WASHINGTON – Wayne Rooney knows the math D.C. United must grapple with as they eye their stretch run and the four-point gap they must make up on the Montreal Impact to reach the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs.
United saw their deficit to Montreal grow after the Impact's impressive 4-1 victory at the Philadelphia Union on Saturday. Yet D.C. still control their own destiny, largely due to the playoff six-pointer against the Impact at Audi Field set for Sept. 29.
“The playoff spot is still in our hands,” Rooney explained. “We can beat Montreal in the next game, and then we have the game in hand where we can go above them, so we have to try and take the positives from that.”
With D.C. idle next weekend while the Impact host New York City FC, a D.C. win when the Impact visit make their first visit to Audi Field would at worst put D.C. four points back with two extra games to play.
Philadelphia – who sit five points above D.C. – are also in realistic catching range after their home loss to Montreal, though it's a tougher task with no more games left against the Union.
As United attempt to regroup after seeing their winless stretch against the Red Bulls grow to eight matches, coach Ben Olsen stressed there were positives to take from their latest performance.
“I don’t think you ever feel comfortable being under the playoff line,” Olsen said after Sunday’s draw. “But we are confident in our team and our ability to get into the postseason if we play like we did tonight and if we clean up some of the moments.
“If that’s the second-best team in the East, I like our chances if we get into the playoffs. But there’s a task at hand.”
United’s 13-day layoff represents their longest over the remainder of the season before a six-game itinerary in the season’s final 30 days. And it speaks to the club’s growing confidence that Rooney sees the break as a mixed blessing.
“I think we’re on a good run of momentum, so maybe it might’ve been nice to play next weekend also,” he said. “But I think particularly for the lads who have had a lot of games recently, I think the break will do as well.”
After some rest, D.C. will spend a week-and-a-half of training trying to regroup from that busy stretch and ensure that they don’t waste those vibes.
“We have to reward ourselves for all of the positivity that’s building in the moment,” Olsen said. “And that’s by taking care of two weekends from now and getting ourselves in the postseason so our fans can enjoy that type of soccer here at Audi Field.”