DC United are on a high. They have just opened Audi Field. They have just signed Wayne Rooney. And now fans are dreaming of the playoffs. It may seem ridiculous, but, actually, it’s not. Here’s why.
It hasn’t been the season that DC United were hoping. Ben Olsen may not have been expecting much more when he ventured into the new season with his most beloved club after a difficult season the year prior and little resource to challenge the evolving MLS, but I am sure that, as the winner that he is, he would have been hoping for more.
In fairness to Olsen, the results have belied the performances. DC may sit bottom of the Eastern Conference with a points-per-game of only 0.93, a mark that is better than only three teams, one of which is Toronto FC who have been ravaged by injuries and an early-season CCL run, but they have not played like a team toiling at the bottom of the barrel.
They have scored the same amount of goals as the Portland Timbers and Columbus Crew, they have conceded fewer than Montreal Impact and only three more than Sporting Kanas City. And the performances have supported the statistics.
A quick perusal of the weekly results would give a very slanted and disjointed picture of this team. But for those that have watched substantial minutes of DC play this year, there is an understanding that this is a team better than what many perhaps think. They proved it at the weekend.
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The 3-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps was as distinctive for the debuts and the celebrations as it was the result and performance. The opening of Audi Field, the introduction of Wayne Rooney, who played a key part in both goals with two one-touch passes that so brilliantly illustrated his brilliance, the resurgence of a team finally reaping the rewards that its efforts deserve. This very much felt like a turning point.
And now fans are dreaming of the playoffs. Yes, fans of a team bottom of the East are dreaming of the playoffs. I know. It sounds ridiculous. But, actually, it isn’t. In fact, it’s completely and utterly plausible, however stupid that may sound.
Yes, DC are at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, and yes, this season has not progressed as they would have liked, but there is reason for hope. First and foremost, they have only played 15 games this season. Only one other team has played less than 19 games. If they were to win their four games in hand over the Philadelphia Union, for instance, United would sit just one point behind them.
Obviously, that is a fanciful state of affairs that is extremely unlikely to take place. But the point made still stands: Olsen’s team are not out of touch of the playoff races — the Union sit just one place and three points, with a game in hand, out of the playoff standings. And the now also have momentum.
The signing of Wayne Rooney will have ramifications on the pitch, inevitably, hopefully positive ones, for DC’s sake. But he also provides hope and inspiration for the club, his new teammates, the fans that support them. There is now a positive atmosphere surrounding this organisation. That has an effect.
Moreover, DC have only played three games at home. Of those three, they’ve won two of them. With a further 14 to come during the second half of the season, they have the chance to continue that momentum at a new home, all inspired behind a new hero.
There is a gap between DC and the playoffs. They have ground to make up. Lots of it. But it is not completely ridiculous. There is reason for dreaming, and so those fans may dream.