A flurry of offseason activity left the Union feeling downright giddy entering their eighth Major League Soccer season. But five games in, the mood has drastically changed.

The Union are looking for more than just answers. They are desperately seeking a single win.

Not only are they 0-3-2 this season, but their total of two points is the lowest in the 22-team league, which includes expansion teams Atlanta and Minnesota.

Compounding the problem is the fact that the Union are 0-8-4 in the regular season since September of last year. That doesn't count a 3-1 loss to Toronto after they limped into the playoffs.

So what has happened to turn the Union from an optimistic team to one whose confidence appears shaken?

Not enough from newcomers

The Union were hoping that English striker Jay Simpson could provide the goal-scoring punch so badly needed in their single-forward attack.

Simpson scored a goal in the second game of the year but injured a rib and departed by the 29th minute. He missed a game, came back to start another, and then was benched for C.J. Sapong in a 3-1 loss Saturday to the visiting Portland Timbers.

Simpson did enter the game in the 79th minute. The Union, who usually go with just one forward up top, paired Simpson with Sapong. We could see more of this pairing.

Veteran Oguchi Onyewu has started all five games at center back. As a player with 69 caps for the U.S. national team, he has been a positive influence on this relatively young team.

Before this year, he hadn't played in a regular-season game in more than two years. While he is among the most intelligent players, Onyewu, who will turn 35 next month, isn't the fleetest. The center-back tandem of Onyewu and Richie Marquez can match toughness with any duo, but teams have taken advantage of the lack of speed in the Union back line.

The Union have missed the speed of second-year center back Josh Yaro, who continues to recover from shoulder surgery in early February.

Midfielder Haris Medunjanin has played well. The 32-year-old veteran, who has 55 caps with the Bosnian national team, is known for his pinpoint passing. He has two assists, including one from a corner kick that Marquez headed in to give the Union a brief lead against Portland.

Midfielder Derrick Jones, a 20-year-old, homegrown product who is seeing his first MLS action, was one of the Union's top performers in their first two games, both draws - 0-0 at Vancouver and 2-2 against Toronto. Since then his play has leveled off. He has great athletic talent, but he rarely takes chances, and the Union would like to see him be more aggressive on the attack.

Midfielder Fafa Picault is among the fastest players on the team and was supposed to be at least a change-of-pace player off the bench. He has appeared in three games totaling 35 minutes and has yet to make an impact after coming over from Germany's St. Pauli.

Defender Jack Elliott, a fourth-round pick from West Virginia, showed well in a brief appearance. He played a half at D.C. United after Marquez left with a concussion, and the home team was held scoreless when he was on the field. Elliott is the only player from the draft class to see action, although the Union didn't own a first-round pick.

Dutch defender Giliano Wijnaldum, 24, has been unable to win the left-back job from Fabinho and has yet to play.

Midfielder Adam Najem, 24, acquired from the New York Red Bulls, has yet to play in MLS action, although he was expected to have trouble cracking the crowded midfield.

Drop from last season

Some of the team's top players from last season haven't played up to the same level or beyond.

Chris Pontius, who was the MLS comeback player of the year with 12 goals and six assists, has one assist in five games.

Right back Keegan Rosenberry, an all-star last season as a rookie, hasn't given an all-star-caliber performance.

Andre Blake hasn't made the dynamic saves he did last year, when he was named MLS goalkeeper of the year.

Midfielder Fabian Herbers, the Union assist leader with seven as a rookie, hasn't been a difference maker.

Fabinho is no better than last season at left back.

Midfielder Ilsinho appears in better shape and he's the best at breaking down defenders, but he hasn't made enough impactful plays and has been caught attempting to get by too many defenders.

One player who has shown improvement is Sapong, who has three of the team's five goals. While he is a physical presence against defenders, his inability to break them down limits his overall effectiveness.

Where should Bedoya play?

Alejandro Bedoya, a key member of the U.S. national team, has been asked to play out of position at the No. 10 spot, the attacking midfielder who plays up high. It isn't his best position, but even if he is moved to his more accustomed No. 8 spot, not as high up offensively, one key question emerges: Who will play the No. 10?

The Union's biggest loss was Tranquillo Barnetta, who played that position last year but decided to return to his native Switzerland.

"I am the one playing that position now and I am doing my best, but it hasn't been good enough," said Bedoya, a stand-up player. Even though he didn't join the team until last August, he has already emerged as team leader.

The Union could use Roland Alberg at the No. 10, as they did when he came on as a reserve against Portland, but the 26-year-old Dutch midfielder may not be good enough defensively. He has appeared in three games for 40 relatively uninspired minutes.

Beyond the blame game

It's always easy to blame the coach when things are going wrong, and the fans have had no problem pointing fingers at Jim Curtin.

Curtin addressed the issue Saturday, basically saying he can take the heat. But it is too simple to say it is the coach's fault.

The team has to show more fortitude and regain its confidence. Bedoya pointed out that the Union haven't handled adversity well. "We have kind of put our heads down after a goal has been scored against us. In general, I think we have to pick ourselves up."

The Union are only five games into a 34-game season that will last until the end of October, so there is plenty of time to regain their footing.

But that's only if they soon stop digging the hole they're in.

mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard