October 20, 2017

DC United Game 11 Recap: Union knocks off United in stoppage time

Zach Pfeffer scored in second-half stoppage time and the Philadelphia Union beat D.C. United 1-0 on Sunday, snapping DCU’s eight-game undefeated streak.

United, the Eastern Conference leader, fell to 6-2-3, while Philadelphia upped its mark to 2-7-3 and ended a five-game winless streak.

Fabinho sent in a cross in the 93rd minute that Sebastien Le Toux let play through his legs. Pfeffer settled the ball with his right and slotted a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Bill Hamid at the near post.

It was Philadelphia’s first goal since April 25.

D.C. United Game 15 Recap: United solidifies position as MLS’ worst team with loss to Toronto FC

There can be no mistaking now just how bad D.C. United is, after a 2-1 home loss last night to Toronto FC – who, like United, entered the match with just one win on the 2013 Major League Soccer season. United fell to 1-11-3 (6 points) with the loss, and extended its winless streak to 13 matches. Toronto FC improved to 2-7-5 (11 points).

This match had most of the hallmarks of any other United league match this season – shoddy defending on restarts, an offense that created next to nothing, and the inability to execute what on the surface would be rather simple plays at the professional level. Despite taking an early 1-0 lead on a Dwayne De Rosario penalty kick, United were down 2-1 by halftime thanks to a familiar poisonous combination – giving up a goal on a restart, and an own goal (also on a free kick). [Read more…]

D.C. United GAME RECAP: All joy for Pajoy, United in 1-0 win vs. RSL

Lionard Pajoy’s diving header past Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando gave D.C. United a 1-0 win over RSL at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., Saturday night. The win levels United’s Major League Soccer season record at 1-1, 3 points. RSL, winners last week at San Jose, slipped to 1-1, 3 points.

Pajoy, who had struggled prior to the goal and didn’t do much after it, made the most of his one shining moment. On a United corner kick in the 60th minute, the ball left the penalty area and was met by United midfielder J0hn Thorrington. Thorrington patiently waited a second before chipping the ball over the onrushing Real Salt Lake defenders. Thorrington’s touch forced Rimando to dive all out to his right, and he saved the shot with his hand. But that left the rebound available in the penalty area with only Pajoy to play it. He dove forward and headed the ball home for United’s first goal of the season.

Rimando and some RSL teammates looked for an offside call on Pajoy, but it rightly wasn’t given. Pajoy was clearly onside when Thorrington shot the ball, thus it was perfectly legal for him, unmarked, to follow up and score.

[Read more…]

D.C. UNITED 2013 SEASON PREVIEW: DCU hopes to build on 2012 playoff run

Injuries, a snowstorm, schedule changes, suspensions – D.C. United faced it all in the 2012 Major League Soccer (MLS) Cup playoffs. In the end, United eliminated the arch-rival New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference semifinals, but fell to the Houston Dynamo, 4-2 on aggregate, one step short of hosting the MLS Cup final.

For a club that has won four MLS Cups, but none since 2004, that taste of glory is the starting point for a 2013 season in which much may be expected, but many questions remain. United got an early shot against its playoff nemesis from last year, Houston, in Saturday night’s season opener. But D.C. fell, 2-0. United failed to put a shot on goal (statistically anyway, Chris Pontius hit the crossbar with a free kick).

Part of the offensive struggle can be attributed to the suspension of star midfielder Dwayne De Rosario. The Canadian international (who missed time due to a knee injury last season suffered while playing for Canada) was suspended two games by MLS just before the season opener for an incident in a preseason match against the Philadelphia Union. De Rosario, the 2011 MLS Most Valuable Player, is eligible to return to action March 16 when United visits the Red Bulls – the team that traded De Rosario to United in 2011.

De Rosario’s creativity and offense was certainly missed Saturday night, but the loss also served as a lesson that United must be potent throughout the lineup rather than relying on one player. Gone from last year’s attacking corps are Branko Boskovic and Hamdi Salihi, as well as Andy Najar, who had developed as a promising outside defender to complement his offensive skills. Najar was sold to Belgian club Anderlecht prior to the 2013 season.

But with a focus on who is still here, let’s take a quick position-by-position look at D.C. United in 2013.

FORWARD: Lionard Pajoy, acquired from Philadelphia during the 2012 season (for Danny Cruz, the victim of De Rosario’s alleged preseason headbutt), started alone at forward Saturday, but United didn’t get enough ball possession to get Pajoy into the game. If Pajoy was on the ball in the attacking zone, he usually didn’t get enough support from teammates to make a play. New United midfielder John Thorrington joined Pontius and DeLeon in the attacking midfield, but as is typical in early-season game, the links between midfielders and the lone forward either weren’t there, or decisions weren’t made fast enough to take advantage of numerical edges in the attack. Having De Rosario back will certainly help that.

