Is D.C. United a playoff-caliber team?

April 17

Coach Ben Olsen and D.C. United head to Columbus, Ohio, Saturday to face the Crew. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

After five games, D.C. United’s record sits at 2-2-1, including three straight contests without a loss. Last season, United didn’t win its second game until June 22. This year, the team accomplished that feat Saturday with a 1-0 win over the Red Bulls. With one more victory, United can equal its win total for all of 2013. So is this a playoff team? Here are reasons why that may or may not be the case.

Positive Thinking

After conceding a conference-worst 59 goals last season, United has solidified its back line in 2014. Veteran center backs Bobby Boswell and Jeff Parke have performed well, and Sean Franklin has held the right back spot down. Left back Cristian Fernandez has been shaky defensively, but he gets forward well and is still adjusting to a new league. Davy Arnaud and Perry Kitchen have shown promising chemistry as the center midfield duo, and new acquisition Chris Rolfe appears to be a solid addition at outside midfield. Perhaps most encouragingly, United has run off a string of good results while Chris Pontius and Luis Silva have been injured, and with zero goals this season from Eddie Johnson and Nick DeLeon. If all four are back and in form, the team’s ceiling rises considerably.

Negative Thinking

Though Parke and Boswell have done well so far, the grind of an MLS season will eventually take its toll, and the duo’s lack of pace will be exposed more and more. DeLeon has looked out of sorts so far, and he may never recapture his dynamic rookie-season form of 2012. Arnaud and Kitchen don’t provide enough offense, and the long-term absence of Pontius (left hamstring) could be a killer. Additionally, United’s good run of form has happened at home against struggling Eastern Conference foes (Chicago, New England and New York have combined for only three wins this season). An ugly New England own goal keyed United’s first win, and then the team was outplayed in the 1-0 victory over New York, only to be bailed out by awful Red Bull finishing.

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Adam Griffiths · April 17