Climbing the Ladder: Consistency & consecutive streaks

On June 13, 2009, D.C. United defeated the Chicago Fire by the score of 2- 1, thanks to goals from Jaime Moreno and Christian Gómez, their second straight victory after beating New York the previous week.

They went on to come back from two goals down to draw 3-3 in a memorable first away game vs. the Seattle Sounders, but their short winning streak was over.

Longest Streaks without Winning Consecutive Games - Regular Season
Rank Team Games
1 D.C. United 80
2 New York 54 (40)
3 San Jose 50 (22)
3 Colorado 50 (41)
3 Chicago 50
6 Toronto 49
7 Houston 46
8 New England 42 (19)
9 Real Salt Lake 41
10 San Jose 39
10 Chivas USA 39
10 Chivas USA 39

Nearly three years later, those two wins are still the last time United have won consecutive regular-season games. Only Dejan Jakovic and Chris Pontius remain from the starting lineup of that Chicago game, and they’ve fully experienced a streak that’s now at 80 games and counting.

The only other team not to win two straight in 2011 was New England, but their streak is way behind at 35. D.C.’s 80 games in a row, during which they’ve gone 19-39-22 mostly due to the horrid 2010, is easily tops all time by over a season’s worth. Counting shootouts from 1996-99 as draws, New York had a 54-game stretch that included all of their miserable 1999 under Bora Milutinovic, good enough for second place.

Last year, Chicago and Toronto were threatening to give D.C. a challenge, but both finally managed to bundle together a couple wins. They ended up on the top ten longest streaks, but both go into the new season without any chance of the record, to the relief of their supporters. United, on the other hand, face a rough early schedule with four of the league’s top five from 2011 in their in first month (vs. Sporting KC, at LA, and vs. FC Dallas and Seattle).

Counting all competitions, D.C. United’s current streak is at 59 games without consecutive wins. That’s still good enough for the record in that category, but it’s lower than their total in just the regular season. That’s because they managed to win in the 2010 US Open Cup qualifier against Real Salt Lake on the back of one of their few MLS wins that year. It’s interesting to see the 2004 D.C. United team among the top 10 for all competitions.

Longest Streaks without Winning Consecutive Games - All Competitions
Rank Team Games
1 D.C. United 59
2 New York 58 (41)
2 Colorado 58 (47)
4 Real Salt Lake 46
5 Houston 43
6 New England 42 (19)
7 San Jose 40 (25)
8 D.C. United 36
9 Tampa Bay 35
9 Dallas 35
9 Vancouver 35
10 Chivas USA 39

That team didn’t put together a winning streak until September, when Nick Rimando returned to the starting lineup in place of rookie Troy Perkins and midseason addition Gómez — likely the best ever in terms of impact — was added. Including the postseason, they went 8-1-1 to win the MLS Cup and are a textbook example of getting hot at the right time.

Tampa Bay’s 35-game streak was still active after their final game, while Vancouver’s 35 in a row were a rough introduction into Major League Soccer last season. It was the longest wait for two straight wins among expansion teams in all competitions, but Chivas USA had a longer regular season-only streak which consisted of their first 39 regular-season games going into their second year, 2006.

(Note: All tables include shootouts (1996-99) counted as draws. Numbers in parentheses indicate how long streaks were without counting it that way.)

How about a look at the other side of the coin: Which teams have gone the longest without losing consecutive games? Once again, there are two ways of looking at it, regular season only and all competitive games.

The New York Red Bulls enter 2012 having gone 54 games without losing two straight, which puts them within five of Chicago’s 2000-02 mark. Despite their poor form and struggle to even make the playoffs, they weren’t losing much. Rather, it was a non-stop parade of draws that left them lacking points. The last losing streak dates back to May 2010, before the big signings of Thierry Henry and Rafa Márquez. Overall, the team’s record since then is 20-12-22, probably not quite as good as expected.

Longest Streaks without Losing Consecutive Games - All Competitions
Rank Team Games
1 Chicago 78
2 D.C. United 67
3 D.C. United 66 (56)
3 Houston 66
5 LA Galaxy 57
6 New York 46
7 LA Galaxy 45 (22)
7 New England 44
9 LA Galaxy 44
9 Real Salt Lake 39

New York also had a 46-game run in all competitions last year, but that was ended in the controversial Open Cup quarterfinal defeat at Chicago when head coach Hans Backe didn’t make the trip and sent a reserve lineup.

The longest current streak of games without consecutive losses in all competitions goes to the LA Galaxy at 57, whose regular-season streak is only 42. The Galaxy’s last losing streak was back in August 2010, consisting of losses at San Jose (Geovanni’s debut – remember him?) and vs. Kansas City. They can start adding to this total against Toronto in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals next week, but they have a long way to go to reach the Fire’s mark of 78.

Chicago’s 78 games leads the list for all competitions, and they went a stellar 47-18-13 and won the 2000 Open Cup in the process. Despite that success, those years are probably better remembered for heartbreak in the form of their MLS Cup 200 defeat at the hands of Kansas City, and where the run ended, getting eliminated in the 2001 semifinals at home by LA.