The math is simple: A win on the road against the Chicago Fire on Decision Day would allow D.C. United to host their MLS playoff opener, which would be a midweek knockout round game. United will not want to match the 2017 Houston Dynamo, currently the only team since the beginning of this decade to make the playoffs with just one road win on the season. If Unied fail to win on Sunday, they’ll duplicate that “feat,” and more importantly travel to take on NYCFC or the Philadelphia Union in the middle of next week.
Given United’s form at home, there’s nothing else on the team’s mind than picking up three points in Bridgeview.
“It’s pretty simple. You can do all the math, put together all the scenarios,” head coach Ben Olsen told reporters on Wednesday. “It just comes down to us going to Chicago and getting a win so we can reward our fans with a playoff game.”
There’s a way for United to host the same game with a draw against the Fire, but that would require leaning on NYCFC to beat the Union at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. And for a team that has had to take matters into their own hands to get into the playoffs this year, winning five straight games, United want to make sure that they seal the deal on their own terms.
“It continues with the theme of the last three months,” added Olsen. “[It’s] another game we need to win. Wednesday or Thursday? Another game we need to win.”
Earlier this month, the two teams faced off for the first time this season at Audi Field. United fell behind in the second half to a Raheem Edwards goal, but bounced back through a brace from Wayne Rooney to pick up all three points.
Chicago, who surprised many by having a strong regular season last year before losing at home in the knockout round of the playoffs to the New York Red Bulls, never got in gear in 2018.
They were officially eliminated from the playoff chase weeks ago, but never really appeared to be serious contenders for a playoff spot by the time summer came around. That said, their spirited performance against United on Buzzard Point shows a team that isn’t going to just roll over and play the part for the Black-and-Red on Sunday.
“[Chicago] are in a similar situation like we were last year. Where you go out there, and give it all you got. You’re playing for next year,” Paul Arriola said after practice on Wednesday. “They are professional players, and our job is to compete no matter what, under whichever circumstances.”
Regardless of the outcome on Sunday, United know that they will face a quick turnaround for the midweek game. United will play either on Wednesday or Thursday, the timing of which will be determined after Sunday’s games. United are accustomed to the quick turnaround though, having played five midweek games at their new stadium since the July 14 opening.
“We are confident that even with the short turnaround, we should be good at home,” said Arriola. “[Playing at home is] a huge advantage in this league, especially for us.”