Newly-acquired Carlos Ruiz, long a thorn in the side of United and its fans, didn’t get off the subs’ bench Saturday after not playing in MLS in 2012. Ruiz, a Guatemalan international, has played for four other MLS clubs previously, scoring 88 goals and winning the MVP award in 2002. Now 33, Ruiz will need to score goals for United to succeed, and for the fans to potentially soften their opinion of the acquisition.

Casey Townsend, 23, is the only other forward listed on United’s roster over the age of 20. He was acquired in an offseason trade with Chivas USA.

MIDFIELD: The engine room will be run by De Rosario upon his return, but he should have plenty of help. A healthy Pontius, who can play up front as needed, is vital for United. Pontius is dangerous taking free kicks, can work on the ball in traffic to find space for shots/passes, and has an excellent shot. Perry Kitchen’s performance as a defensive midfielder will be critical, and development should be expected after starting 62 league matches the past two seasons. Veteran Marcelo Saragosa, 31, will be counted on for depth and played 83 minutes as a starter in the loss at Houston, as head coach Ben Olsen employed a 4-5-1 formation.

Out wide, Nick DeLeon will try to improve on a tremendous rookie season. DeLeon scored 6 goals in the regular season, then netted a memorable late goal (one of two playoff strikes) at Red Bull Arena to give United a 1-0 win at New York that allowed D.C. to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Englishman Lewis Neal, 31, provided valuable minutes last season as a reserve, though he was not available for selection Saturday night.

DEFENSE: The quartet of Dejan Jakovic, Brandon McDonald, Chris Korb, and Daniel Woolard started in the back Saturday night, though Woolard lasted only 45 minutes before being replaced by James Riley. All four starters are aged 25-28, and could be regarded as in their prime. Jakovic has received call-ups (with De Rosario) to the Canadian National Team. Robbie Russell, 33, is the veteran of United’s backline.

Perhaps the biggest issue facing the defense is consistency. If United can keep a regular starting lineup such that communication and positioning improves through players being used to working off each other, the defense can improve. United conceded 43 goals last season, tied with San Jose for third-most among 2012 playoff clubs. With forward depth being less than last year, United must reduce the goals conceded to remain a playoff contender in 2013.

GOALKEEPER: Speaking of stopping goals, United will rely on 22-year-old starter Bill Hamid. Hamid, who started Saturday’s loss at Houston, is a talented shot-stopper, who now must perfect the arts of distribution, organizing defenders, and controlling his area to continue improving. Hamid won 13 games last season with eight shutouts. He also picked up his first bit of international experience with the United States National Team in the MLS offseason.

Backup goalkeeper Joe Willis earned notoriety last year for his performance in the second game of the Eastern Conference semifinal at New York. Called in cold after Hamid was sent off, Willis stopped Kenny Cooper’s penalty kick to leave the match scoreless until DeLeon scored the goal that allowed United to advance to the Eastern Conference final. Willis, 24, was 4-4-3 last season in goal for United.

LOOKING AHEAD: At first glance, repeating last year’s 53-goal haul is a longshot for United. De Rosario and Pontius must stay healthy all season. That said the team defense must improve for United to again contend and be around late in the playoffs.

Replicating last season’s 58 points (17-10-7) is a tough ask, and it took 53 to make the playoffs out of the East last season. Saturday’s loss aside, the East isn’t so deep that United shouldn’t expect to compete.  Remember, United haven’t lost a league match (including playoffs) at RFK Stadium since last season’s home opener vs. Sporting Kansas City. United is 12-0-6 in 18 matches since that defeat on March 10, 2012. Similar home dominance this season would keep D.C. in the race.

We’ll know more about this group’s ability away from home once De Rosario returns and Ruiz is fit for selection, when the team has its creativity back and Olsen has the freedom to craft a more threatening attacking lineup.

Follow Ed Morgans on Twitter:  @edmorgans

D.C. UNITED GAME 1 RECAP: Dynamo continue home dominance vs. D.C. United

A new Major League Soccer season began Saturday night in Houston, Texas, but for D.C. United, the song remained the same. United fell, 2-0, to the Houston Dynamo before 20,019 at BBVA Compass Stadium, thanks to an own goal scored by United defender James Riley, and a late insurance goal by Dynamo midfielder Ricardo Clark.

United (0-1, 0 points) has played at Houston nine times and have just one draw and eight losses to show for it. On Saturday night, United survived a dodgy penalty call in the first half, then two Houston shots from point blank range in the half’s final minutes, to emerge scoreless at halftime.

But after carrying a bit more possession and generating a couple chances in the second half, United fell behind when, on a Dynamo corner kick, Clark got goal-side position on Riley and went up to head the ball toward goal from close range. Clark missed, but Riley made contact, sending a hard header past United goalkeeper Bill Hamid to give Houston the 1-0 advantage in the 80th minute.

