We’ve already gone over the MLS playoff scenarios that would help United get into the playoffs, and we probably will again after Saturday, but that’s not what this is about. We concluded that United would need 12 points to guarantee a playoff spot, but would probably get in with 9 or 10 points too, but that’s not what this is about either. We could steer you towards odds sites like this one that says that United’s playoff chances have dropped from over 80% in early September to 47% now, or this one that says that United’s playoff chances increase to 73% with wins in just two of the final four matches. But this isn’t about that either.
This is about something different. United should make the playoffs because they DESERVE to make the playoffs.
Let’s go back to March. Before the Dwayne De Rosario trade, before Bill Hamid became a national team goalkeeper, before Chris Pontius and Branko Boskovic suffered major injuries, this was a team that we believed would be in competition for the final playoff spot. Seven months later, nothing has changed.
Well, lots has changed, but nothing has really changed.
When you’re in competition for the final playoff spot, luck factors in heavily. Luck decides which teams will get that final point or two necessary to make it, and which teams won’t. United had many chances earlier in the season (last week in particular) to take it out of luck’s hands, but those chances are behind us now.
Luck has all sorts of ways of influencing matches. A fortunate bounce here. An unwarranted call there. It happens to every MLS team.
Personally, I’m a firm believer in course correction. I think people and sports teams generally get what’s coming to them. Lucky bounces and bad calls tend to balance each other out in the long run. But one season might not be enough to be called a long run.
If you’re looking at just this season, United’s luck has been fairly even. The team earned one point each from matches at home against the Los Angeles Galaxy (in which Charlie Davies embellished indisputable contact from Omar Gonzales) and on the road against Real Salt Lake (in which Davies outright dove) that they probably deserved to lose. +2. But a game at home against Toronto FC that should have been a win turned into a tie due to poorly executed substitution by the officiating crew that gifted our opponents a goal. -2.
If you look past just this season though, United has been undoubtedly unlucky. Since we all know that the 2010 season didn’t actually happen, think back to 2008 and 2009 – two seasons in which D.C. missed the playoffs by only a single point. In 2009, we documented unlucky instances that cost this team as many as seven points.
We missed the playoffs that year, and the year before. We should make it this year. We deserve it. Course correction.
I dare you to tell me that the New York Red Bulls DESERVE to make the playoffs more than we do. Their attempts to buy a championship with incompatible and ungrateful talent deserves to fall recklessly and comically short.
Not United though. This team has character and class, along with a legendary coach who has always worked hard at his craft. This team may not have EARNED its playoff spot as unquestionably as the Philadelphia Union and Sporting Kansas City, but they DESERVE it none the less.