There was a point about 5 minutes into Sunday's game with D.C. United that it looked like the Union had turned the corner and were becoming a team capable of making a run to the playoffs. Then, over the course of the remaining 85 minutes the wheels seemed to fall off. There is still hope yet in this season that things can still end positively. Time is running out though.
It may be time to officially take on the "cup team" banner that is associated with European teams that struggle in the league, but focus their attention on the cup competitions. For a second year in a row the Union are into the Semi-finals of the US Open Cup with a chance to returning to the finals. During a season that has been less than anticipated the opportunity to be just 2 wins away from lifting a trophy is a bright spot no one can deny.
The Union have been very active recently and summer transfer window begins to close.
There are, sounds like 2 to 3 things in the works right now, I'd expect one move to go official later today— Kevin Kinkead (@KevinKCBS3) July 27, 2015
Sheanon Williams was traded away for Allocation Money to help with the moves and Carlos Valdes' contract was terminated to make cap space for the future. Yesterday the Union made one of the largest signings in their history when they added Swiss international Trqnquillo Barnetta to the roster. The last piece that needs to fall into place is Rais M'Bolhi's departure. With that contract off the books the Union will have plenty of cap space to bring in reinforcements and the terrible saga involving the keeper from "a little tournament in Brazil" will finally be over. There may still be another move or two left to go as well.
Lastly, and most importantly, the East is a mess. The Union currently sit at 22 points from 22 games and in 9th place. While teams like Toronto, New York, and Montreal all have games in hand on the Union, but there is a chance the Union can get back into the playoff chase. New England sit in 5th place with 28 points, but from 23 games. With not only a game in hand, but two more meetings with the Revolution this season, the Union still stand a chance of closing the gap. As long as the Union take advantage of their match ups with Eastern Conference rivals they still have a chance to turn this season around.
That loss in the nation's capital was the perfect representation for the 2015 season. Tons of promise, but in the end a crushing defeat. The defending was awful and when the Union needed to go forward they showed no spark to be able to break down D.C.'s defense. Even the equalizer given up against New York in the Open Cup was completely unacceptable. How a player could be left unmarked in the six yard box in stoppage time of a cup game is absolutely amateur.
To make matters worse the Union traded away the only defensive depth they had in Sheanon Williams. Now, with Vitoria still on the mend and Marquez on the mend there is no one outside of the 4 starters to offer depth to the defensive line. The Williams deal is made worse by the fact that the trade included an international roster spot from the Union, the only one available to the team. Since the only rumors of incoming players are foreign, this leaves the front office looking familiarly inept at their jobs, unable to bring in any of the targets until they can move one of the current foreign players. While the plan all along has been to move M'Bolhi, that has yet to happen and I don't think any of us really have much faith that it will.
The injury bug continues to take a toll on the team as Vincent Noguiera has joined the ranks of the walking wounded.
Noguiera just said he's out at least three weeks with a pulled quad. Hopes to be back by end of August.— Dave Zeitlin (@DaveZeitlin) July 29, 2015
The Union's depth has been suspect at best with everyone healthy, but as each week seems to have someone added to unavailable list. It's not just injuries though. Against Red Bull in the Open Cup Sapong was missing due to suspension and against Chicago in the Semi-finals it is going to be Casey who is missing for the same reason. No matter the reason the Union can't have players missing if they think they're going to make a run at the playoffs.
There are just 12 games left in the season and the idea of reaching the playoffs is becoming less and less likely with each disappointing loss. The 5 league games in August are all against Eastern Conference opponents that are pushing for the playoffs. Any less than 3 wins in those games will mean the playoffs are all but out of reach.