For the second straight year, D.C. Unitedâ€™s season concluded at RFK Stadium with a disappointing result against the Houston Dynamo, but the circumstances Sunday could not have been any more different from those of a season ago.
Instead of coming up just short of reaching the MLS Cup final like in 2012, United (3-24-7) rewrote the dubious section of the league record book with its final loss. The clubâ€™s three wins were the fewest in a single MLS campaign. Its 0.65 goals scored per game (22 in 34 games) broke the league record for offensive futility previously held by the 2010 edition of D.C. United. Ultimately, though, the 2013 campaign can be viewed in two extreme ways.
Amid all of the loss, heartbreak, injuries and self-inflicted wounds (no player scored more than the four own goals the club conceded) was a trophy. D.C. United improbably captured the U.S. Open Cup, earning a place in next summerâ€™s CONCACAF Champions League as a result.
There also has been tangible progress on the stadium front, as it seems the quest to build a soccer-specific stadium in the nationâ€™s capital is nearing its conclusion.
There is also reason to believe that 2014 could be a much more successful season despite the lengthy list of needs. United will have the first overall pick in this winterâ€™s MLS SuperDraft. It has financial flexibility from offloading some hampering contracts while also earning cash from winning the Open Cup. Non-playoff teams are granted allocation money from the league as a means of maintaining competitive balance.
â€śWeâ€™ve been preparing for next year for three months,â€ť manager Ben Olsen said after Sundayâ€™s 2-1 loss. â€śWe have faith in a majority of these guys, and with the things the league gives us, the draft pick, weâ€™re going to have a very competitive team, and I am looking forward to it.â€ť