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Back-to-back losses to start busy August foreshadows potential trouble ahead

On the heels of a perfect July for D.C. United (4 wins, no losses)  and seemingly impossible thoughts of challenging for the Supporters Shield , United has come back down to Earth with a mighty thud after poor back-to-back performances on the road in Houston and Sandy, Utah.

United has yet to win in either Houston (Robertson Stadium or BBVA Compass Stadium) or in Sandy (Rio Tinto Stadium) in league play, although United did pull off an improbable 1-0 U.S. Open Cup final last October at Rio Tinto.

Point being is that the optimism that had been building all season for United’s incredible turnaround from the single-worst MLS season in the history of MLS last year seems to have taken a bit of a hit after this tough two-week trip out West.

First off was the stoppage-time goal allowed by United in Houston to deny United a badly needed point. That disappointment was followed by a thorough 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Real Salt Lake this past Saturday night. Bill Hamid had three goals fly by him before he could even register a save for crying out loud.

Granted, flat performances like the one this past weekend have been few and far between this season, especially when they seemed to occur on a week-to-week basis just 12 months ago. However the wounds are still fresh from that craptacular season in 2013 and with it follows some worry about the rest of the month for United.

Before we take a look at the murderers row of matches still awaiting United in August, we have to objectively look back at first 20 games prior to these last two losses.

Home Cooking – 12 of United’s first 20 matches this season came at RFK Stadium. For a team coming off a disastrous 2013, this was certainly welcome news to Ben Olsen and his staff when the 2014 schedule was announced.

Full credit goes to United for taking 24 out of 36 available points in that span (7 wins, 2 losses and 3 draws) but it only leaves United with 5 of their remaining 14 matches at RFK

Road Good/Road Bad – To be fair, United and Sporting KC were the only teams in MLS with winning road records before the two recent road losses. A closer look at the schedule see’s only one win against a team on the road in a current playoff position (2-1 win in Toronto on July 5th) and overall (including home games) only 5 wins out of their 11 have come from teams currently in a playoff position.

The Future – United does have a rare home game in August up next against  the reeling Colorado Rapids this Sunday night at RFK. This is a MUST WIN considering what is coming down the pike.

Now the tough part –  After hosting Waterhouse FC on Wednesday, August 20th at RFK to open United’s CONCACAF Champions league group play, the Black-and-Red’s next two road matches are trips to Sporting KC on August 23rd and the Los Angeles Galaxy on August 27th  (- that’s about as hard a Saturday-Wednesday road trip any team can take – not exactly places teams go to break road losing streaks)

To wrap up an almost impossible month of play with an admittedly thin squad, United will host bitter rivals New York Red Bulls on national television on Sunday, July 31st at 3pm.

How will United look after August is done? – Tough to say. I think it’s important to remember that all teams in MLS struggle at times and United are no different in that regard. In combination with a thin squad and logging a ton or road miles to places where this team traditionally does not fare well, it’s hard to imagine United being very competitive in those matches.

However, the well-earned gift of 37 points in the table currently affords them some losses. I can only really see Toronto FC overtaking United by months end, maybe New York too, but they too have a tough upcoming month, as do most teams in MLS.

It just seems looking in from the outside that United has a bit too much on their plate and getting off to a terrible start with those two losses have not helped the collective psyche of the team. Sunday’s match against Colorado at home is critical in trying to alleviate the pressure of  the upcoming  games. If United can manage a win against Colorado and a win against Waterhouse FC (not a given considering they went to Panama and  beat Tauro FC 2-1 last week), then maybe they can go into that road trap of KC/LA with more confidence than I am currently willing to afford them.

If they lose/draw to Colorado, then I gather it will be a brutal few weeks for D.C. United and their faithful following..

 

Episode 137 – 2014 Season Preview

Join the guys in this extended edition of the Unitedmania.com podcast. The boys look at United’s performance on the Carolina Challenge Cup and then move on to review the Western and Eastern Conference and how each team will end up in the standings. They close out the show with their always entertaining season-ending awards.

The sages among us

 

In an effort to track down whether any of us are sages or not (OK, none of us are, really), I put together a handy-dandy chart to take the current standings after three weeks of MLS play and match that to the predicitons the UnitedMania staff made prior to the start of the season. 

The numbers in the boxes represent how far off the pick was. For instance, all of us predicted Chicago to finish in first, and since the Fire are in first now, we all receive a “0”. However, Chris and I were wildly off on current 2nd place New England, both of us predicting them for last, meaning we get a “5” because we’re five places off. Get the idea? The higher the score, the worse we’ve done at our picks. Mind you, this is early in the season, and it has to play out in full. 

So, with that being said, who’s more accurate so far? Let’s take a look:


Eastern Conference

Eastern Conference Mike Chris Martin Jimmy
Chicago 0 0 0 0
New England 2 5 4 5
DC United 0 0 1 1
Toronto FC 3 0 2 0
Kansas City 1 2 2 2
Columbus 4 4 4 3
New York Red Bulls 2 2 4 2

All of us are about equally accurate with our Eastern Conference picks as of play through the first three weeks of the season.

Chris has three of the top four placements in the east; Mike and I have two, and Martin one, though if you check and see who’s come closest with their picks, it is Mike. Chris is most off about New England and Columbus, while I am also most off with New England. Most of us have been fooled by the Revs and C-bus. 


Western Conference

Western Conference Mike Chris Martin Jimmy
Seattle Sounders FC 7 5 3 3
Chivas USA 1 3 1 1
Colorado 2 5 4 5
Real Salt Lake 2 2 1 2
San Jose 2 2 3 2
LA Galaxy 0 2 3 0
Houston 3 6 5 2
Dallas 1 5 2 1

The numbers are all going to be higher here simply because there are more teams in the west.

That said, only Mike and I have any idea of what we’re talking about in the west (except Mike’s pick of Seattle for last and my Colorado pick, though that was the most consistently off among the picks), though there is a tie for first (separated by goal differential) that would otherwise give three of us perfect scores and bump up another score better.

Mike got hammered by his last place Seattle prediction, but was otherwise pretty close on most of his other picks.

We were all pretty consistent in picking Chivas USA to do well, and LA and Dallas to be where they are, except for Chris on Dallas. And only two of us had a totally accurate pick – Mike and I with LA. 

Taking both conferences as a whole, I just beat out Mike for being the most accurate with our regular season picks as of now. As for the bottom of the UM rankings to date – hello Chris. 

Now for the totals (best to worst):

1. Jimmy    29

2. Mike     30

3. Martin   39

4. Chris    43

Now you know my secret motive for writing this, to toot my own horn. Nope, actually, I didn’t think I’d be this close to accurate given the fact that I likely didn’t watch as many games last year as they have. I’m trying to catch up this year. In the meantime, let us know how you’ve done in your picks so far. Who has surprised you, disappointed you, met your expectations so far this season?

In the meantime, we’ll check in again with this in a few weeks.