We were all hoping not to be in this position in the 2015 MLS Playoffs, but after Sunday's embarassing 5-0 loss to the Columbus Crew, D.C. United now have to host the New England Revolution for the right to play in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Revs and United are two of MLS's original teams, and have plenty of history playing against each other over the past 20 years. But surprisingly, the two teams have only had 4 playoff matches against one another: A two-game series in 1997, followed by single game Conference Finals in 2004 and 2006.
Here, we will take a look back at the 2015 season games against the Revolution, which consisted of a disappointing draw on the road against a 9-man Revs side, and a prototypical 2015 United come-from-behind win at home after conceding an early goal.
May 23: New England 1-1 D. C. United
To refresh your memories, here's our recap and the recap from our Revs-loving sister site, The Bent Musket.
That first meeting against the Revs this year was a strange one. The game was one of the first in a trend that lasted all season: United conceded first, but got a result nonetheless. The circumstances this time around saw the single point was viewed as a disappointment.
Charlie Davies - that is, former DCU striker Charlie Davies - scored just before halftime, tapping in a rebound after a big Bill Hamid save from a corner kick to give the Revs the advantage. But before the 60th minute, New England was down to 9 men: Chris Tierney saw a straight red after putting his studs into Chris Pontius' knee in the 52nd minute, and Lee Nguyen was given a second yellow card for an elbow on Davy Arnaud just 8 minutes later.
At that point, it only seemed natural that United would be able to go on and win the game. Yes, they still trailed by a goal, but with 30 minutes left and a two man advantage, two goals seemed possible. The Revs fell back into a shell to defend at all costs, and United struggled to create many hcances. And at that, it wasn't even one way traffic, as New England had a couple of looks at the other end to put the game away.
New signing Facundo Coria came in and had a meaningful impact, even if it was against 9 men. The Argentinian had plenty of room to operate in the middle of the field, and it was eventually his pass out to the left for Taylor Kemp that led to the cross to Jairo Arrieta that netted the equalizer.
But that was about it in terms of chances created by United. Arrieta's goal was the only shot on target that United managed, even given the disparity in the number of men on the field at the end of the game. Though a point in Foxborough was nothing to scoff at, the manner in which United earned it left something to be desired for most. Adding to United's frustrations was that this game preceded a midweek trip to Portland to play on another turf surface, a situation that caused United to put their stronger team out in New England with an eye on beating a conference foe.
It was also a nice look at Coria, who seemed capable of operating within the confines of MLS play. The problem was that he came in when New England was down to 9 men, so his impact had to be taken with a grain of salt. And throughout the course of the season, that was just about his biggest contribution in MLS play, as Ben Olsen never really trusted him in league play, especially after his ill-advised late solo attack in Dallas gifted FC Dallas the one last bout of possession that they turned into a stoppage time winner in July.
June 21: D.C. United 2-1 New England
Again, first things first: Here is our recap of the win, with a look at how The Bent Musket saw it here.
There have been a couple of games, especially at RFK Stadium, that typified D.C. United's season. This win against the Revs is right up there in terms of the blueprint. United fell behind early in the first half and then managed to scrap their way back in the second, with Chris Rolfe providing both goals for United on the day.
It was again Davies who put the Revs ahead, this time in the tenth minute. United, by that point of the season, had already started their trend of conceding early -- though not within in the first minute of games -- and coming back to win. Wins in May at home against the Philadelphia Union and Orlando City had proved that United could find ways back into games at home when they gave up an early goal.
And this June match up with the Revs was no different. Davies put the finishing touches on a move that involved London Woodberry, Teal Bunbury, and Lee Nguyen to give the Revs the lead in the 10th minute.
Coming off a two-game losing streak in league play, which included a first home loss in nearly a year against Toronto FC as well as a loss down in Orlando, United were again put on their heels to start the game. It really wasn't until the second half that United finally got into gear, with Rolfe had a shot blocked off the line and Davy Arnaud wasted a good look from distance after being set up by Rolfe.
United weren't to be denied on the day, with Rolfe taking a step back in the 70th minute to volley home a cross from Fabian Espindola. That set the stage for Miguel Aguilar to win a penalty that Rolfe converted in the 81st minute for the winning goal.
The game wasn't the prettiest from United, but then again, a lot of the wins in 2015 came from the team's ability to bounce back from conceding early, and grinding out results when need be. Rolfe would finish the year as the team's leading scorer in league play with 10 goals, and the Revs game fell in a time when Rolfe was in arguably his best form.
In all, United won 11 of the 17 games they played at home. 7 of those wins came when United conceded the first goal, and that first goal game in the first half every single time. The win against New England in June was the fourth such occasion in 2015, but it was wins like that that kept United top of the Eastern Conference for most of the season, and allowed United to make the playoffs even with the six-game wobble late in the season.
It's been quite some time since United and the Revs have played in the playoffs, with the last such instance coming in 2006. Taylor Twellman scored early, and the Revs escaped RFK in the Conference Finals with a 1-0 victory. Two years prior, United moved on to the 2004 MLS Cup Final, beating the Revs in penalties after one of the greatest games ever played in MLS ended 3-3, with the Black-and-Red taking the lead three different times. Nick Rimando saved Clint Dempsey's penalty - perhaps sparking the growth of his reputation as MLS's premier goalkeeper in such scenarios - to send DC back to the final, where they would win their fourth MLS Cup.