This year's D.C. United campaign has been remarkable on many levels. But let's talk about the dissatisfaction so many D.C. United fans seem to have with the team, the coach, and certain players, despite facts that point to this having been an unbelievably successful season. Sure, it's any fan's right to have any opinion they want about a team; that's not in question. In fact, we invite and implore that you post your opinions here on Black and Red United using a FanPost or comment. But now, with one game left in the regular season, it's time to see your facts.
Perhaps as a soccer fan, I could compare D.C. United to the Spanish National Team, Barcelona FC, or Chelsea FC as my measure for whether D.C. United has been successful or is playing well. But I personally can't and won't do that because D.C. United is a Major League Soccer team, and must compete with all the constraints that brings in a salary-cap driven system. So, using MLS statistics as my measure, this is my opening argument for choosing to believe in D.C. United and Coach Ben Olsen unreservedly at this point in the season--they've earned it. I look forward to reading the other side of the argument equally infused by facts.
1. D.C. United sits third in the overall league table. In my opinion, there are two teams in MLS that have earned the term "elite" over the course of the season--the San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City. As of this week, these are the only two teams ahead of D.C. United in the overall league table. Even yet, there is a scenario by which D.C. United can tie Sporting on points and beat them in a tie breaker to win the Eastern Conference this year. Yes, it is improbable, but the fact D.C. United is in this position is a testament to the excellent season they've had.
|Team||Total Points||Games Played||Pts/ Game|
|San Jose Earthquakes||65||33||1.97|
|Sporting Kansas City||60||33||1.82|
|Real Salt Lake||56||33||1.70|
|New York Red Bulls||54||33||1.64|
|New England Revolution||32||33||0.97|
2. D.C. United has MLS's best home record for this season. No matter what happens the final week of the season, D.C. United will finish the season having earned the most points of any team in the league at home. Take back RFK? Indeed!
|Team||Home Wins||Home Losses||Home Draws||Home Points|
|New York Red Bulls||11||2||4||37|
|San Jose Earthquakes||10||1||6||36|
|Real Salt Lake||11||4||1||34|
|Sporting Kansas City||9||3||4||31|
|New England Revolution||7||4||6||27|
3. D.C. United met expectations on the road. I've said it before, but D.C. United has done the minimum required this year on the road to be considered a quality team. The old mantra says win at home, and draw on the road. With Saturday's game at the Chicago Fire left to play, that's exactly what D.C. United has done by scoring 17 points on the road this season. Would I like to see them do better on the road next season? Absolutely, and if D.C. United wants to become an elite team next year, then getting more points on the road is a requirement.
|Team||Away Wins||Away Losses||Away Draws||Away Points|
|San Jose Earthquakes||9||5||2||29|
|Sporting Kansas City||8||4||5||29|
|Real Salt Lake||6||7||4||22|
|New York Red Bulls||4||7||5||17|
|New England Revolution||1||13||2||5|
4. D.C. United currently has a top four MLS offense. The ultimate measure of a team's offense is goals scored. Across the entire season, D.C. United has scored the fourth most goals of any team in the league. The San Jose Earthquakes have truly been the class of the league offensively by a wide margin, but D.C. United leads all other teams except the LA Galaxy (whose payroll is 3x that of D.C. United) and the New York Red Bulls (payroll 4x that of D.C. United).
|San Jose Earthquakes||71|
|New York Red Bulls||54|
|Real Salt Lake||46|
|Sporting Kansas City||40|
|New England Revolution||38|
5. D.C. United has a defense just in the top half of the league. If a defense is ultimately measured by the number of goals it gives up in a season, then D.C. United's defense is slightly above average. Currently tied with San Jose as the eighth best defense in MLS, D.C. United has given up 42 goals as compared to a league average 43.8 goals. Yet, over their current six-game unbeaten streak, it has been the defense that has largely carried the load. For next year, however, this is one area in which D.C. United can make improvements to move toward elite status.
|Sporting Kansas City||26|
|Real Salt Lake||35|
|San Jose Earthquakes||42|
|New England Revolution||44|
|New York Red Bulls||46|
6. Bill Hamid is a top three MLS goalkeeper. When all else fails, D.C. United has a superb young goalkeeper between the posts. If measuring "saves percentage," Hamid is second (76.9%) to only Michael Gspurning of the Seattle Sounders (77.1%). If using goals conceded per game as your favored measuring stick, Hamid is third (1.04 goals/game) behind Gspurning (0.70) and Jimmy Nielsen of Sporting Kansas City (0.79 goals/game).
