Revolution-D.C. United Preview

D.C. United’s fall over the last nine matches has it unexpectedly in the Eastern Conference knockout round, resulting in a date with one of MLS’s streakiest and star-crossed clubs.

The New England Revolution used one of their positive runs last season to again fall just short of winning their first MLS Cup and concluded this regular season by ending a four-match winless stretch.

Should MLS’s most ill-fated side swing that back into a winning streak Wednesday night at RFK Stadium against the East’s most storied, a conference semifinal draw with either New York or Columbus awaits.

United, winner of a conference-best four MLS Cups, completed the season with a 2-6-1 span to dip to the No. 4 seed after being atop the Supporters’ Shield standings on Aug. 8.

It had righted the ensuing skid some with consecutive wins leading into decision day, putting it in position for another victory Sunday to secure it a bye into the East semifinals. Instead, the trip to Columbus ended in a 5-0 humbling.

"I take sole responsibility on this one," said coach Ben Olsen, whose club won the East last season to earn a bye before being eliminated by the Red Bulls. "I didn’t prepare this group properly this week. I didn’t prepare them enough tactically and that was evident tonight.

"This one is on me and the good thing is it doesn’t matter – it’s an ego shot, it’s a punch in the face, but we’ve seen them respond over the past two years in moments like this. My message to this, guys, is pick your heads up, let’s go catch a flight, get back home, and all the focus and mindset goes on New England."

It matched a 6-1 loss in Kansas City in 1997 for United’s largest margin of defeat, and considering it followed a 4-0 home win over Chicago on Oct. 18, its play entering the postseason can be described as erratic at best.

Predicting fifth-seeded New England’s play isn’t a whole lot easier. Sunday’s 3-1 win at New York City followed a 0-3-1 span, which came on the heels of a 7-0-1 run after a five-match losing streak. The Revolution, losers of a league-record five MLS Cups after their 2-1 overtime loss to Los Angeles in December, feel in familiar form with their season on the line.

"(Sunday) felt like last year’s playoff run where things are clicking," Charlie Davies told the club’s official website. "Guys know where to be and the passes are being anticipated. Things felt really fluid tonight. We just have to look to improve and keep getting better."

Davies had a goal and an assist against NYCFC, which marked the former D.C. striker’s return to the lineup after two games as a substitute. He figures to again feature after scoring in both regular-season matches against his former club, though that resulted in a 2-1 loss in D.C. on June 21 and a 1-all home draw on May 23.

Chris Rolfe, D.C.’s resurgent and versatile offensive threat who matched Davies and his career-best 2008 season with 10 goals, trumped Davies with two goals in his team’s win.

The scorelines aren’t definitive, and it takes quite a bit of digging to find much lopsided in the series. Of the 19 league matches since the start of 2008, two have been decided by more than a goal and none by more than two, resulting in nine New England wins, six for D.C. and four draws with a 26-23 aggregate in favor of the Revolution.