For the fourth straight season, DC United will be left out of the increasingly inclusive MLS Cup playoffs. On the heels of four straight losses, last night’s heartbreaking tie sealed the team’s fate with one game left in the season. Much like their season of late, United had every opportunity to get the job done only to falter at the end.
While they’ve suffered through a tough stretch and an unsatisfying ending, it’s been an improvement for a team that finished dead last a year ago. The season featured several memorable matches, moments, and plenty of standout goals:
• Former US Men’s National Team member and summer acquisition Charlie Davies scored twice in the team’s season opening 3-1 win. They were the first goals in his comeback season following the October 2009 car crash on the GW Parkway that nearly killed him. Everyone agreed that it was an awesome night and it seemed to signal good things were ahead for the team.
• When Los Angeles came to RFK Stadium in April, 26,222 people showed up to watch—a season best. United lost and the officiating was crap, but at least a lot of people were there to witness David Beckham doing his best impression of former Manchester United teammate Paul Scholes.
• In June, first-year coach Ben Olsen realized that making Dax McCarty team captain was a total folly, so he traded McCarty to the New York Red Bulls for Dwayne DeRosario. In the months since, DeRosario has staked a claim to the league lead in goals and assists, and is one of the favorites to take home the league MVP. Not bad for a guy who has hopefully found a home after playing for three teams this season. Meanwhile, the guy they traded for him is still named Dax.
• June’s match against Philadelphia Union was De Rosario’s first with United. However, it’s best remembered for this corker from Andy Najar.
• De Rosario lit up his first MLS team, the San Jose Earthquakes with both goals in a much needed 2-0 road win.
• In August the team went up against Toronto FC, another one of De Rosario’s former teams. He marked the occasion with goals, as his is wont to do. Three of them to be exact.
• United hit the road following an extended break to face Chivas USA. This time it was Davies netting the hat trick to carry the team to a 3-0 win. Davies could not carry over this form down the stretch, however, and he has not scored since.
• Six weeks after his first hat trick, De Rosario added another. This one he banged out in just a half an hour, setting a new league record for rapid fire scoring. The 4-1 win over Real Salt Lake put the team in excellent playoff position. Unfortunately they still had another month to go.
• Another match against Philly, and another wonder goal from Najar.
Unfortunately, that was the last highlight worth mentioning. United would go on to lose that match, as well as the three that followed.
Despite the calamitous finish to the season, there’s reason for hope moving forward. De Rosario provided the Black-and-Red with the attacking verve they needed, and the club has an option to retain the Canadian star next season. That’s an option I would expect them to pick up. After all, goals are great for the bottom line.
The rest of Olsen’s young squad will hopefully continue to develop under his leadership. Star winger Najar will be just 19 when next season kicks off. If his improved form is any indication, he should be in for a big 2012 campaign.
One question that still lingers is what becomes of Davies? His loan to United started off with great promise before fading down the stretch. If United is keen on keeping the popular striker in town they could work out a buyout with FC Sochaux, the French club that holds his contract. Or he could find his loan agreement extended. The real question is whether Olsen will want him back.