7. D.C. United is one of only five teams with two unbeaten streaks of at least six matches this season. Unbeaten streaks are tough in this league for a number of reasons. First, the structure of MLS means there is a lot of parity among the teams (one of MLS's best qualities in my opinion), which makes getting consecutive results over several games difficult. Second, the home field advantage is so pronounced in MLS that avoiding a loss on the road is very hard. Put together, it's a challenge for any team to sustain an unbeaten streak of more than a few games. Among all of the 19 teams in MLS, in fact, there have only been 14 unbeaten streaks of six games or more--and D.C. United has two of them.
|Team||Unbeaten Streak||# of Wins||First Game||Last Game|
|New York Red Bulls||6||5||28-Apr||23-May|
|Real Salt Lake||7||5||25-Apr||16-Jun|
|San Jose Earthquakes||7||6||24-Mar||2-May|
|San Jose Earthquakes||8*||5||25-Aug||Ongoing|
|Sporting Kansas City||7||7||10-Mar||18-Apr|
|Sporting Kansas City||11*||6||4-Aug||Ongoing|
8. The D.C. United front office is getting value for the dollars they are investing in players. Overall, D.C. United has the 10th highest payroll in MLS, yet they sit third overall in the league table, and fifth in "salary dollars per point" (the lower this figure, the more value a team is getting from its total player payroll). Ultimately, soccer is about wins, losses, and points, and D.C. United is getting good value from the dollars they are spending on players. Contrast that with Toronto who has the 3rd highest payroll in the league, yet sits dead last by a wide margin in the overall league table. Plus, D.C. United has had to play six games here at the end of the season without their best player and Captain, Dwayne De Rosario. Even with Hamdi Salihi not being a starter, which means his Designated Player salary spends a lot of time on the bench, D.C. United is still getting very good value out of their team.
|Team||Total Points||2012 Team Salary||Dollars/Pt|
|San Jose Earthquakes||65||$3,174,895||$48,845|
|Sporting Kansas City||60||$3,226,599||$53,777|
|Real Salt Lake||56||$3,581,445||$63,954|
|New England Revolution||32||$2,639,981||$82,499|
|New York Red Bulls||54||$16,728,107||$309,780|
9. Since Ben Olsen became the head coach, the team has been on an upward trajectory. Ben Olsen's first game as D.C. United's head coach was on Aug. 7, 2010. Since that time, the team has had a steady, and significant, improvement each year. Below is the average number of points per game since Ben Olsen became head coach. The question is, what will Ben Olsen and D.C. United do next season to continue this improvement?
- 2010: 0.83 pts/game (10 points in 12 games under Olsen)
- 2011: 1.15 pts/game (39 points in 34 games)
- 2012: 1.73 pts/game (57 points in 33 games)
10. D.C. United set a franchise goal this year to make the playoffs, and they've done it. As well as I think they've performed this year, however, there are no guarantees in the playoffs. But, what team in MLS does have a guarantee in the playoffs? Sure, the San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City will be the favorites to reach the 2012 MLS Cup, but will anyone be surprised if either or both of these teams get upset in the playoffs? Again, with parity and home field advantage, no team is a sure bet in a two-game, aggregate-goal series. Similarly, who will face D.C. United in the Eastern Conference playoffs and be a favorite other than Sporting (and they've had some mystifying losses at home this season)?
These are the facts that lead me to believe Ben Olsen and this team know what they're doing. It might not always be pretty, but it's been effective. And compared to the rest of Major League Soccer, it has truly been a remarkable season for a team that hasn't made the playoffs in the last four years. In fact, this season has been so good that they've put a lot of pressure on themselves for next season to continue the improvement and move into the elite level of this league once again. Because, after their success this year, what else is left to do than to become an elite team favored to win a trophy?
There you go. If you are dissatisfied with this team, this coach, or their results this year, let's see your facts and have the debate. Vamos United!