So, how should we look at these first two results of the season? Are they valiant points earned under tough circumstances, or the wasteful loss of four points that were right there for the taking? More importantly, what do these results portend for the future, if they mean anything at all that is.
Obviously, the results after two games are hardly prophetic. For example, DC has started off 0-2 three times and those seasons run the gamut of excellence to horrifying. On the good side, 2007 started with two losses, but DC rebounded and dominated the league for their fourth Supporter’s Shield. And in 1996, DC was also famously inept to start the season and struggled to become adequate, but got hot in the end and won the double that year. Then again, the Dark Ages began with a 0-2 start in 2000 as DC reeled to the worst record in their history.
Of course, United was so tantalizingly close to 2-0, and that would certainly be a lot more promising. DC has rung up two wins to start the season three times and each time, during the golden age from ’97 to ‘99, they finished the season with an MLS Cup, Supporter’s Shield, or a CONCACAF Cup and Inter-American Cup, at least one major trophy if not two.
But, incredibly DC has never started with two ties before. They have started undefeated outside of those 2-0 starts though, and those were pretty promising years too. From ’04 to ’06 DC was 1-0-1 and won an MLS Cup and two Supporter’s Shields. They have also started winless once before too. In ’03, they started with a loss and a tie, followed by two more ties, and ending with a mediocre record and out of the playoffs resulting in Hudson getting fired. Ironically, 1-1 is actually the worst record for DC ever. All three times they’ve done that including last year, they’ve finished out of the playoffs averaging 15 losses a season, so I suppose maybe it’s good DC hung on to those ties as opposed to winning one and losing the other.
But, what about hanging on to ties? Is it better to take the lead and give up the tie, or give up the lead and scramble back to tie? Are there degrees of ties? Look at the defending champion Crew, they are sitting right with DC at two points, but they have to feel good about snagging a point in Houston with a comeback, and could feel just unlucky by giving up the tying goal on a freaky own goal. DC had two very winnable games in their grasp and gave them up. Psychologically is that worse?
DC has some good excuses too though, certainly better ones than the Crew anyway. DC was missing 4 or 5 starters each game and that ridiculous penalty kick in LA, as well as a freaky head banging totally changing the game. All valid extenuating circumstances but at the end of the day, excuses are just that. The standings are unchanged and the Crew have a shiny new trophy in their tiny case to help keep them confident going forward, while DC can’t afford to get off to a slow start after last year’s debacle.
Which brings up some interesting thoughts. First of all, Houston is coming to town this weekend (also a visit to Rio Tinto looms the next weekend), and United’s record against them isn’t exactly a confidence builder. Second, who will be available for United coming back from injury, and finally does Soehn actually have a longer leash than most people expect?
Well, points one and two will get dealt with in my pre-game Friday, but point three is intriguing. Will Chang was quoted this week as talking about this being a rebuilding year for DC United, and McFarlane also alluded to getting back to winning championships over the next few years. Granted those could have been taken out of context, but it does make one wonder if Soehn might not be under as much pressure as is commonly thought, which would certainly explain his being (in my opinion) overly cautious in easing players back into the lineup. So, maybe those four lost points aren’t quite so crucial.
Also, the players themselves may be simply chalking it up to fate and taking things game by game, not worrying about the long term which will take care of itself if they continue to work hard and put themselves in position to win games.
Still, those nagging ties won’t go away. Ironically, if United was given the choice before the season of chalking up those two points before the season started, it’s not hard to think they would have taken them. Risking a bloodbath in the Toolbox with Donovan dropping 3 or 4 into the nets? Or having the Fire trot in here and pummel DC physically and on the scoreboard like they did last year? No thanks. we’ll take the two and go about our business. But, after the games were played, those two ties have to be galling as those wins and the top of the table in the East were literally stolen away.
DC is in uncharted waters and the course ahead is pretty foggy. Tough to say how this plays out, but it should be fun to watch it unfold. On the good side, DC has yet to be beaten, but on the bad side they haven’t beaten anyone else either. How’s that for a conundrum to ponder this April Fool’s Day?