While we await announcements on new player signings and new assistant coaches, we no longer have to wait for a 2018 schedule.
MLS released all of the details Thursday on a regular season that will begin on Saturday, March 3rd, and end on Decision Day on October 28th.
On the down side, the league is at an unbalanced 23 teams with the inclusion of expansion side LAFC. This means that on a given MLS day, that one team won't be playing, thus you will have some breaks in the schedule. The Union see that first hand as they will have 2 two week breaks in between games 1 and 2, and games 2 and 3. All MLS clubs will face similar periods of inactivity because of the odd number of teams.
On the up side, the Union open at home this season vs New England, then follow up with a second straight home game vs Columbus Crew SC. Three of the first four Union games are at home, along with 5 of their first 6. Compare that to a year ago when the team played their first game away, and 3 of their first 4 away from Talen Energy Stadium.
I like the early home schedule because it gives your team a chance to get out of the gate early and build some momentum and confidence...assuming of course that you win a majority of these games. Last year, the Union began the season winless in 8, with 4 losses and 4 draws. While MLS observers say it's more about the finish to the season than the start, there is no doubt that the Union puts themselves in a very bad spot before even a third of the schedule was played.
Other things of note with this schedule:
- The Union doesn't face the defending MLS Cup champions Toronto until May 4th, at BMO Field. They face MLS Cup runnersup Seattle away on September 19th.
- Their first game versus Bob Bradley's LAFC is away on June 30th at the new Banc of California Stadium.
- And their first game at DC United's new stadium Audi Field is on August 29th.
Probably the two most difficult parts of this schedule feature road swings. They face 3 straight away games in May at Toronto, Columbus, and Montreal. Also in that same stretch they play 4 of 5 on the road.
The road is what will define them in 2018. Last year's team won just 1 of 17 games on opponent's fields. With just 1 win and 6 draws, only 9 away points were gained by the team. Contrast that with the 6th place NY Red Bulls who gained the last playoff spot in the east. They had 5 road wins and a couple of draws which gave them 17 points, 8 more than the Union. Ironically or maybe not........8 points separated the Union from the Red Bulls in the standings.
If the Union can come close to their 10-4-3 home record in 2018, and they can improve significantly on the road, this can be a good year for them. A dip in home form, and/or a repeat road performance will leave the club below the playoff line at the end of the season. A good start will raise the expectations this calendar year.