It's one of those weeks, folks: multiple games, lots o' predictions, and the hope that United can see things through with results.
Just a few days after the fun against Orlando, the Black-and-Red face Columbus Crew SC tomorrow at RFK, and as is true of every game left in this season, this one has serious playoff implications. So, do United get it done and keep themselves afloat in the playoff race?
This is probably a broken record at this point, but this match is the most important match of the season. This is the game in hand we have that can put us ahead of New England and control our own destiny in making the playoffs. This is also a match that we should win, and fueled by the inspired play over the weekend, the Black-and-Red get it done. Two goals by Patrick Mullins and a clean sheet by Bill Hamid means a 2-0 victory and the team sits in the driver's seat with 3 matches to play.
In October 2012, D.C. United faced the Crew in another late season match that had huge post-season implications. The result was that sublime run by LEWIS NEAL, a goal, and the Mother of All Beer Showers. That was a Saturday night. This Wednesday night game will have to find the energy to match the stakes. If the 12th man is involved, I think DC carries the day, 3-2, with goals by Mullins, Nyarko, and Birnbaum. But we need electricity to make it happen. The Crew aren't pushovers of late.
Allow me to be the lucky 10,000th PERSON!! (cue confetti) to note that United have yet to win back-to-back games this year, a streak they desperately need to break against an in-form Crew side. Somehow, I think that desperation and the fact that the Crew are playing well right now both help the Black-and-Red, who have tended to look less inspired on the field when things are supposed to be easy. Look for Ben Olsen to have them flying out of the gate and locked in for the duration. 2-0 to los Capitalinos an early goal from Acosta and a late tally—because it's not a D.C. United game without a goal at the death—from Rob Vincent. A Hamidian display from Bill Hamid deals the Crewzers their first shutout since July.
Luckily for D.C. United, the Columbus Crew played a day later than they did, and have to travel from Columbus to the District to play a midweek game. This is the middle game of three in seven days, but after those three games is an international break during which United will not play; that combined with injuries means that we will probably see United's primary starters for most of these next two games. I think, just like against Orlando, United can get a good result against a fellow playoff contender. Give me a 2-1 victory, with Lucho Acosta getting a goal and an assist, and Birnbaum heading home another goal.
Columbus has started to show signs of life recently, with 2 straight wins and 3 in 5 keeping them—somehow—in this ugly, sloppy race for the last two playoff spots in the East. Both teams are dealing with short rest, but the Crew played Sunday night; that extra day makes a huge difference. United will likely roll out more or less the same lineup that rolled over Orlando, and I expect them to get out to a lead through Patrick Nyarko. However, the game won't be anywhere near as easy as the win over OCSC, and the Crew will get into halftime level thanks to a goal from Justin Meram. The second half will remain even, but United will carve out the best chance, with Mullins bagging his eighth goal since arriving. The Crew will change formation and throw major numbers forward, but United will survive a stressful final ten minutes. Kennedy Igboananike breaks free in stoppage time, chasing down a pass from Julian Buescher to cap the game off for the Black-and-Red. 3-1 United.
I remain suspicious of the Crew in that their two wins, at home, against a struggling New England team and a Orlando City team that gave up 4 goals to DC, can really do anything with a day of training and Tony Tchani playing a #10 position. Hopefully with DC's somewhat targeted precision Wednesday they can continue on to the low bar of winning two games in a row and, with goals from the Saints Patrick (Mullins and Nyarko) ride things to a 2-0 DCU win.
All about them playoffs. The Eastern Conference table is messy, to be sure, but things will be less messy for DCU if they can take care of their own business. Anything less than a win against the Crew won't really cut it, and I think the team recognizes that. This one will be three points for the home side, 2-1 with goals from Mullins (awww yeahh) and Buescher (awww jaaaaa).
Let us know your predictions in the comments, but before you do, here's your silly poll: