I am a mathematician’s son, so numbers are in my blood. Soccer does not lend itself to statistical analysis, which is a large part of its appeal. The game is about humans, not numerals. No nerdy “on-base percentage plus slugging” calculations are necessary to assess a player’s quality. Figures, though, do provide historical context, and in D.C. United’s case this summer, that is not a good thing.
The midway point of MLS’s regular season has passed, and with a 2-13-4 mark and 10 points, United is on pace to set inglorious milestones.
On its current trajectory, United will win 3.58 games, lose 23.26 and draw 7.16 for a total of 17.9 points (out of a possible 102). Do I actually believe the club will fail to win at least five times this year? No.
But how do the real-time digits stack up — or down — in league history? Direct comparisons are difficult because the number of matches has changed several times over 18 seasons.
Points per game would seem to solve the discrepancy. However, in MLS’s first four years when draws were banned, three points were awarded for a regulation victory, one for a shootout win and none for a shootout loss.
Nevertheless, let’s begin with the ppg formula.
United is at 0.53 this year.
The lowest ever: The New York/New Jersey MetroStars at 0.47 in 1999. Although they won seven games (with 25 defeats), three triumphs came in shootouts, so the point total was 15 instead of 21. The MetroStars were involved in eight shootouts (three wins, five losses). Had those ended in draws, their record would have been 4-20-8 for 20 points and a 0.63 ppg figure.
Then there was the disbanded Tampa Bay Mutiny at 0.52 in 2001. With a 4-21-2 record and no shootout complications, that club managed 14 points. It played only 27 games, however, in a season cut short by the Sept. 11 attacks.
In more recent years, Chivas USA’s 2005 inaugural season was the pits: 4-22-6 for 18 points and 0.56 per game.
United’s poorest campaign ever: 6-20-4 in 2010, when Ben Olsen succeeded Curt Onalfo late in the summer. As bad as it was, the club still managed 22 points and a 0.73-point rate.
No team has ever won fewer than four regular season matches. The most losses during the post-shootout era came in 2005: Both Chivas USA and fellow expansion side Real Salt Lake had 22.
Repeating: United is on pace for 23 defeats (in a season that includes two more matches than in ’05).
There are other embarrassing records looming …
*With eight goals (0.42 per game), United is well on its way to smashing the MLS mark it set three years ago (21 in 30 games for a 0.70 clip).
*At 0-6-3, United is threatening the poorest away records ever. Four teams have gone winless on the road, including two expansion sides, and 12 finished with one victory.
*DCU has scored once on the road (0.11 per game). The record is three in 15 matches (0.20) by the Red Bulls in 2009.
United’s remaining trips: Chicago, Philadelphia, Montreal, New York, Chivas USA, New England, Toronto and Kansas City.
*With 12 scoreless matches, United is on pace for at least 21 shutouts over the 34-game calendar. The record: DCU’s 17 in 30 games in 2010.
*Not a formal record but noteworthy nonetheless: Lionard Pajoy and Dwayne De Rosario are United’s leading scorers with two apiece. The lowest team high for a regular season was five (Bobby Convey and Ali Curtis in 2002, Andy Najar and Danny Allsopp in ’10).
Thoroughly depressed yet? I thought so. Mercy is granted.
On the brighter side, United has conceded 1.53 goals per game — a respectable figure, given its record, and nowhere near the league mark. (Nine teams have averaged more than two per match in league history.)
In the past six league outings, United has allowed five goals and earned shutouts in two of three away games. And it’s been doing it with a backline that no longer features high-priced veterans Brandon McDonald (benched) and Dejan Jakovic (injured), the cornerstones of United’s sound resistance late last year.
United can also take comfort from its U.S. Open Cup form: three goals in each of the past two matches to earn a semifinal berth at Chicago on Aug. 7.
Hey, it ain’t much, but it’s all they’ve got right now.
*Midfielder Kyle Porter was summoned by Canada for CONCACAF Gold Cup duty ahead of Thursday’s match against Mexico in Seattle. While United’s home-bound delegation waited at one gate in Denver International Airport on Monday morning, Porter was at another boarding a flight back to Washington state. (United lost in Seattle last Wednesday.)
If Canada does not escape the group stage — and it’s not looking good after losing to Martinique on Sunday — he would rejoin United in time for the next league game (July 20 at Chicago) and miss only this Friday’s friendly against Chivas Guadalajara at RFK Stadium.
*Still no word on any international signings. The summer transfer window opens today (Tuesday) and will run into August. I don’t expect the investment group to earmark significant funds for major acquisitions, however.
While the technical staff continues to explore direct signing options in Europe and South America, trialists will resume filtering through town next week. Among the possible candidates: Guatemalan defenders Cristian Noriega and Jaime Vides, from Municipal.
Numerous hopefuls have swung by since May — the club did sign winger Sainey Nyassi at a low salary and is keeping tabs on Jamaican national team defender O’Brian Woodbine. It also claimed U.S. midfielder Jared Jeffrey, formerly with Mainz’s reserves in the German fourth division, through MLS waivers last week. Jeffrey will begin workouts Wednesday.