The DC United Women players at the Meet-the-Team Event
Due to the benighted design of the W-League’s Eastern Conference playoffs, the regular-season champion DC United Women will start off by playing a team they’ve faced three times already. On the one hand, they’ve beaten them two of those three times; on the other, the Piranhas are the only team that’s gotten points off them – a 1-1 draw on June 23, on the very same field where they will line up in the playoffs.
The two DC wins may not be particularly indicative: the first was a 2-0 season-opening win, also at the Soccerplex, at a time when the teams were still getting their rosters stabilized and their players familiarized with each other. The second was a 3-0 win last weekend, though on a day when Virginia Beach didn’t go all out, holding personnel back for a critical matchup the next day with divisional rival Fredericksburg that would decide their playoff status.
Virginia Beach is a very physical, scrappy team, and not one that the Black-and-Red players were hoping to face. After the draw – a very loosely-officiated match (to put it diplomatically) – they were more the Black-and-Blue. Still, they have some speedy, athletic players up top and in the midfield, and the United back line will have to be on its toes to avoid breakaways. On the downside, it’s only the W-League’s bizarre definition of a wild-card team – the second-best team in the division with the best overall team – that has them here at all. Based on the actual standings, there are three teams – including the defending W-League champion Atlanta Silverbacks – that are more deserving of a playoff spot but aren’t here.
But even if DC has by far the stronger roster, it hasn’t always shown. Despite the overall talent, the team has never really played the way they’re capable of for a full 90 minutes. More typically, they’ll be just not quite there for long stretches and then suddenly come together to score two or three or five goals in just a handful of minutes. Against the Piranhas, this hasn’t happened yet in any of the three matches. The United Women will have to overcome that in order to be confident of getting through to Sunday’s conference final.
Eastern Conference Championship schedule:
Saturday, 3:30 pm: The No. 3 seed and Northeast Division champion Long Island Rough Riders (9-3-0) vs. the No. 2 seed and Southeast Division champion Charlotte Lady Eagles (9-1-2).
Saturday, 6 pm: The No. 1 seed and Atlantic Division champion DC United Women (11-0-1) vs. the No. 4 seed and Atlantic runner-up Virginia Beach Piranhas (6-3-3).
Sunday, 4 pm: The winners of the Saturday matches face each other for the Eastern Conference championship and the right to represent the conference at the W-League Final Four in Ottawa, Canada, next weekend.
The Equalizer: Preview: D.C. United look to avenge season’s only blemish