The State of United: Worst. Team. Ever?

DC United owns 12 major trophies, and incredibly could still garner lucky number 13 with a couple more Open Cup wins this year, which makes United the most successful franchise in MLS’ short history. And it appears very likely after this season you can add another superlative to DC United’s long list of league records, that of worst team in MLS history.

Currently, United sits at 3-14-3 for 12 points in 20 games, which extrapolates out to realistically about 4-22-6, or about 18 points in 30 games. Now, that’s well beyond the previous United record for futility at 8-18-6 for 30 points in 32 games, but it is well within the range of worst records and point totals in MLS history, and that’s assuming DC doesn’t crater completely and fails to win another league match this year in order to take the title outright.

So, first a look at the current candidates for worst team ever as there is some debate. To the stats, please! The ’99 Metros: 7-25 record, 15 points in 32 games, the ’01 Mutiny: 4-21-2, 14 points in 27 games, the ’05 ChivasUSA: 4-22-6, 18 points in 32 games. Now, purists would point out that least number of wins and least number of points over a season means that dreadful Tampa Bay team is the worst ever. But then again the Metros and Chivas have more losses, so what about the old shootout and overtime rules that have since been dropped, and the length of schedule disparity too? How do they affect the final determination, you might ask?

The Metros lived in the bad old shootout days and their record reflects an extra 3 wins and 5 losses that would be ties in the real world, making their record really 4-17-8 which would be 20 points in 32 games. The Mutiny had overtime to contend with as well as a shorter season made even shorter after 9-11. Tampa was 1-2 in OT, so their record should be 3-19-5 and ironically still 14 points, but in only 27 games, so slightly better than half a point a game. Extrapolated out to 32 games, that’s about 17 points and a record of about 4-23-5 for the worst record ever in my opinion. Less points, more losses and draws than the Metros and even Chivas barely, but right in the wheel house of the current DC United squad in you will cast your mind back a few paragraphs.

So, in order to avoid the worst record in MLS history, DC must score at least 6 more points in their final 10 games, either two wins or six draws or something in between. Looking at the remaining schedule that proposition seems a bit grim. DC has five home matches and five away, so normally you’d look to the home matches for hope, but DC is a pitiful 2-7-1 in RFK, so DC might only have one more win in them at home and it better be this weekend against Philly or the heads will go down permanently and the team will not win again anywhere this season.

Even if they beat Philly this weekend, it’s tough to find another chance for points, much less wins at home over the final death march to the blessed end of this nightmare. Maybe a slumping Houston in six weeks, or possibly SJ or TFC could be considered chances for a point or two, as the Crew match is almost a certain loss. But, that only brings DC about five points at best and more likely less since those teams, outside of Philly, are thinking playoffs, while DC has no chance for the postseason and could easily fall into a swoon for the rest of the year (not that indistinguishable from what’s been happening up to now, btw). As for road points, please. At Chivas, TFC, LA, Colorado, and the Fire? All losses, book it.

Which brings me to looking a bit deeper into deciding the worst team in MLS history. Overall wins and losses are one thing, but outright ineptitude has a place too. After all, Tampa and the Metros did score 32 goals apiece, while DC doesn’t even have half that total right now. So, DC is already looking at the worst offense in league history, and while its defense is nowhere near the league worst, the team’s overall goal differential is. Right now DC has a pitiful 13 goals and has given up 35 for a differential of -22. Extrapolated out, that’s maybe 20 goals scored and around 53 given up for a -33 differential (Adjusted up to 32 games makes it almost 21 and 57 for a staggering -36).

The league record for least goals in a season is 27 by the ’09 Metros (and they got 5 in the last game last year whacking TFC in the last game of the season, DC plays TFC in the last game this year, just saying). So, DC needs 15 goals in their last 10 matches to avoid that record, and that is virtually impossible considering the offensive production witnessed to date. Failing a goal burst here-to-for impossible to fathom by this team, the worst offense in MLS history seems a lock for this anemic DC United side this year.

The worst defense in history is safe though, as Colorado gave up a staggering 69 goals in ’98 (in 32 games, but their differential was only -7!). However, Chivas in ’05 scored 31 and gave up 67 for a, you guessed it, -36 in 32 games. TB is the winner though also with a -36 in 2001 (32 and 68) in 27 games, which would be about -43 adjusted to 32 games. So, DC needs to stay well away from giving up another 30 goals or so in the last 10 games (United’s current pace is a mere two goals a game, but they did lose 3-1 in Benny’s first ever home match as coach, and you wonder if the effort will be any better in any future match, so giving up three a game isn’t out of the question). If United do collapse, they will be threatening the differential record for sure, and maybe even the overall defense mark of 69 goals against if they also get poned a few times, like say by LA and the Crew.

DC also has a few more league records in their sights. The MLS shutout record, meaning the most times being shutout, is 15 by Toronto in 2007, and DC already has 13, so that’s virtually in the bag. RSL scored first in only 4 games in ’05 and DC has only scored first twice, so that record is well within sight. So is the lowest home goal scoring record at 15 by Chivas in ’05. DC currently has 7 in RFK and scoring 9 more in only 5 more games seems an impossibility. Adding to that, the home goal differential record is -15 by Toronto in ’07, and DC is sitting on -13 right now. The home losing streak is well within reach too, as RSL lost 6 in a row at home in ‘05, and DC is sitting on 3 straight right now.

Incredibly, the road futility records are totally out of reach though. RSL in ’05 not only went winless (0-14-2) but had a ridiculous -30 goal differential. DC already has a win and is a mere -13 so they can hold their heads up high there.

Bottom line, this DC is well within the conversation for worst team in MLS history unless it plays above itself over the remaining 10 games. It will almost certainly go down as the worst offensive team in MLS history barring a miracle, even if it does scrape itself above the Mutiny line established back in 2001 (right before they were disbanded, chillingly).

Which brings us to one other stat that is almost as chilling given DC’s precarious stadium situation. Attendance right now sits at about 14, 500 (once the Dallas game is added in) and that number is not likely to rise much, if indeed it doesn’t fall to something even worse. The team’s worst ever attendance year was 15,262 in 1996 and 15, 565 in 2003 for comparison. DC averaged almost 21,000 in 2007 and has been falling pretty steadily since then to 16,000 last year and now likely to be barely over 14K. That is gruesome.

Maybe that’s why the motto this year has been it takes more. It couldn’t be more appropriate for this historically bad year.

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