D.C. United‘s postseason fate is back in its own hands after the Chicago Fire did the club a favor by beating the New York Red Bulls on Thursday night.
United (11-14-4, 37 points) now must beat the Columbus Crew (16-7-6, 54 pts.) on the road Sunday to claim the final wild card berth.
“Anytime you can control your own destiny, that’s what you want,” United coach Tom Soehn said.
If New York (39 pts.) had won its final game, it would have claimed a wild card berth with 42 points, leaving United (37 pts.) to wait until Saturday night for the Kansas City Wizards‘ result at the New England Revolution. In that scenario, if the Wizards (39 pts.) won, United would have been out of the playoffs and Sunday’s game would have been rendered meaningless.
“We don’t have to wait till Saturday night now to figure out what we have to do and whether we are in or not,” United defender Devon McTavish said. “We can just focus on Columbus.”
Soehn sat down to watch the Fire-Red Bulls game donning his old Chicago shirt.
“I pulled out my 10-year-old Tommy Soehn jersey and wore it just out of superstition, and then I put it away right after,” said Soehn, who spent six seasons with the Fire as a player and a coach.
His old club downed the Red Bulls 5-2 on a hat trick from Chris Rolfe, sending the Wizards to the postseason. New York can advance only if United loses to or ties the Crew.
The United players were clearly relieved at practice Friday.
“It was the most energized training session we’ve had,” said United forward Santino Quaranta. “It feels like something good is going to happen now.”
Some of the players even came into training chanting “Fire … Fire,” United captain Jaime Moreno said.
Now it’s the Red Bulls, United’s bitter rivals, worrying over their fate.
Note - United president Kevin Payne was fined $5,000 by MLS on Friday for inappropriate conduct directed at an official after a 5-2 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy last month.
Wambach makes a stop - Abby Wambach was back in town recently to promote Women’s Professional Soccer, the new women’s league that kicks off in April with seven teams, including the Washington Freedom. For WPS to survive, Wambach said, it has to pull in the guys.
“We need to try and grab a demographic the last league avoided - 20-something males,” Wambach said. “I don’t want the stands to be filled with soccer moms and their daughters, but I want to see the dads and sons and all people because we have a product that’s entertaining to watch.”
Coming on the heels of the Women’s United Soccer Association, which folded in 2003 after three years, the new league may be the last hope for women’s soccer at the pro level, Wambach said.
“This time has to be different and has to succeed, because this might be our last shot in the next 50 years of having a women’s professional league,” Wambach said.
The U.S. team star, who is recovering from a broken leg suffered just before the Beijing Olympics, wants the league to flourish so the new crop of players can come out from under the shadow of such former players as Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy.
“This was something the players from 1991 World Cup victory could not sustain, and I want to be able to do something that they couldn’t do and that is completely ours,” Wambach said.
She said the new league would “be more moderate with smaller stadiums and be community-driven.”