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Setting the Stage for June: If Not Now, D.C. United, When?

After a brutal schedule in May playing four of the best teams in MLS, D.C. United gets a chance in June to play the other end of the table. This is the month to make a move if a move is to be made. Let's break it down.

Can head coach Ben Olsen and captain Dwayne De Rosario get D.C. United moving in a positive direction in June?
Can head coach Ben Olsen and captain Dwayne De Rosario get D.C. United moving in a positive direction in June?

There' s an old saying in golf that you can't win a tournament on Thursday, but you can lose it. That's what has happened to D.C. United this season. After a difficult opening 12 games, they continue to sit dead last in the overall Major League Soccer table. Although two thirds of the season remains, the hole D.C. United is in right now is so deep that it would truly be a miracle at this point if they were to play themselves back into playoff contention (even if they started playing very well). But, if a miracle is to be had, June is the month that it must begin due to a much more favorable schedule for the Black-and-Red. Before we get to that schedule, however, let's see what happened around the league in May.

1. May's MLS Results. Who predicted the Colorado Rapids would win the month of May on a points per game basis? Yes, they did it against weak competition (Toronto FC, at Columbus Crew, at San Jose Earthquakes, and Chivas USA), but Oscar Pareja has the Rapids playing much better this year (despite their early round loss in the US Open Cup last night). On an total points basis, the New York Red Bulls earned 11 points in May from their five matches (Columbus twice both home and away, Montreal Impact, at New England Revolution, and LA Galaxy). It's ironic that during a month in which NYRB played so well, MLS announced the fulfillment of it's long-running dream to put another team (i.e. a different team) inside the city limits of the Big Apple.

At the other end of the table, a stunning four teams went winless during the month of May (Chicago Fire, Chivas USA, D.C. United, and Toronto FC). Collectively, these four teams were 0-13-2 for a total of two points from 15 games.

The table below shows each MLS teams' results for May. The table is sorted based on average points per game.

Team Total Points Games Played Pts/ Game Wins Losses Draws
Colorado Rapids 10 4 2.50 3 0 1
New York Red Bulls 11 5 2.20 3 0 2
Seattle Sounders 10 5 2.00 3 1 1
Real Salt Lake 10 5 2.00 3 1 1
Portland Timbers 9 5 1.80 2 0 3
FC Dallas 7 4 1.75 2 1 1
Montreal Impact 7 4 1.75 2 1 1
New England Revolution 8 5 1.60 2 1 2
Sporting Kansas City 8 5 1.60 2 1 2
Philadelphia Union 7 5 1.40 2 2 1
Houston Dynamo 7 5 1.40 2 2 1
Vancouver Whitecaps 4 3 1.33 1 1 1
LA Galaxy 6 5 1.20 2 3 0
San Jose Earthquakes 5 5 1.00 1 2 2
Columbus Crew 4 4 1.00 1 2 1
Chicago Fire 1 3 0.33 0 2 1
D.C. United 1 4 0.25 0 3 1
Chivas USA 0 4 0.00 0 4 0
Toronto FC 0 4 0.00 0 4 0

a. Surprise Teams in May. The Colorado Rapids have quietly become a legitimate team this season, and their performance in May was excellent. They don't score a lot of goals (six during May), but they don't give up many either (one in May). Similarly, the New England Revolution rode their excellent defense to eight points in May, and they added Juan Agudelo to their attack as Chivas USA continued to trade their best players for additional training equipment. If Agudelo can add some scoring punch for the Revs, they just may be a team to contend with for the remainder of the season.

b. Disappointing Teams in May. After winning the Supporters' Shield last year, the San Jose Earthquakes have stumbled badly to start this season. In May, against reasonably tough competition (Montreal, Toronto, at Seattle Sounders, Colorado, and at FC Dallas), but with three home games, they secured only five points. Other than D.C. United, the Quakes are probably the most disappointing team of 2013.

How big was the LA Galaxy's 4-0 win late on Sunday night against Seattle? Even with that win, LA only secured six points from five games in May (Houston Dynamo, at Vancouver Whitecaps, at Philadelphia Union, at New York, and Seattle). If they had lost the Seattle game, May would have been truly disastrous, but in the end, it was merely disappointing.

