From the bottom of the Eastern Conference to playoff hopefuls, D.C. United are surging. Six points behind Montreal, can they catch the Impact for the East's final playoff place while holding off Toronto FC and the New England Revolution?
Yes, they can and will. Here are nine reasons why.
Since Rooney arrived in the nation's capital, United have nearly trebled their point total on the season while his teammates have all played better with him around. What a coincidence.
2. Audi Field Impact
Rooney's debut coincided with Audi Field's opening, fueling the team with a double boost. D.C. is 5-1-0 at their new home, as only the Red Bulls have visited the new stadium and left with any points.
3. Luciano Acosta's production
This season, Acosta has leveled his MLS-high goal tally (5) and is one off his three-season best in assists (10). He's done this in 22 appearances thus far, which is nine fewer than the last two seasons. In his last six games alone, Acosta has four goals and three assists. If he keeps churning out this level of goal involvements, as a second or third outlet, D.C.'s attack is in a great position.
4. Opponents' Schedules
In four of New England's next six games, the Revolution play road games at NYCFC, LAFC, Atlanta and Toronto. Montreal mostly plays teams currently above the playoff line for the rest of the season plus a trip to Audi Field. Toronto still has to navigate the Timbers, both LA clubs, the Red Bulls, Atlanta and D.C. as well as a Campeones Cup game.
5. Opponents' Form
This ties quite well into the schedules of their adversaries. New England hasn't won since beating D.C. on June 30, losing six of eight games. Montreal has won once in their last six games after their schedule got a bit more difficult and Toronto has one win in their last four.
6. Yamil Asad's brilliance
The defense rests.
7. Bill Hamid's return
D.C. really nailed MLS' secondary transfer window.
On top of signing Rooney, D.C. brought back Hamid from Denmark on a 1.5-year loan deal after leaving last season. A national-team level keeper, Hamid holds club records in starts (184), minutes (16,269), wins (66), saves (642) and shutouts (49).
8. Games in Hand
United has two more games remaining than New England and Toronto as well as four (!!) games in hand over Montreal. Of course, those extra games mean nothing if D.C. fail to pick up points, but the rest of their schedule is favorable because...
9. Nine of D.C.'s remaining 11 games are at Audi Field
Even if D.C. fails to earn one more point in either of their two remaining road games, they could climb over the playoff line on home form alone. A few of those games are against teams below the playoff line plus a pair of well-placed matches against Montreal and Toronto over the final two months of the season.