DC United

DC United 2019 Season Preview by ExiledMLS

The opening of Audi Field and the addition of Wayne Rooney at the halfway point of the 2018 season propelled DC United into an unlikely playoff appearance after a 11-2-4 run in the second half of the season. With a balanced schedule, a brand new home stadium, and an even more talented squad, the black-and-red have set their eyes on the possibility of winning silverware in 2019.

2018 In Review

In last year’s 2018 season preview for DC United, we generally predicted that it could be a season of two halves, and it was! (It feels good to be right once in a while, doesn’t it?) Up until the grand opening of Audi Field in July, the black-and-red played 13 away games and just 4 home games in the first half of the season. Two of these four home games were at alternate venues in the DMV area. Not surprisingly, DC had a 3-9-5 record and just 14 points at the half-way point of the 2018 season.

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Postseason Preview: DC United by Joseph Lowery

D.C. United are one of the hottest teams in Major League Soccer. In one of the most incredible turnarounds in MLS history, D.C. have gone from Eastern Conference cellar dwellers to clinching a playoff spot. You have to go all the way back to August 26th (two months ago!) to find their last loss. What changed between the struggling D.C. United team we saw at the beginning of the season and the confident, playoff bound team they are now?

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The case for pulling the goalie in soccer and the math behind Ben Olsen's madness by Jared Young

The game is ice hockey. One team is behind a goal as the seconds wind down. Conventional thinking for the head coach of the losing team is to direct the goalie off the ice while a substitute enters the game. This gives the team a six to five player advantage at one end of the ice, but gives the leading team a much higher chance of adding to their lead. Starting in 2013 NHL teams became more aggressive with this strategy, and a paper released earlier this year proposed that teams should get at least three times as aggressive as they are. The math clearly lines up with the strategy.

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Expected Narratives: Wazza Saves DC and Josef Martinez is not an Elite Finisher by Ian L.

Ah, Rivalry Week sponsored by Heineken. Who doesn’t want to ride for this twice annual celebration of American soccer’s most storied rivalries and also some ones that MLS just went and made up? Frankly speaking, rivalry week can kiss m-(Editor’s note: I redacted like a whole paragraph here, you’re welcome. Also, Heineken is gross.) - because Atlanta and Orlando are not a real rivalry just because some marketing executive bought a billboar-(Editor’s note: yeah some more here as well) ight- and even if these ARE the most exciting rivalries in the league why not spread those out so you can have a compelling match every couple of weeks? I don’t know folks. I hate rivalry week. It makes the fans extra ultzy, it sort of cheapens the real rivalries, and all these kids will simply not get off of my lawn. Is it mainly because I never spell Heineken right? Mainly. Yes. Whatever.

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Orlando, DC, and MLS' Latest Strategic Fashions by Kevin Minkus

The press (whether high, counter, or other) is in vogue in MLS. MLS teams are, on average, they pressiest they’ve ever been. The Red Bulls, NYCFC, Atlanta, and New England all primarily defend in some form of press. A handful of other teams - Sporting Kansas City and LAFC most prominently - go to it on occasion. Orlando City began the season trying to play a higher pressure defense:

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DC United 2018 Season Preview by ExiledMLS

The 2017 campaign was a disaster for D.C. United. But a top-to-bottom roster rebuild and a brand new stadium in Audi Field should give United fans reason to be optimistic about the 2018 season.

2017 Recap

D.C. United came into the 2017 season riding the high of a late-season surge from 2016, but 2017 turned out to be a disaster. United finished dead last in the Eastern Conference with just 32 points, and second-to-last overall. A few key players succumbed to father time, several others could not stay healthy, and inadequate depth behind them made it a hard season for United fans to stomach.

