December 22, 2014

D.C. United: Club achieves greatest victory as City Council approves stadium bill

UNANIMOUS PASSAGE CLEARS WAY FOR SOCCER STADIUM AT BUZZARD POINT

For years, ghostly buzzards circled around D.C. United, waiting for the day when all hope of a new stadium was finally lost, and the team would either move away or disappear from Major League Soccer entirely. But on Wednesday, the D.C. City Council sent United’s future in the entirely opposite direction, passing a soccer stadium bill for the Buzzard Point site that should keep the club in Washington for decades to come.

The bill, in a three-vote process to include funding amendments, passed after a short bit of discussion among Council members, who raised some individual concerns but in the end didn’t waver from their support. [Read more…]

D.C. United: Club loses Neal, McNamara in MLS Expansion Draft

All things considered, the MLS Expansion Draft on Wednesday could have gone far worse for D.C. United. With players like Eddie Johnson and Davy Arnaud left unprotected, the club was at risk of losing a starter or two, or at least a player who logged significant minutes in the highly successful 2014 season.

Instead, United suffered a loss in the midfield as Lewis Neal was taken by Orlando City SC in the fifth round of the draft, which also included selections by New York City FC. The latter club took midfielder Thomas McNamara from United in the eighth round, a player D.C. had only recently acquired from Chivas USA. McNamara never appeared as a United player. Each new club, which will begin play in 2015 as members of the Eastern Conference, selected 10 players. No MLS club could lose more than two players in the draft, and by rule, United pulled Arnaud off the list of available players once Neal was selected. [Read more…]

D.C. United Playoff Game 2 Recap: Despite victory, United’s dream season ends

A season unlike any other for D.C. United ended in a fashion also unlike any other for the Major League Soccer club. A 2-1 win over the New York Red Bulls Saturday afternoon before 20,187 at RFK Stadium wasn’t enough to overcome a 2-0 disadvantage from the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Beaten 3-2 on aggregate, United were eliminated by the rival Red Bulls for the first time in history.

There was hope for United after a first half that saw the hosts bag the only goal, a header by Nick DeLeon that came on the end of a perfect Taylor Kemp cross from the attacking left. Another half like that would have left the series level at 2-2, and forced extra time and perhaps later, penalties. But walking a razor-thin tightrope due to the lack of an away goal in the loss at Red Bull Arena last week, United’s pending doom was confirmed when Peguy Luyindula got goal-side on Perry Kitchen and tapped home a Thierry Henry cross that leveled the match at 1-1. [Read more…]

D.C. United Playoff Game 1 Recap: Listless United Blanked by Red Bulls

HENRY ASSISTS BOTH GOALS AS UNITED FALL BEHIND 2-0 IN EASTERN SEMIFINAL

Lauded much of the season for improved play, a more effective attack, and better defending, D.C. United showed exactly none of that Sunday afternoon in its Major League Soccer Cup playoff opener at Red Bull Arena in a 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls. Thierry Henry drew assists on a first-half goal by Bradley Wright-Phillips and a second-half dagger from Peguy Luyindula. United couldn’t score an away goal that would have had a massive impact on the series, and now must either win the home leg next Saturday at RFK Stadium by a 2-0 score to force extra time, or by three goals.

Without Chris Rolfe to start and the injured Luis Silva, United looked nothing at all like the team that won the Eastern Conference in the regular season and posted a club-record 59 points. Unable to connect on longer passes and crosses, United rarely possessed the ball with any level of consistency, and the defense was asked to do far too much work against a marauding Red Bulls side that didn’t even get full value for the high level of their performance. [Read more…]

D.C. United Game 34 Recap: Rainy draw in Montreal brings regular season to close

ESPINDOLA SCORES LATE TO EARN D.C. A POINT

In this massive turnaround season for D.C. United, a 1-1 draw in Montreal on the final day leaves D.C. with a club-record 59 points for the season and first place in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference heading into the MLS Cup playoffs. Fabian Espindola scored his 11th goal of the season in the 86th minute to bring United level. D.C. finished the regular season 17-9-8 and will win the East by at least four points. Montreal finishes where United did a season ago, dead last in the East, with 27 points (6-18-9).

The game meant vastly different things to each team. Thanks to the L.A. Galaxy’s loss at Seattle earlier in the day, a win in Montreal would have given D.C. the second overall seed in the playoffs, allowing D.C. to host the MLS Cup final (should it get that far) against any team other than Seattle. The 1-1 draw, however, leaves United two points behind the Galaxy. For Montreal, it was a showcase for retiring forward Marco Di Vaio, who is calling it a career at age 38. [Read more…]

D.C. United Game 33 Recap: United clinches top seed in East by beating Fire

GOALS BY PONTIUS, JOHNSON CAP UNITED’S SURGE FROM WORST TO FIRST

Last season at this time, some wondered if D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen was about to be fired. This year, Olsen, his team, and 20,162 fans spent the minutes after United’s 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire Saturday night watching fireworks high above RFK Stadium. Now 17-9-7, United’s 58 points clinch the top seed in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference playoffs a year after United went 3-24-7 in its worst season ever.

Given the club’s roster reformation in the offseason, improvement isn’t a surprise. There was never any way United was going to be that bad again given the players who were brought in. They could win more than three games by accident. But D.C.’s success this season has been far from accidental, as fans who had to suffer a year ago watching Lionard Pajoy wander into previously unexplored frontiers of offside while Own Goal led the team in scoring, last night watched United go unbeaten in five straight games and dispatch the Fire (5-10-18, 33 points), who were playing out the string. [Read more…]

D.C. United News: Luis Silva’s career year interrupted by injury

D.C. United announced via its Twitter feed this morning that midfielder/forward Luis Silva suffered a hamstring injury in Sunday’s 3-1 win at Houston, one that will keep him out for “4-6 weeks.” Silva is United’s leading scorer with 11 goals and is having by far the best season of his Major League Soccer career. Silva’s work combining with Fabian Espindola and until recently, Chris Rolfe (who is also out injured), has revitalized United’s attack and been one of the key factors in the team going from last place a year ago to within one point of clinching home-field advantage throughout this season’s Eastern Conference playoffs.

Silva left Sunday’s match in the 30th minute and was replaced by Eddie Johnson. The substitution came a few minutes after play had resumed following a long weather delay.

Beyond just the loss of Silva, who has produced 11 goals and four assists in 27 appearances (22 starts) this season, the absence of both Silva and Rolfe creates a lineup headache for United head coach Ben Olsen. Olsen had found solid roles for players like Silva, Espindola, Rolfe, and Johnson, and all seemed to be doing well in those spots. Johnson’s work as a substitute to help United keep control of games and sometimes extend leads was seen again on Sunday, when he and Espindola keyed a late attack that eventually led to Johnson’s goal that put the game away, giving United its first-ever win in Houston. [Read more…]

D.C. United Game 32 Recap: United finally end Houston home dominance

WIN PUTS UNITED ON BRINK OF TOP SEED IN EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS

Much of the 2014 Major League Soccer season has been spent comparing this year’s D.C. United to last year’s, two teams who couldn’t be more distant in terms of ability and results. But on Sunday, United finally accomplished something it never had previously, winning in Houston, 3-1. The victory lifted United to 16-9-7 on the season, and D.C.’s 55 points leave the club six points clear of Sporting Kansas City and the New England Revolution with two matches left for all three teams. United are a point away from clinching home field throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Dynamo, who slipped to 11-15-6 (39 points) were eliminated from playoff contention with the loss. The defeat also took away one fact that Houston had been able to hold over United’s head for years – the Dynamo’s home dominance of D.C. The streak had covered 10 league matches, during which the best United had managed was a draw … just one lone draw. Fabian Espindola’s expert chip over the head of Dynamo goalkeeper Tyler Deric gave United a 2-0 lead in the second half and that ended up being the key goal. Houston closed within 2-1 on a Giles Barnes penalty kick, but Eddie Johnson put the game away with his goal in the 87th minute. [Read more…]

D.C. United Game 31 Recap: United’s epic turnaround continues as D.C. clinches playoff spot

SCORELESS DRAW VS. SPORTING KANSAS CITY SENDS UNITED INTO POSTSEASON

On this night, a draw will feel just fine for D.C. United. A 0-0 tie against visiting Sporting Kansas City before nearly 20,000 in the rain at RFK Stadium lifted United’s record to 15-9-7, and the 52 points are enough for D.C. to grab one of Major League Soccer’s five Eastern Conference playoff berths. Sporting Kansas City now stands 13-11-7 (46 points), remaining six points behind leaders United in the East.

United goalkeeper Bill Hamid made a couple nice saves and three overall in posting his career-high 10th shutout of the season and 30th of his MLS career. D.C. had chances to break the deadlock, but multiple Fabian Espindola shots went wide, and mid-air contact on Chris Pontius in the SKC penalty area did not result in a spot kick in the judgment of referee Hilario Grajeda. Davy Arnaud was cautioned for United, and will be suspended for a game upon his next yellow card. [Read more…]

D.C. United Game 30 Recap: November soccer close to reality after win over Philadelphia

SILVA’S 11TH GOAL OF SEASON ENOUGH SATURDAY VS. UNION

Everything is right there now, so tantalizingly out of reach for D.C. United. A playoff spot is just 5 points away (or less if Toronto FC drops points), and a first-place finish in the Eastern Conference is just seven points away (at the most, depending on other results). All this is possible now after United defeated the Philadelphia Union, 1-0, Saturday before 19,478 at RFK Stadium. United improved to 15-9-6 (51 points) while Philly dropped to 9-10-11 (38).

Such thoughts a year ago at this time would have been laughed at heartily. But a remodeled roster has allowed head coach Ben Olsen (he of the newly-minted extended contract) to lead United from Major League Soccer doormats to a team to be reckoned with in the race for MLS Cup. But beyond the new players, Luis Silva perhaps embodies the improvement in this side over a year ago, and it was his career-high 11th goal of the season that was the difference Saturday. [Read more…]

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