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What if D.C. United’s season weren’t on hold due to coronavirus?

We looked back on the schedule and guessed at what could have been for the Black-and-Red

Inter Miami CF v D.C. United Photo by Jose Argueta/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Remember February? Back then, D.C. United was in the middle of their preseason, and if you asked us about what would be going on in mid-May, we probably wouldn’t have predicted that the Black-and-Red would be just two games into the 2020 schedule. It turns out a soccer league’s plans are more fragile than we may have thought, and we’re just two games into the season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Did we learn a ton about what United will be like this year in those games? Probably not. We’ve been at this long enough to know that the team you are in week 2 is almost never the team you are in week 34. But why let that lack of knowledge get in the way of prognostication, right? That’s part of being a sports fan!

So that’s what we decided to do: for SB Nation’s “What if?” week, we’re focused on how this season would have gone up to right now if coronavirus had just never happened. Every active member of our staff filled out a quick poll selecting a result from each of United’s postponed games, and providing some information on how they think the game would have gone if it had actually happened. Here are the results:

March 14: at FC Cincinnati

Predictions: 5 wins, 1 draw, 1 loss

While not unanimous, as a staff we mostly expected United to get a win here...but there weren’t particularly high expectations in the style department. Coming off of an iffy win over expansion side Inter Miami, and with frustrations of a week 1 loss to Colorado lingering, we couldn’t pretend that United would be in top gear at this point. Still, that would be enough to get one over on the mess that is Cincy. Ben Bromley summed the vibe up best in predicting a 1-0 win:

An ugly, defensive match, and Steven Birnbaum nods in a late header.

March 22: at Philadelphia Union

Predictions: 0 wins, 2 draws, 5 losses

United did very well in their preseason game against a full-strength Union lineup, but as a staff, we don’t see that result being replicated in Chester. Maybe it’s the recent history between the teams, which have seen Philly get the bulk of the wins, often in decisive fashion. Ryan Keefer has your representative summary:

D.C never wins in Philly, or at least hasn’t in a minute. But a Mora own goal? Yeesh!

April 3: vs. New York City FC

Predictions: 3 wins, 3 draws, 1 loss

As a staff we were more optimistic about this game than I was expecting, with a majority of the votes also predicting 2+ goals for the Black-and-Red on the day. Still, most of the win predictions came with notes mentioning Bill Hamid rather than attacking play, so I can’t say that we were truly expecting a breakout performance. Here’s how I saw the game going in my prediction of a 2-2 draw:

The Pigeons largely out-play United, but a Frederic Brillant goal from a corner and another off the bench for Ola Kamara (back from injury) is enough to get a point.

April 11: at San Jose Earthquakes

Predictions: 3 wins, 3 draws, 1 loss

See above? This was United’s first truly busy week, and starting a stretch of three games in eight days on the west coast is usually cause for United to rotate pretty heavily. Nonetheless, some faith in Edison Flores to score in this one combined with a lack of faith in the Quakes saw our staff leaning towards expecting something from this game. Even our most pessimistic ballot had this one down as a draw.

The predictions were kind of scattered, but I think Adam Taylor got the closest to the bullseye:

D.C. hit early and then ride out waves of Quakes attacks. Good guys can’t finish off the hosts on numerous counters and pay the price via late equalizer.

April 15: vs. Toronto FC

Predictions: 3 wins, 1 draw, 3 losses

I was the oddball here in predicting a draw. It’s hard to summarize the disparate sides with just one quote on this one, so I’ll let Donald Wine II (who went with a 3-2 scoreline) represent the Win faction...

An incredible comeback led by 2 Yamil Asad goals.

...while Lizzy Becherano (1-0 loss) will speak for those predicting that United would have taken an L here:

An overwhelmed United could not get on the ball.

April 18: at Nashville SC

Predictions: 6 wins, 1 draw, 0 losses

So close to a unanimous decision here. Every single win prediction saw United, despite the short turnaround, winning this one by multiple goals. A few ballots listed Julian Gressel as having a potential league-wide Player of the Week sort of performance in this one, but there’s also a sense that Gary Smith’s side just isn’t ready for MLS yet. The best summary of that aspect came from a blunt blasiansays:

Nashville is just bad.

April 26: vs. New York Red Bulls

Predictions: 5 wins, 2 draws, 0 losses

Our staff is pretty clearly expecting United’s first win over the Red Bulls in a long, long time. Wouldn’t that be nice? The win votes don’t really land on a specific theme in terms of scorers, standout performances, or even how the game would go, but there is a recurring theme of belief that this is gonna be a down year for the NY/NJ Metrostars. Here’s how Adam saw the game going:

Metros score early, but United answer almost immediately. Late winner for United followed by a bonus goal to make the Atlantic Cup win a bit sweeter.

However, as one of the draw votes, I’ll point out that United has gone winless in their last 10 outings against the Red Bulls. Their last win in the series: May 13, 2016!

May 2: at Seattle Sounders

Predictions: 0 wins, 2 draws, 5 losses

A road game against the defending champs is usually not a source of good times, and our predictions reflect a sense that this is just too tall of a task for DCU. Most of our predictions have United getting on the scoreboard, but there are a lot of final scores on the ballot reading 2-1 for Seattle. Here’s Ben on a game that was always going to be tough:

Cross county, on turf, in CenturyLink: all recipes for a bad time for D.C. United.

May 9: vs. Houston Dynamo

Predictions: 4 wins, 2 draws, 1 loss

Overall, we’re leaning towards expecting D.C. to bounce back from that Sounders game with a solid enough victory over the Dynamo. No one went with a blowout here, and 2-1 to the home team came up repeatedly, but the overall theme was that this game would be rather fun, and we’d walk off reasonably pleased with United’s performance. Here’s Ryan’s version of events:

Edison Flores gives D.C. a goal (with Ola Kamara getting another) as United wins in a convincing manner.

I’d also like to highlight Ben’s reply here, which was my favorite of all the responses in the entire poll:

Ugh. the Dynamo.

What place in the East is United in as of right now?

I had to laugh when I saw the results here, because the question was really just a gut-level guess for everyone. I figured the answers would be scattered all over, but I was completely wrong: we have an optimist (Donald, who has United in 2nd place), a pessimist (blasiansays, 9th place), and then everyone else agreeing that United would be sitting in 4th place in the East.

After years of spending most of our time seeing United sitting somewhere between 3rd and 6th (with the occasional 2017 debacle thrown in), is this just what we’re conditioned to expect? Perhaps! It could be that we simply go with what we know, and what we’ve come to know since moving to Audi Field is largely being a mid-level playoff spot. We haven’t been contending, but we haven’t struggled either. Sounds like 4th place to me!