D.C. United 's protracted run of success gave way to an abrupt end late Thursday at Audi Field when Nick DeLeon's wayward penalty kick sailed into the night, dousing three months of uplifting soccer and sending United prematurely into the offseason. "You have to feel some pride in what we did," defender Steve Birnbaum said. "But it hits you really quick: We don't have practice tomorrow. And that one hurts." It hurt because, with a two-month unbeaten streak heading into the playoffs, United believed it could continue the surge for at least another round, if not all the way to MLS Cup on Dec. 8. It hurt because, after so many spellbinding moments at Audi Field — a new stadium that rocked and rolled for almost three hours Thursday and turned into bedlam when DeLeon scored a wonder goal late in extra time — the magic gave way to a sobering setback. Despite falling short against the Columbus Crew in the first-round match, United will carry greater optimism into this winter than in any break in recent memory. "Looking forward to next season already," English star Wayne Rooney tweeted the morning after the 2-2 draw in which the Crew prevailed in a penalty-kick tiebreaker, 3-2, before a sellout crowd.