With two months left in the MLS regular season, here are where things stand for D.C. United…
Playoff math: Sorry to rehash this, but the league’s scheduling flaws have tossed too many variables into the race. United is in a precarious situation, holding the fifth – and final – slot in the Eastern Conference. However, because of the imbalance in matches played, D.C.’s one-point lead over Montreal is much sturdier than it appears because the Impact has had three additional games. ... However, sizzling Columbus is within four points and has played one fewer match. ... However, United is just two points in back of third-place Houston and has a game in hand. However…
Looking ahead: Home against the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday – difficult match. Away to Real Salt Lake on Saturday – difficult match. If they can get through the week with three points, Ben Olsen and his crew can exhale a bit. They’ll have two weeks off during the FIFA fixture window and then play five consecutive matches against teams that are going nowhere: New England, Philadelphia, Chivas USA, Portland and Toronto. (The last two dates of the regular season are against contenders, Columbus and Chicago.)
Fresh legs: As the organization won’t hesitate to remind you at every opportunity, United is in an exhausting two-week stretch. Yes, it’s a physically and mentally taxing time, but every club goes through it on MLS’s maddening calendar. After resting three key attackers at the start in Montreal, Olsen can’t use fatigue as a crutch for a subpar performance Wednesday. Branko Boskovic played 39 minutes, Chris Pontius 32 and Dwayne De Rosario 29. It’s a long season. Everyone is tired. We get it. But this is the point of the year where depth comes into play. United’s reserves didn’t meet the challenge Saturday.
Where is everybody?: Wednesday’s match at RFK Stadium has much to offer – bitter rivals separated by five points, the Atlantic Cup trophy at stake after one victory apiece, late-season tension – but how many spectators will turn out to East Capitol Street? United has drawn just 22,603 combined in the past two dates (a late Sunday afternoon and Wednesday night). At 13,735, the club has fallen to 17th in average attendance, ahead of only Chivas USA and the New England Revolution, two traditionally weak-drawing organizations. United entered the year averaging 17,194 in 245 regular season home games over 16 seasons. (For what it’s worth, the Portland Timbers attracted 14,121 on Sunday – for a reserve match!)
Home and away: With a victory or draw Wednesday, United would equal the club record for consecutive home matches without a defeat (13 in 2007). Since a 1-0 loss in the opener against Sporting Kansas City, United is 9-0-3 with 29 goals for and 11 against. The road is another story. After earning 10 points on the first seven trips, D.C. has dropped five consecutive games by a combined 13-3. As for Saturday’s visit to Utah, United has lost five and tied one in the previous six meetings at the Wasatch Front.
Channel surfing: There was no standard TV coverage for Saturday’s game at Montreal, and if you can’t make it out to the ballpark Wednesday, you’ll need to scan your cable/satellite provider’s channel list for Spanish-language Galavision. There are no other traditional options. Kickoff is at 8 p.m. ET. (Or you can watch RGIII and the Redskins play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their preseason finale on Comcast SportsNet.) Good news awaits: Seven of the last eight league matches will be carried by CSN, CSN+, NBC Sports Network or ESPN2.