Conference before an announced 17,692 at Audi Field left Ben Olsen’s side stuck in eighth place entering the final eight weeks of the campaign. United (7-11-6) has still played fewer games than the rest of the Eastern Conference, but empty performances, particularly at home, are not helping the cause of getting into the top six.

“We just lacked quality, and a lot of that is fatigue,” Olsen said. “We got in good spots and just didn’t have that extra bit of power. It was just kind of stagnant.”

While United labored, C.J. Sapong, a Northern Virginia native, scored in the first half and Fafa Picault struck 15 minutes after intermission to end United’s home winning streak at four. After scoring nine goals in a three-game span, D.C. has gone scoreless in the past two outings and must now prepare for a visit by MLS Cup favorite Atlanta United on Sunday.

“No excuses,” forward Wayne Rooney said. “They were the better team.”

United labored in trying to replicate the artful rhythm that had helped revive the season. Aside from Luciano Acosta’s moments of brilliance — and the fleeting menace of Acosta’s partnership with Rooney — D.C.’s passing was off, its movement a bit slow and its decision-making suspect in the final third of the field.