In their third and final match of the regular season, DC United’s luck caught up to them as they fell to Orlando City 1-0. Despite losing two games in a row for the first time this season, United remains four points atop the Eastern Conference (even though most of the conference have at least a game in hand).
Let’s be clear, United did not play well in this match, and have struggled mightily in the attack in recent weeks. However, with so many players in and out of the lineup due to injury, suspensions, and international callups, United have struggled to gain much consistency in their starting 11. On top of that, a brutal stretch of games in the month of June surely took its toll on the squad both mentally and physically.
Last season, Fabi and Silva did the majority of the scoring for United. This season, they have barely played together. In the case of Silva, he has hardly played at all. Despite this, a look at the Eastern conference shows that things are not all bad. Sure, Orlando and Toronto are slowly climbing the table, but the Crew, Revolution, and Red Bulls have struggled in recent weeks.
If other clubs in the Eastern Conference fail to find consistency, and United can continue to win at home, and improve their record against Eastern Conference opponents, topping the conference is still very much a possibility.
Personally, I’m not too high on our chances to win the supporters shield. The East is a far weaker conference than the West, but I think the teams in the West have far more firepower and consistency over the course of the season. Also, United played most of their home matches in the first half of the season. Although they only lost one match (due to a masterful performance by, in my opinion, the league MVP) at home, they also failed to turn several leads into three points, and settled for draws.
United has an excellent opportunity turn their fortunes around this weekend, facing the current eastern conference runners up at home. A win against the Revs would give United breathing room atop the conference, as well as a boost of confidence as they head into another busy part of the season.
Before that, a US Open Cup match against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds looms. I expect to see a mostly rotated side due to necessity. Still, there is no reason that this squad can’t get the job done against USL opposition, and should be keen to avoid a repeat of last season when United fell in their first cup match to the Rochester Rhinos.
So, while recent performances have not been great, there is no reason to panic- yet. A win on Saturday keeps United fairly comfortably atop the conference. Also, a win on Wednesday would erase the embarrassment of last year’s cup run. This team knows all too well that a run to the US Open Cup finals only takes a handful of wins.