From Worst to Best: When DC United Produced the Greatest Comeback Season

I have always been a big fan of soccer. My passion for soccer started with the North American Soccer League. When New York Cosmos signed the legendary soccer player Pele to play three seasons from 1975 to 1977 in NASL, I believed that the fortunes of this sport in America would change. But it took another decade for that to happen, after the disbandment of NASL in 1984. But once America was awarded the hosting rights for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, there was no turning back. It brought with it Major League Soccer, which has grown meaningfully in stature since its first season in 1996.

As a resident of the capital of the nation, I was more than delighted when MLS granted a franchise to Washington DC. Ever since DC United came into existence, there has seldom been an occasion when I’ve missed a game. They have four MLS cups and three US Open Championships to their name but their greatest achievement was coming back from their worst season in 2013 to become the Eastern Conference champions in the 2014 season. It will forever be remembered as one of the greatest comebacks in the game.

The 2013 Season was the Worst

After finishing third in the 2012–13 season with 58 points, DC United was hoping to change their fortunes in the next season. The major news going into this season was the departure of the then CEO of the club, Kevin Payne, who had been with them since their inception. The season began with an away game loss to Houston Dynamo. Playing at RFK Stadium at home, their fortunes did change with a win against Real Salt Lake. After this, it was heartbreaking to see them go through a thirteen match winless streak, which included 10 losses. The next victory that broke this streak also came at home against San Jose Earthquakes. After this, DC United only tasted a single victory in the remainder of the season defeating, Montreal Impact 3–1. The club went on to finish the season at the bottom of the table, at the 19th position. This was undoubtedly the worst season for the club and all its hardcore fans.

The Revival in the 2014 Season

After a disastrous season, the club let go of many of its major players, including Lionard Pajoy, Dwayne De Rosario, James Riley and several others, before the start of the new season. Again, the season started on a negative note, with Columbus Crew defeating United at our home stadium. When the second game of the season against Toronto FC was also lost, the fans were all expecting to see a repeat of the previous season. But what followed was nothing less than a dream comeback for the team and the fans alike.

The signing on of the former Chicago Fire midfielder Chris Rolfe in place of the injured Chris Pontius was impactful. He was more than useful on a number of occasions through the season. United finished the season at the third position on the league table with 59 points, which was nothing short of a victory. DC United also went on to become the Eastern Conference champions of the season. Bobby Boswell, Bill Hamid and Ben Olsen went on to be named MLS Defender of the Year, MLS Goalie of the Year and MLS Coach of the Year, respectively, for this heroic comeback.

Let’s hope for a something similar from them in the 2016 season. With reports of a new permanent home ground about to be built, DC United surely has many more memorable chapters to add to their glorious history.

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