MLS Soccer 2011: Upcoming Fixtures Could Determine DC United's Playoff Fate

Tyler KitchensContributor IISeptember 10, 2011

BRIDGEVIEW, IL - AUGUST 18: Patrick Nyarko #14 of the Chicago Fire tries to hold back Perry Kitchen #23 of D.C. United during an MLS match at Toyota Park on August 18, 2011 in Bridgeview, Illinois. The Fire and D.C. United tied 1-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

With 31 points in 24 matches, DC United has set itself up well as the end of the season approaches. The team currently sits in sixth place in the Eastern Conference and trails the floundering New York Red Bulls for the final playoff spot by just one point.

In the next 11 days United plays Chivas USA twice, and if they hope to leapfrog NY, taking three points from these matches will be critical. The team will no doubt be chomping at the bit to get back on the pitch, as they have not suited up since a 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City on August 21.

Of the four players called in for international duty last week, only Dwayne DeRosario and Andy Najar saw action during matches.

United will need its marquee preseason addition Charlie Davies to step up in a major way from here on out. Davies came out of the gates with a force for the Black-and-Red earlier in the year, scoring eight goals for the team, but in the second half of the season his form dipped and he has not found the score sheet since June 25 against the Houston Dynamo.

In addition to Davies, the team will also need a bit of luck as the injury bug has bitten them at various times throughout the year, preventing coach Ben Olsen from having his entire arsenal at his disposal. Currently starting CB Dejan Jakovic and RB Jed Zayner are slated to miss tomorrow's clash with Chivas. Jakovic's injury is particularly devastating because he and Brandon McDonald have emerged as solid anchors of United's defense.

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While the team has the necessary depth to cope with these absences, they certainly would prefer to have the pair healthy this late in the season.

Equally troubling is the potential absence of striker Josh Wolff. The veteran has been a reliable option all season, providing hustle and leadership throughout Davies' offensive slump.

In United's favor, however, is the schedule. DC has played the least amount of matches thus far and has at least two games in hand on every team in the Eastern Conference. Should the playoff race come down to the wire, this will be a boon as they seek to qualify for the first time since 2007.

Five of the last eight matches will be at RFK Stadium where, unfortunately, United has not performed up to expectations this year. The home crowd will no doubt provide support, but they will need to raise their level of play in order to take control of their own destiny.


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