There is no time for DC United to dwell on the 5-0 loss to the Crew in Sunday’s regular season finale in Columbus. It was the Black and Reds worst loss since 1997, but now has to shift from huge disappointment to high drama and Wednesday’s home playoff game (7:30 p.m. on CSN Plus).
By dropping to fourth place in the Eastern Conference, United will host the fifth-seeded New England Revolution in the single elimination Knockout Round. The winner of Wednesday’s match at RFK Stadium will host game one of a two-legged aggregate goal Eastern Conference semifinal series on Sunday.
There is nothing new about drama with United and the Revolution. In the 2004 Eastern Conference final United defeated the Revolution in one of the best games in MLS playoff history. United won on penalties after the two teams battled to a 3-3 draw over 120 minutes. The Revolution then defeated United 1-0 in the 2006 Eastern Conference final.
Both United and the Revolution had less than convincing finishes to the regular season. The Revs were flying high with an eight game unbeaten run, including seven wins, which spanned from the July 18th to September 16th. It then dramatically changed and the Revolution only collected one win in its final five games; Sunday’s 3-1 win over New York City FC.
For most of the 2015 season United maintained first place in the Eastern Conference and had serious designs on the Supporter’s Shield. Instead the Black and Red is in the Knockout Round mainly because of a six-game winless skid through August and September. There was still a chance to finish in second place, but that was wiped out by Sunday’s nightmare in Columbus.
- Set the tone. United finished the regular season 8-11-2 when allowing opponents to score first. While we praised United’s resiliency, the postseason is not the time to chase a game. Sunday served as a cruel reminder of that as United’s pursuit of an equalizer to close only a one-goal deficit led to a five-goal loss.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. United is at its best when its outside backs, Taylor Kemp and Sean Franklin are able to jump into the offense. For Kemp and Franklin to be involved going forward there has to be possession and that means strong midfield play. The last three games Perry Kitchen and Markus Halsti have partnered in the center of the midfield and it certainly worked in wins over New York City FC and Chicago. Another option might be to move Nick De Leon central, switch Chris Rolfe back to the left flank opposite Chris Pontius, and then start Alvaro Saborio up top with Fabian Espindola.
- The Revolution. Midfielder Lee Nguyen has been the force for the Revs this season with 10 assists as an encore to his last year when he was under MVP consideration and scored 18 goals. Nguyen drives things in a midfield that offers danger from Teal Bunbury on the flank and the distribution skills of Jermaine Jones. Charlie Davies leads the Revolution with ten goals, but his goal on Sunday against NYCFC ended a drought of nine games without a goal.