2. Current MLS Supporters' Shield Standings. After the first three months of the eight-month MLS regular season, FC Dallas and the Montreal Impact remain the class of the league on a points per game basis, each averaging more than two points per game. At the bottom of the table, six of the league's 19 teams have yet to even win more than three games (with Toronto FC and D.C. United having only won one game each).

Team Total Points Games Played Pts/ Game Wins Losses Draws Goals Goal Differential
FC Dallas 27 13 2.08 8 2 3 21 6
New York Red Bulls 25 15 1.67 7 4 4 22 5
Montreal Impact 23 11 2.09 7 2 2 20 6
Sporting Kansas City 22 14 1.57 6 4 4 17 6
Portland Timbers 22 13 1.69 5 1 7 22 8
Houston Dynamo 21 13 1.62 6 4 3 18 5
Real Salt Lake 21 14 1.50 6 5 3 18 3
LA Galaxy 20 12 1.67 6 4 2 21 11
Colorado Rapids 19 13 1.46 5 4 4 13 3
Philadelphia Union 18 13 1.38 5 5 3 18 -5
Columbus Crew 16 12 1.33 4 4 4 15 3
New England Revolution 16 12 1.33 4 4 4 10 1
Seattle Sounders 15 11 1.36 4 4 3 14 1
San Jose Earthquakes 15 14 1.07 3 5 6 13 -7
Vancouver Whitecaps 13 11 1.18 3 4 4 14 -2
Chivas USA 11 12 0.92 3 7 2 13 -11
Chicago Fire 8 11 0.73 2 7 2 7 -10
Toronto FC 7 12 0.58 1 7 4 11 -7
D.C. United 5 12 0.42 1 9 2 6 -16

3. Current MLS Eastern Conference Standings. If the playoffs were to start today, New York, Montreal, Sporting Kansas City, Houston , and Philadelphia would make the cut in the Eastern Conference. Two other teams, Columbus and New England are still within easy striking distance of moving into a playoff spot, while Chicago, Toronto, and D.C. United are effectively playing themselves out of playoff contention. Unless one of these three teams (the three worst teams in MLS right now) makes a serious turnaround, the race for the Eastern Conference playoffs is already down to seven teams.

Team Total Points Games Played Pts/ Game Wins Losses Draws Potential Points
New York Red Bulls 25 15 1.67 7 4 4 82
Montreal Impact 23 11 2.09 7 2 2 92
Sporting Kansas City 22 14 1.57 6 4 4 82
Houston Dynamo 21 13 1.62 6 4 3 84
Philadelphia Union 18 13 1.38 5 5 3 81
Columbus Crew 16 12 1.33 4 4 4 82
New England Revolution 16 12 1.33 4 4 4 82
Chicago Fire 8 11 0.73 2 7 2 77
Toronto FC 7 12 0.58 1 7 4 73
D.C. United 5 12 0.42 1 9 2 71

4. Current MLS Attendance Table. MLS average attendance through the first three months of the 2013 regular season is 17,248, a substantial 8.3% decrease from 2012's regular season average of 18,807. There hasn't been much talk about this yet in the press, but MLS is on track for a lower average attendance this year after a run of three straight seasons of solid attendance gains. Is this the Beckham-less effect?

Team Games Played 2013 Average
Seattle Sounders 5 39,066
Montreal Impact 6 22,032
LA Galaxy 6 21,661
Portland Timbers 6 20,674
Vancouver Whitecaps 6 19,913
Sporting Kansas City 7 19,420
Toronto FC 6 19,120
Houston Dynamo 7 19,098
Real Salt Lake 6 18,176
Philadelphia Union 6 17,497
New York Red Bulls 7 17,166
FC Dallas 8 14,898
Colorado Rapids 6 14,175
D.C. United 7 13,762
Columbus Crew 5 12,840
New England Revolution 6 12,679
Chicago Fire 5 12,108
San Jose Earthquakes 8 10,409
Chivas USA 6 8,059
MLS Average

It's clear after seven home matches that D.C. United has not seen a significant attendance boost over last year. Currently, average home attendance is 13,762, which is slightly behind last year's average of 13,846. If there is any good news on the horizon for D.C. United, it's that the next six home games are all on Saturday nights. Average attendance should continue to creep up during the summer since the average Saturday crowd this season has been 15,064. It will be interesting to see, however, if the team's woeful start to 2013 suppresses the Saturday night average as the season wears on.

