DC Notebook: Playoff hopes hang by a thread

WASHINGTON — Despite it feeling very much to the contrary in the wake of D.C. United's crushing collapse against the Chicago Fire on Saturday night, hopes of grabbing the last spot in the MLS Cup playoffs remain mathematically possible.

"The crazy thing about this [playoff race] is that we are still not out of it," head coach Ben Olsen said. "There's still a scenario or two in which we can get into the playoffs. So, we'll move on. It's just a tough [loss], I'm not going to sugarcoat it."

Of course in recent weeks, D.C. have not looked capable of making that push. The demoralizing loss to Chicago was their fourth straight defeat, and the fact that they took the lead in the 90th minute of injury time only reinforces what a damaging blow it was.

Even so, if United were to win their last two games and the Philadelphia Union win against New York at Red Bull Arena on Thursday night, D.C. would still qualify for the final playoff spot.

However, after controlling their own destiny for the past month, it's a dramatic change in fortune for United.

"It's not good when you don't have your destiny in your own hands, and we're looking for other teams to lose and win," midfielder Santino Quaranta said. "This was a great opportunity for us tonight, but we'll battle on and continue to fight."

Davies fit, but not starting

For the second straight game in a row, Olsen opted to start the team's second-leading scorer Charlie Davies from the bench.

"I'm physically fine," said Davies. "I can only do so much with the time that I have. I'm a guy that expects to play 90 minutes. I'm fit. I'm healthy, and it's disappointing when you want to get the playing time to help the team win, and you only get 20, 15 minutes. I've done all I can do."

Davies last scored on Sept.10 against Chivas when he bagged a hat trick in a 3-0 win at the Home Depot Center.

On Saturday, Olsen instead went with Josh Wolff and Dwayne De Rosario up front, putting Davies in as a substitute in the 75th minute. Olsen justified the decision to put the De Rosario in after the match.

"I think putting [De Rosario] up top was the right move," Olsen said. “I thought Chicago put a lot of numbers in the midfield. It's a lot of work in there. That's why we put some of the guys in early, to deal with that. We had to push the game and I thought we put the right guys in to get the game changed. I think everything worked out, except the last couple of minutes."

Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com.