Playoffs are coming. But before they do, it's time for United's last home game of the regular season, against the very hate-able, stupidly named NYCFC. (By the way, Jason breaks down DCU's playoff scenarios for you right here, so check that out.)
Putting the playoffs aside for just a minute, though, let's predict what'll happen in tomorrow's match.
NYCFC has won two in a row, and they're undefeated in their last three matches. D.C. United have won three in a row, and they've lost just once since July 23rd. That loss was against NYCFC at Yankee Stadium. New York will be on the hunt for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, and if this particular match wasn't at RFK, I'd not feel good about United grabbing so much as a point. Fortunately it's at home, and the visitors have a habit of allowing goals in bunches on the road; they've allowed two or more goals in four out of their last six road matches. All of this points to a 2-1 win for D.C., a prediction which I wrote and deleted at least three times before leaving it there. C'mon playoffs.
The Black-and-Red need three points from their last two matches to secure their place in the playoffs. They go up against a NYC team that hasn't been beaten in their last three matches, but our boys are hot too. Hopefully we have our full team back ready to go, because it's our last home match of the regular season and the crowd will be jacked up and ready to go. Do we have a LEWIS NEAL moment? I don't know if it's that kind of moment, but Patrick Mullins nets two to send secure our playoff berth, and it's a 2-1 victory.
The fact that the last time these teams met, on Sept. 1, was D.C. United's last loss obscures the first 79 minutes of that game, during which los Capitalinos were in control, allowing the Pigeons to possess the ball without yielding them any real chances. Then Khiry Shelton entered the game with instructions to make stand-in left fullback Luke Mishu's life a waking nightmare. Shelton delivered, and United would give up three goals over the final 11 minutes, plus stoppage time. While David Villa and Frank Lampard got the goals, Shelton was the biggest reason why.
He'll be starting on Sunday, going against Taylor Kemp, whose improved defensive ability and confidence on the ball I think will help contain Shelton. Combine that with United's form and a sold-out lower bowl at RFK, and I want a W. Give me 3-1 for the good guys, first-half goals from the Patricks Mullins & Nyarko (both set up by Luciano Acosta) and a late capper from Steve Birnbaum after Villa pulls one back for the guests.
It is D.C. United's last regular season home game of the year, and winning this game would go a long way towards securing another home game: in the playoffs. However, United have not had great luck against NYCFC this year, and David Villa is one of the top goalscorers in the league (and in the world). But United are on a streak, and they should be able to put on a good performance at home. How about a 2-0 victory over the Pigeons, with the Patricks both Mullins and Nyarko scoring some goals to thrust United into the playoffs.
There's no ignoring that a win is (obviously) the best outcome for the Black-and-Red, and it should to be our advantage that this is a home game. Add in that the lower bowl is sold out for the second time this year and you've got the makings for three sweet points. I think that's exactly what United get, and it's thanks to two goals from Patricks Mullins and none for the visitors. 2-0, vamos.
Share your predictions in the comments, but first, your silly poll of the week: