Luciano Acosta - Ulises Segura - DC United - celebration
USA Today Sports

Wiebe: DC United over Montreal Impact in the playoffs? Yes, here's why

D.C. United are making the 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs. I say that in the most conservative and mindful manner, all due respect to the Montreal Impact.

I said it last Friday, too, before the Black-and-Red got a draw that should have been a win at Yankee Stadium and came back to knock off Minnesota United on Wednesday night at Audi Field, and so did five of my colleagues at MLSsoccer.com. We were unanimous, in fact, which I concede means very little to nothing given the randomness of MLS.

Those predictions didn’t escape the attention of Montreal soccer media folks, who certainly know how to stir the pot and get a spicy quote (respect!!!). They asked Quincy Amarikwa, who doesn’t lack for confidence or charisma in front of a television camera, what he thought about it. RIP my mentions.

Fair enough, Quincy. I’m intrigued by the idea of a prediction counter – for sports, for politics, for all the mundane prognosticating that goes down during the course of day-to-day life. People need to be held accountable, and I’m willing to get things started by putting my prediction in print. When the final whistles blow on Decision Day (Oct. 28), my account will come due, just like the Impact’s.

But here’s why I feel confident I’ll be right…

Home Games Matter

Head on over to the standings and check out the home and away splits. Two teams have winning records away from home: New York Red Bulls and Atlanta United. One of those teams will, barring some mind-blowing occurrence, win the Supporters’ Shield.

Winning away from home is hard. Only three teams have taken 20 or more points on the road (ATL, NY, LAFC). In contrast, all but five (ORL, COL, TOR, CHI, SJ) have taken 20-plus at home. Only one team has more than five games remaining at home. You ought to be able to guess which team has that advantage baked into their remaining schedule.

It’s D.C. United, of course. Ben Olsen and the boys are posted up in the District for the foreseeable future, playing six straight at Audi Field – RBNY, MTL, CHI, DAL, TOR, NYC – before finishing the season at the Fire. Now, that’s not an easy stretch by any means, but 10-12 points seems about right given form and circumstance, and the whole concept of this column is that Montreal (or New England) won’t be able to keep up.

For reference, here’s what the Impact have left: at PHI, NYC, at DC, CLB, TOR, at NE.

Circle Sept. 29 on your calendar. It might just be the biggest game in the Eastern Conference the rest of the season. If Montreal go to D.C., who will be on 13 days rest, and win, there’s a good chance I’ll be eating a heaping helping of crow at the end of October. If they don’t, I’ll probably retweet this column and gloat a little.

Don't take this the wrong way, Impact supporters. What Montreal has done to recover from 9 Ls in 11 games earlier this season is admirable and pretty incredible. I just think D.C.'s schedule and form are better. Amarikwa put me on the spot, and now I gotta stick to my guns.

LuchoRoo

You know, like ObaDeuce, but a more cringe-worthy moniker I made up strictly for Twitter groans.

There’s just something about Luciano Acosta and Wayne Rooney. It clicked from the very start, and you don’t have to be a tactical virtuoso to see the chemistry between the two when they combine around the 18-yard box and on the counterattack.

Everyone knows the give-and-go is coming. Acosta, previously an underachiever among MLS No. 10s, plays the ball into Rooney’s feet, and the Englishman either flicks it over the top or slips him in behind. The end result is generally a 1v1 shooting chance with the ‘keeper. Acosta had a couple against the Loons but couldn’t finish. He picked up two assists of his own instead.

Point is, D.C. United have two potential gamebreakers, and those gamebreakers look like they were born to play with one another. As we’ve already seen, that can sometimes win you games that you shouldn’t win. When you win games you shouldn’t win, you often make the playoffs.

And when the players who aren’t your gamebreakers kick in goals and assists in key moments – see Ulises Segura, Darren Mattocks and Joseph Mora against Minnesota – those playoff odds get even better.

Russell Canouse is a beast

I might not even be writing this column if Canouse hadn’t hurt his knee in preseason. Everybody wants to talk about LuchoRoo (I’m gonna make it a thing), but the American midfielder’s return was probably just as important.

You might not have noticed given the Audi Field opening and Rooney debut hoopla, but Canouse made his 2018 debut on July 14 against the Whitecaps. He played one minute. He came off the bench twice more, in losses to Atlanta and the Red Bulls, before entering the starting XI full-time. Since then, D.C. United are 6-2-2.

It is not a coincidence. He’s tidy on the ball. He’s got range and bite. He provides balance and links the lines. It was no different on Wednesday night.

There’s a reason the Armchair Analyst is stanning for Canouse to get a USMNT call-up. He’s that good.

In conclusion…

D.C. United are making the playoffs. Or so says me. Your rebuttals go below.

Series: 
Topics: 

Stay connected: The all-new, completely redesigned, FREE official MLS app is your best mobile source for scores, news, analysis and highlights. Download:  App Store  |  Google Play