Mornings in the lower levels of RFK Stadium are eerily quiet these days. At the time when the team usually reports for training, there are no sounds of players shuffling in the hallways from the weight room to the training tables. Instead there is only a calm silence in the wake of a turbulent two weeks that saw United fall at the final late season hurdle. For the fourth consecutive year there will not be a postseason for the Black-and-Red, yet strangely there is a distinct sense of optimism surrounding 2400 East Capitol Street. The following is the first of the three part series to recap the 2011 MLS Season.
Like the club's supporters, United's coaching staff and players are extremely disappointed not to be competing for the 2011 MLS Cup. That notion aside, the strides that Ben Olsen's team made in 2011 are remarkable. Only one season removed from the worst year in franchise history, United raised its point total from 22 in 2010 to 39 this season, and the club was relevant until the very end in Major League Soccer's tightly-packed postseason race.In fact, United was still very much in contention for top seed in the Eastern Conference only three weeks ago. This near miss makes the club's playoff absence all the more painful, but there is little doubt that a firm foundation has been set in place for future success. Said Ben Olsen following Saturday's 1-0 defeat to Sporting Kansas City, "I feel proud for what this group has done this year...as a group we will get better, I will get better as well."
Josh Wolff was disappointed not to play the playoffs, but the veteran forward echoed Olsen's optimism about the future, "Realistically, I think we’re all disappointed. That said, there were positive strides made this year, and we’re looking forward to getting back at it next season."
Rookie midfielder/defender Perry Kitchen is already thinking about next year, "[The 2011 season] was a good learning experience. There are definitely things I can get better at and work on. I’m going to train hard regarding those things and come back better next year."
IMPROVEMENT BY THE NUMBERS
|Players with 5+ goals||2||5|
|Players that scored||8||13|
|MLS Players of the Week||1||5|
PART 2: Firepower in place
PART 3: Youth movement