Tony's take: Looking forward, moving forward
the CONCACAF Champions' Cup semifinal series against Pumas UNAM, a frustrating tie in the home opener and back-to-back losses against Eastern Conference opponents.
After the first month of Major League Soccer's 10th season, D.C. United are where they were after the first month in the inaugural season -- last place in the East. However, in spite of everything that has gone badly for United this season, head coach Peter Nowak and company should still feel confident that they are on their way to another championship season.
The Kansas City Wizards are a well-coached team with a number of very talented players. When the Eastern Conference Finals roll around in October, the Wizards will be one of the teams battling for another shot at the MLS Cup. Road points within the conference are very precious, and even though the scoreless draw between D.C. and K.C. this past weekend was not a thing of beauty, the result helped move D.C. United back on the right course.
There are a number of reasons why the tie was important for D.C. United. First, entering the match, the Wizards were in a similar situation to D.C. United, looking to shake off the early season rust and collect their second win of the season. Kansas City was playing at home in a nationally televised game and never really threatened to win the match. In fact, they were slightly lucky not to have lost. Credit D.C. United and a solid defensive effort for Kansas City's lackluster attack.
The tie was more meaningful when considering that United's roster was severely depleted. Alecko Eskandarian, Steve Guppy, Nick Van Sicklen, Bryan Namoff, Dema Kovalenko and David Stokes were all unavailable for Nowak.
All of those players have been starters for D.C. United at one time or another and there is no way to replace the kind of experience that group of players brings to the field. Last season in a situation where United were similarly undermanned against Dallas, D.C. lost 5-1 at the Cotton Bowl. This year they earned a draw against last season's Western Conference champions.
It's important to remember how long the MLS season is. The season spans eight months and so much changes from the season opener to MLS Cup that all the anxiety from the first few weeks is a distant memory by the All-Star break.
Historically, very few teams have been able to sustain momentum throughout the entire season, and usually it's the teams that find their strides later in the year that make the most impact on the playoffs, just like D.C. United did last year.
When the season began for United and the team began their defense of the MLS Cup title, all the players and coaches took the same approach to the season. This year's team was not going to look back on the success of last season, but look ahead to the success that the current team can accomplish.
Everyone for United is looking forward and the result in Kansas City has helped D.C. to move in the same direction that they are looking.
Tony Limarzi is a contributor to dcunited.com. He is also the voice of D.C. United soccer, calling all of the Black-and-Red's games live on WMET.