WASHINGTON – While it may appear that D.C. United have little to play for in the season’s final three matches, there’s actually quite a lot on the line.
Namely, avoiding becoming the worst team in MLS history.
In order to do so, D.C. must win two of their final games. United coach Ben Olsen’s club currently sits at 3-22-6, perilously close to the mark set by the 2005 Chivas USA club that holds the record for fewest MLS wins (4-22-6). And there's also a threat to set the mark for most losses in a season, held by the 1999 MetroStars, who lost a league-high 25 matches.
Should United lose their final three games, they’ll set both records.
“We don’t want to talk about that too much, but it’s real,” Olsen said. “We don’t want to be that team. That’s part of this equation.”
United will also attempt to avoid breaking its own franchise record for fewest goals in a season (21 in 2010, 20 this year) and the league record for fewest goals per game (currently 0.65 against 0.70 in 2010). In addition, D.C. will have one more chance to win their first MLS match on the road this year (Oct. 18 against Sporting Kansas City).
“It’s been a bad season. If it’s been the worst, it’s been the worst,” Olsen said. “I’ve also tinkered for the last three months. I’ve had the luxury to play with things and make sure we’re in the right position for next year so we know who we are and what we need.”
D.C. will enter the final stretch of the season without two veteran players who have been ruled out for the remainder of the season. Center back Dejan Jakovic injured his left adductor in the US Open Cup final, while John Thorrington strained his calf Saturday against Chicago.
Their absence, along with United’s standing, will allow Olsen to continue to manipulate his starting lineup in unique ways, giving seldom-used players time and trying others in unfamiliar positions to test their versatility.
In Saturday’s 3-0 loss against Chicago, usual defensive midfielder Perry Kitchen played center back, while winger Sainey Nyassi played right back. Two evaluation examples Olsen cited Tuesday were finding what position best suits Luis Silva and whether outside back Dennis Iapichino has a future with the club.
“I want to see guys that haven’t gotten a lot of minutes this year,” Olsen said. “There’s not many of them, but one or two guys I need to see in real games and give them a chance, because I’ve got to make decisions on guys.”
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As United continue to build toward next season and evaluate personnel, their task of not becoming the worst club (statistically speaking) in MLS history will not be easy, as they will face three playoff contenders in Philadelphia, Sporting KC and Houston.
“We want to get out of this funk that we’re in, in the league,” Olsen said. “It’s not a healthy way to continue with all these losses.”