Setting the Stage for July: On the Road Again

D.C. United's road performance needs to heat up during July. - USA TODAY Sports

D.C. United's schedule enters an extended road phase during July. Let's break it down while also reviewing what happened across MLS in June, and what lies ahead in July.

Well, June is over, and it was a good news/bad news story for D.C. United. The good news is that during June, D.C. United equaled the max point total they've secured for any month of the 2013 season so far. The bad news is that it was only 4 points (the same as they earned back in March), earned from five matches, three of which were at home. However, when you throw in the two US Open Cup victories, United went 3-3-1 for the month in all competitions, which is by far their most successful stretch of the season. Let's take a deeper look at June across Major League Soccer before closing with a preview of what's coming in July.

1. June's MLS Results. The best team in June came from the Mountain Time Zone for the second straight month. Following up on the Colorado Rapids league-leading record for the month of May, their Rocky Mountain Cup rival, Real Salt Lake, put up a perfect 4-0-0 record in June to secure 12 points (which I painfully note is three more points than D.C. United has earned during the first half of the season). A hat tip as well to the Vancouver Whitecaps who also secured 12 points (albeit from five games). At the bottom of the table, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, and Chivas USA were unable to earn a win during June.

Here are the results for all MLS teams during June. The table is sorted based on points per game average.

Team Total Points Games Played Pts/ Game Wins Losses Draws
Real Salt Lake 12 4 3.00 4 0 0
Chicago Fire 10 4 2.50 3 0 1
Vancouver Whitecaps 12 5 2.40 4 1 0
Philadelphia Union 8 4 2.00 2 0 2
Portland Timbers 8 4 2.00 2 0 2
Seattle Sounders 6 3 2.00 2 1 0
Montreal Impact 6 4 1.50 2 2 0
San Jose Earthquakes 6 4 1.50 2 2 0
Sporting Kansas City 4 3 1.33 1 1 1
New England Revolution 5 4 1.25 1 1 2
Toronto FC 5 4 1.25 1 1 2
New York Red Bulls 3 3 1.00 1 2 0
Colorado Rapids 4 5 0.80 1 3 1
Columbus Crew 4 5 0.80 1 3 1
D.C. United 4 5 0.80 1 3 1
LA Galaxy 4 5 0.80 1 3 1
FC Dallas 3 4 0.75 0 1 3
Houston Dynamo 2 4 0.50 0 2 2
Chivas USA 1 4 0.25 0 3 1

a. Surprise Teams in June. It's worth noting that Chicago significantly turned around their season by earning 2.5 points/game during June (10 points overall), putting themselves within striking distance of an Eastern Conference playoff spot. Philadelphia also had a very good month despite a schedule that saw them play both the New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas (two hot teams entering June).

b. Disappointing Teams in June. D.C. United improved their performance in league play during the month of June, but, despite a favorable schedule playing weaker competition and having three games at RFK Stadium, the team wasn't able to pile up points. The team played well enough to have perhaps gotten more points, but overall the month of June was a missed opportunity for the club.

In many ways, June was the month that cooled off teams who had previously had hot streaks. Montreal Impact, FC Dallas, LA Galaxy, Colorado Rapids, Houston Dynamo, and the New York Red Bulls all failed to play as well in June as they had during streaks earlier in the season.

2. Current MLS Supporters' Shield Standings. Not only did RSL win the month of June, but they also moved atop the Supporters' Shield Standings with 33 points. On a point per game basis, Montreal remains the league's best with an average of 1.93 points/game. But, having only played 15 games (while RSL has played 18), they are currently fourth in the overall Supporters' Shield Standings on a total points basis.

Two other interesting points from the Supporters' Shield table are worth discussing. First, for the first time all year, no team is averaging more than 2.0 points/game. It's a very difficult standard to maintain over the course of an entire season (no team did it in 2012), so it will be interesting to see if any team can get hot enough to climb back above the 2.0 points/game threshold that indicates to me an "elite" team. Second, two of the top teams in the Supporters' Shield table just happen to be the other half of the US Open Cup semifinal from D.C. United's. Not only are RSL and the Portland Timbers among the best teams in MLS, but each would be a very difficult place to play if the Open Cup final gets hosted in one of their stadiums.

Team Total Points Games Played Pts/ Game Wins Losses Draws Goals Goal Differential
Real Salt Lake 33 18 1.83 10 5 3 27 11
FC Dallas 30 17 1.76 8 3 6 27 5
Portland Timbers 30 17 1.76 7 1 9 28 12
Montreal Impact 29 15 1.93 9 4 2 27 6
New York Red Bulls 28 18 1.56 8 6 4 25 3
Philadelphia Union 26 17 1.53 7 5 5 27 1
Sporting Kansas City 26 17 1.53 7 5 5 23 6
Vancouver Whitecaps 25 16 1.56 7 5 4 26 2
LA Galaxy 24 17 1.41 7 7 3 25 4
Colorado Rapids 23 18 1.28 6 7 5 21 -1
Houston Dynamo 23 17 1.35 6 6 5 19 1
Seattle Sounders 21 14 1.50 6 5 3 19 2
New England Revolution 21 16 1.31 5 5 6 19 5
San Jose Earthquakes 21 18 1.17 5 7 6 18 -9
Columbus Crew 20 17 1.18 5 7 5 21 0
Chicago Fire 18 15 1.20 5 7 3 15 -6
Chivas USA 12 16 0.75 3 10 3 15 -16
Toronto FC 12 16 0.75 2 8 6 14 -7
D.C. United 9 17 0.53 2 12 3 8 -19

One final note: five of the bottom seven teams in MLS are currently in the Eastern Conference.