5. June's MLS Eastern Conference Schedule. With World Cup Qualifiers on tap in June, MLS is thinning out the schedule during the middle of the month. After a full weekend of games on Jun. 1-2, there will be two weekends with only a handful of games, although D.C. United will play each of these weekends (while also playing a US Open Cup match on Jun. 12 against the Philadelphia Union). But, to make up for the dearth of MLS matches, we can watch the US Men's National Team play on Jun. 2 at RFK Stadium in a friendly against Germany, followed by World Cup Qualifying matches at Jamaica on Jun. 7, against Panama on Jun. 11 in Seattle, and against Honduras on Jun. 18 in Sandy, Utah.

1/2 June 5 June (Wed) 8 June 15 June 19 June (Wed) 22/23 June 29/30 June
New York Red Bulls Vancouver @ Philadelphia Houston
Montreal Impact @ Sporting @ Columbus Houston Colorado
Sporting Kansas City Montreal @ Dallas Columbus
Houston Dynamo @ Columbus @ Montreal Toronto @ New York
Philadelphia Union @ Toronto Columbus New York Dallas
Columbus Crew Houston @ Philadelphia Montreal Chicago @ Sporting
New England Revs LA DC @ Vancouver @ Chivas
Chicago Fire DC Portland Colorado @ Columbus
Toronto FC Philadelphia @ DC @ Houston RSL
D.C. United @ Chicago @ New England Toronto San Jose Vancouver

a. Teams with favorable schedules in June. New York finally gets two bye weeks after playing every week since the start of the season. Plus, they have two home games (Vancouver and Houston), and a winnable away game just down I-95 at Philadelphia. The Red Bulls have a real opportunity to continue their winning ways in June.

Both the Philadelphia Union and the Chicago Fire each have three home games and one road game during June. Philadelphia has shown themselves to be a dangerous team with an elite scorer in Jack McInerney. It will be interesting to see how they perform in June against two lower-tier teams (at Toronto, Columbus) and two top-tier teams (New York, Dallas). Chicago, on the other hand, needs to quickly get some wins or they will be out of playoff contention in short order. They also face two lower-level teams (D.C., at Columbus) and two surprisingly strong teams this year (Portland, Colorado).

Finally, D.C. United has three home games and two road games against teams currently not in a playoff position during June (at Chicago, at New England, Toronto, San Jose, and Vancouver). See below for a breakdown.

b. Teams with unfavorable schedules in June. Montreal has been consistently good throughout 2013. During June, they will be tested with four challenging games (at Sporting Kansas City, at Columbus , Houston, and Colorado). If they can continue to average two points per game during this stretch, they will truly cement their status as an elite team.

The Houston Dynamo have shown themselves to be surprisingly vulnerable this year, dropping two straight at BBVA Compass Stadium. Yet, they remain tied for sixth in the overall Supporters' Shield standings (which says a lot about their overall high quality of play). During June, Houston will have to travel for three challenging road games (at Columbus, at Montreal, and at New York), while getting one relatively easy game at home (against Toronto).

c. What to expect in June? Unlike May when D.C. United played four of the best teams in MLS, June should be much easier for the Capitol Club. This month's five opponents currently have the following rankings in the Supporters' Shield standings: New England (#12), San Jose (#14), Vancouver (#15), Chicago (#17), Toronto (#18). On a points per game basis, these five teams are rated #13, #15, #14, #17, and #18 respectively. However you slice it, this is the month for D.C. United to start getting some points. As we said at the beginning of this post, however, getting back into a playoff spot will require a true miracle, and is so fantastic a possibility as to be almost considered impossible at this point. But with many other factors still to play for (job security for players/coaches/front office executives, boosting average home attendance, securing a stadium deal, giving some hope to the fanbase, attracting quality new signings, etc...), June is the month for D.C. United to make a move.

What's in store for D.C. United? How do you see June unfolding? Which team do you predict will win the month of June?