Offensively, United was just not the same attractive, “total football” team that lit the league on fire in late 2016. They generated only 41.78 xG across 34 games (4th worst in the league). To make matters worse, United was only able to secure 27 of those, making it the lowest-scoring team in MLS. As much as the lack of goals was frequently pointed to as the main problem last season, United was also a mess defensively. They allowed 57 goals (2nd worst in the league) compared to 55.59 xGA (also 2nd worst in the league), which meant that the Black and Red finished with a -30 goal differential overall (the worst in the league).

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D.C. United 2017 Season Preview by ExiledMLS

The 2016 season was a story of two very different halves for the black and red. The first half of the season saw DC United struggle mightily to produce goals (and wins), and they were 5-6-6 by the halfway point in the season. Although coach Ben Olsen had most of the same players at his disposal from 2015 and the addition of Argentine playmaker Luciano Acosta on loan from Boca Juniors, the team just could not find their form. United was still largely depending on the flat 4-4-2 of the last two seasons, and Acosta wasn’t able to find his way into the starting lineup amongst Olsen’s veterans from the year prior. DC was the third least productive team in the league in 2015 (averaging only 11 shots per game), and that carried through into the start of 2016.

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2016 ASA PREVIEW: DC UNITED by Drew Olsen

United have the most storied history of teams in MLS, but a lot of change is incoming. 2015 was a solid season for the black and red, but changes need to be made if the team is to be considered a contender again for MLS Cup. My guess is that that the season ahead will be a bit of a struggle as the club looks ahead to a new stadium and a new identity in the coming years.

2015 in review

Last season was an interesting one for United. As evidenced by the season progress in the graphic above, the club hovered around the top of the league standings for the first three quarters of the season, largely on the back of their league-leading 11 victories by one goal. They also had the second fewest wins by 2+ goals, ahead only of cellar-dwellers Chicago and Colorado. Unfortunately for United fans, Ben Olsen’s conservative strategy fell apart at the end of the summer, as DC finished the season with six of their 13 losses coming in the final nine games, culminating in a 0-5 rout in Columbus on the last day of the season. They were ultimately eliminated by the Red Bulls in in the conference semifinals for the second year in a row, losing both legs 0-1.

There are multiple ways to interpret the season; is Olsen the Jose Mourinho of MLS or just afraid of offense? On paper, it seems like he’s working with less than many other playoff teams. Fabian Espindola is the only designated player on the team, and he made just 15 starts last season due to injury and suspension. Chris Rolfe led the team with 10 goals, but no other player had more than five. Though a midseason trade for Alvaro Saborio gave some hope that more offense was coming, it never did. It may not have been pretty (and it certainly wasn’t), but Ben Olsen has shown he can consistently get more out of his team than most MLS coaches. It’s a task he’ll try to replicate in 2016.

More after the jump.

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Patrick Nyarko And Playing the Game: Redux by Harrison Crow

Last year, I wrote about Patrick Nyarko and his contract extension with the Chicago Fire. Fast forward through a rough 2015 campaign and while I wasn't necessarily wrong about the deal, as Nyarko reached more minutes than I had expected and ended up being was a useful option off the bench, the Chicago Fire ended up on the lesser side of the deal paying him more than what he was worth in 2015. That was largely due to injuries that sidelined him the first half of the season, one of the primary reasons I remained rather gloomy concerning the size of the contract.

Nyarko is now "supposedly" headed to DC after requesting to leave the windy city and despite his limited time on the pitch last season there are performance indicators that United could be set to inherent a solid “buy low” candidate should a trade be worked out.

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Presenting Expected Goals by Game by Matthias Kullowatz

If you migrate over to the xGoals 3.0 tab, you can now find a "By game" option, complete with some team-level expected goals stats from each game this season.

Using our fun sorting capabilities, we might observe that three of the top six expected goal differential (xGD) advantages for home teams have been produced by the New York Red Bulls, and last week's drubbing of D.C. United was only New York's third-best showing of those three--at least, in terms of xGD. Of the top-20 xGD performances by home teams, the home team has won 19 of them and tied one. 

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