3. Current MLS Eastern Conference Standings. As of the end of June, the same five teams that were in Eastern Conference playoff spots at the end of the May remain in playoff slots today (Montreal Impact, New York Red Bulls, Philadelphia Union, Sporting Kansas City, and Houston Dynamo). There has been some shuffling of positions, however. At this point halfway through the season, it looks like an eight team race with D.C. United and Toronto FC having played themselves out of contention. If you look at the "potential points" column (the maximum number of points a team could earn if they won all their remaining games), it's clear how far ahead Montreal is from the rest of the pack. Similarly, Chicago's good play during June has put them back into playoff contention, while Columbus could find themselves the next team out of the playoff chase if they don't start playing better soon.

Team Total Points Games Played Pts/ Game Wins Losses Draws Potential Points
Montreal Impact 29 15 1.93 9 4 2 86
New York Red Bulls 28 18 1.56 8 6 4 76
Philadelphia Union 26 17 1.53 7 5 5 77
Sporting Kansas City 26 17 1.53 7 5 5 77
Houston Dynamo 23 17 1.35 6 6 5 74
New England Revolution 21 16 1.31 5 5 6 75
Columbus Crew 20 17 1.18 5 7 5 71
Chicago Fire 18 15 1.20 5 7 3 75
Toronto FC 12 16 0.75 2 8 6 66
D.C. United 9 17 0.53 2 12 3 60

4. Current MLS Attendance Table. MLS average attendance for 2013 has creeped up to 17,706 following the month of June (it was 17,248 after May). Season to date, MLS average attendance remains down 5.86% from last year's average of 18,807.

Team Games Played 2013 Average
Seattle Sounders 6 41,502
LA Galaxy 7 21,949
Montreal Impact 8 21,284
Portland Timbers 8 20,674
Sporting Kansas City 9 19,504
Houston Dynamo 8 19,466
Vancouver Whitecaps 8 19,466
Toronto FC 8 19,347
Real Salt Lake 9 18,548
New York Red Bulls 9 18,402
Philadelphia Union 9 17,591
FC Dallas 9 15,060
San Jose Earthquakes 9 14,811
Colorado Rapids 8 14,702
Columbus Crew 8 14,148
New England Revolution 8 13,670
D.C. United 10 13,645
Chicago Fire 8 12,723
Chivas USA 9 8,811

D.C. United had a very disappointing month for attendance in June, only averaging 13,707 for three Saturday evening games with reasonably good weather. In 2012, D.C. United averaged 15,839 for Saturday games, while in 2013 they averaged 15,064 for their first four Saturday games (one of which was in the afternoon with a very small crowd). At this point, having already played 10 of their 17 home matches, their 2013 home attendance average is 13,645 and it looks like it will be very difficult for the club to meaningfully top (or even equal?) last year's average attendance of 13,846. It appears at this point that the early season bad performance by the team has suppressed fan attendance during June, leaving D.C. United 17th out of the 19 MLS teams.

5. July's MLS Eastern Conference Schedule. During July, MLS will share the American soccer limelight with the CONCACAF Gold Cup and a number of international friendlies.

3 July (Wed) 4 July (Thurs) 6/7 July 12/13/14 July 17 July (Wed) 20 July 27 July
Montreal Impact @ Toronto Chivas @ New York FC Dallas Sporting
New York Red Bulls @ Colorado Montreal @ Toronto RSL
Philadelphia Union @ RSL @ Houston Chivas Portland @ Vancouver
Sporting Kansas City Vancouver @ Chicago Toronto @ RSL @ Montreal
Houston Dynamo Philadelphia @ New England Chicago
New England Revs San Jose Houston @ Colorado @ Columbus @ DC
Columbus Crew @ LA Portland New England @ Toronto
Chicago Fire San Jose Sporting @ Vancouver DC @ Houston
Toronto FC Montreal @ Sporting @ Chivas New York Columbus
D.C. United @ Seattle @ Colorado @ Chicago New England

a. Teams with Favorable Schedules in July. The Montreal Impact play five times in July, but three of those games are at home (Chivas, Dallas, and Sporting). With their away games at Toronto and New York, Montreal could put a strangle hold on the Eastern Conference in July, if they can rebound from their at-the-death loss to Colorado last weekend at home.

Similarly, the Chicago Fire play three of their five matches in July at home (San Jose, Sporting, and DC), while having to go on the road to Vancouver and Houston. While some of those games will be tricky if not downright difficult, Chicago has an opportunity to continue their recent good play with this schedule, especially with their first two games of July in Chicago Bridgeview.

b. Team with Unfavorable Schedules in July. Sporting Kansas City, Philadelphia Union, and D.C. United all have difficult schedules ahead of them in July. Sporting plays three of their five games on the road, including a very difficult road trip to Salt Lake and then to Montreal. Philadelphia also plays three times out of five on the road, with very challenging games at Salt Lake, at Houston (at least this used to be a tough game), home against Portland (the team that will not lose), and then at Vancouver. Finally, D.C. United plays three of their four matches in July on the road (more about the hometown team below).

c. What to Expect in July. While playing three out of four games on the road is a challenging month, let's put it into a broader context that makes it look even tougher. Over the next three months (Jul-Sep), D.C. United will play thirteen matches, only four of which are at RFK Stadium. That means D.C. United will have to become road warriors if they are going to make any noise in the league over the next few months. In July, they play away at Seattle (tough crowd), at Colorado (tough altitude), and at Chicago, with one home game against a New England side that has played better (if inconsistent) soccer in 2013 as compared to 2012.

Give us your take on the month of June, the MLS season to date, or your thoughts on July in the comments section below.

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