Question the First
DC United solidified their hold on that final Eastern Conference playoff spot with Wednesday's big win over Columbus. After a humdrum opening two-thirds of the season, Ben Olsen has United humming. The club has lost just once in its last 11 matches, though they have won only four of those matches. To what, or whom, should the credit for this new-found tenacity be accredited, what does DC need to do to turn some of those draws into wins, and does this make them a dangerous team come playoff time?
Ben Olsen deserves the initial credit for changing formations from the 4-4-2 of the past few years; he and Dave Kasper deserve the credit for making the offseason and midseason trades that made this new team possible. Patrick Mullins, Lloyd Sam, and Patrick Nyarko have completely rejuvenated the attack, and the advent of Steve Birnbaum as an offensive threat on set pieces has only made everyone else more dangerous.
They are definitely more dangerous right now than they have been at any other time this year. If they can make it into the playoffs, I think that they have a better chance to advance than they have at any point in the Ben Olsen era. That said, I think they're more dangerous team for next year, if they can re-sign people, than the they are a team for this year.
Question the Second
From afar, the trade that saw Patrick Mullins join the side from New York City FC mid-July seems the most obvious change in DC's fortunes – he does have seven goals and an assist in 12 appearances with United. Mullins has long had a cult following amongst MLS cognoscenti, what is it about his game that makes him such a threat and how has DC deployed him to such great success? Also, best use of GAM, TAM, and an international roster spot ever?
Dave Kasper and Ben Olsen have a knack for making great trades inside of MLS, and the trade for Patrick Mullins is among one of their best. It is no secret that the team has wanted Mullins for a long time; they just wanted Steve Birnbaum a little more during the draft, and I think that national team callups have justified that decision. However, the fact that they have eventually gotten Mullins is a boon, because they haven't had a real, consistent target forward in years, and Mullins provides that and more. United has done a great job acquiring MLS talent, but Mullins is right up there with the best trades they've made.
Question the Third
With the Buzzard Point Stadium seemingly set to open come the 2018 season, United will be saying goodbye to the venerable RFK. The shiny and the new is the way of the world, but what will DC be saying goodbye to when they leave the old ground. What has RFK meant both to DC and US soccer over the years, what are some of the stories/peculiarities that make the place special, and will it be missed when eyes turn to the new digs? Also, should fans make the effort to get down to DC next season to experience the myth, the legend, before its final curtain call?
RFK Stadium is one of the most beloved stadia in MLS history; it is a terrible dump, but it is our terrible dump and it has been a part of MLS and USMNT history since they very beginning. That said, Buzzard Point will be a fair better stadium, and it is a far better option than anything else that United had on the table. The fact that they will still be in the District of Columbia, within a mile of two Metro stations, is a boon that most people had thought not possible once multiple previous deals had fallen apart. This new stadium will provide a home for United for at least 30 years, and the fact that it is in the District at all is a minor miracle.
Next year will be RFK last year, and I encourage people to take advantage of it. The whole site will still be torn down to make way for a tackle football stadium, so I think if you can make the effort to get there, it is a worthwhile experience to be had.
Hamid; DeLeon, Birnbaum, Boswell, Mishu; Vincent; Igboaninike, Buescher, Jeffrey, Neagle; Saborio.
Many thanks to Ben for providing some insights into this weekend's opponent – he can be found on Twitter @brubromley. WTR's responses can be found here – and be sure to check out Black and Red United for all the latest DC news heading into the match, including the latest edition of the Filibuster Podcast – they can be found on Twitter @blackandredU.