United never really threatened a comeback from there, but any thought of drawing level late to steal a point vanished nine minutes later. From a throw-in, Houston substitute Warren Creavalle managed to keep the ball in play near the end line to Hamid’s left, then passed to a wide-open Clark in the penalty area. Clark blasted a well-taken shot to the upper corner at Hamid’s far post, giving Houston its final 2-0 margin of victory.

At halftime, it appeared as if United were on their way toward capturing at least a point. Hamid dove right to save a Brad Davis penalty kick after D.C. defender Chris Korb was cautioned for a foul on Clark in the 40th minute. Replays showed the foul actually occurred outside the penalty area, despite head referee Baldomero Toledo’s insistence to the contrary. No matter, however, as Davis’ penalty kick was not well struck and Hamid saved easily. He then doubled his effort by collecting a rebound shot, ending the threat.

Moments later, United nearly took the lead themselves, but Chris Pontius’ free kick banged off the crossbar above Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall. United then again avoided going down a goal when, on a corner kick, a shot by Houston defender Bobby Boswell was cleared off the line by Korb at Hamid’s left post. Giles Barnes followed up from only a few feet away, but Hamid saved that effort, allowing for the scoreless deadlock at halftime.

United’s defense couldn’t hold out past 80 minutes, however, and D.C. will entertain Real Salt Lake on Saturday, March 9, at RFK Stadium in the home opener looking for its first standings points of the 2013 season.

Coming Monday:  A preview of D.C. United’s 18th season in Major League Soccer. On Tuesday, a more detailed analysis of how United dropped its season opener in Houston.

Notes:  D.C. United defender Daniel Woolard received the only other caution, for a foul in the 15th minute. Woolard was replaced by Riley to start the second half. … There was no debut for new United forward Carlos Ruiz, who started the game on the subs’ bench but was not inserted into the game by D.C. head coach Ben Olsen. … Elsewhere on Opening Day Saturday, Sporting Kansas City rallied from a goal down to beat the Philadelphia Union, 3-1; the Vancouver Whitecaps defeated Toronto FC, 1-0; FC Dallas blanked the Colorado Rapids, 1-0; the Montreal Impact scored an upset win at the Seattle Sounders, 1-0; and the Columbus Crew crushed Chivas USA, 3-0. … There are three matches Sunday, including Portland Timbers vs. New York Red Bulls, televised by ESPN2 at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. The other two matches feature Los Angeles Galaxy-Chicago Fire and San Jose Earthquakes-Real Salt Lake.

Saturday is a Busy Day for DC Sports

It is a very exciting time for Washington DC sports fans.  To help keep your head from spinning, here is a quick list of the events and games scheduled for Saturday, April 28.

 

 

 

 

 

WASHINGTON REDSKINS:
11:30 a.m.-6:00 p.m. – FREE Draft Party. FREE Parking. Sign up to get your FREE Draft Party Pass and welcome RGIII to DC.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS:
3:00 p.m.Game 1 vs. New York Rangers in New York City at Madison Square Gardens

POTOMAC NATIONALS:
6:35 p.m.Chien-Ming Wang is scheduled for a rehab start in Woodbridge.

HERSHEY BEARS:
7:05 p.m.Game 5 of round one (Decisive game) for Calder Cup at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (“Baby Pens”)

DC UNITED:
7:30 p.m. – Home game vs. Houston Dynamo; Armed Forces Appreciation Day.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS:
9:00 p.m.MLB Debut of Bryce Harper at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles with Stephen Strasburg on the mound.

Cheryl Nichols is a Columnist and Photographer for District Sports Page. She is credentialed to cover the Washington Capitals and has reported on the community service and fan events for Nats News Network and Caps News Network since 2006. Cheryl is an accomplished action photographer and has been published in The Washington Post and many other local media. She was a credentialed photographer for the 2010 season covering the Washington Nationals. You can follow her on Twitter @cnichols14.

D.C. United Picks Louisville’s Nick DeLeon In MLS SuperDraft

D.C. United selected Louisville midfielder Nick DeLeon with the 7th overall pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft Thursday afternoon.

DeLeon, a senior at Louisville who transferred from UNLV, started 22 games for the Cardinals in 2011 and scored six goals and recorded six assists. Louisville went 14-7-2 in 2011 and  reached the NCAA quarterfinals before falling to UCLA 1-0 in double overtime. DeLeon officially signed with MLS and became eligible for the SuperDraft on Dec. 29.

[Read more…]

Will D.C. United Make The MLS Playoffs? It’s All Up To Them

Just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong for D.C. United last week. On Thursday night, Ben Olsen’s  charges went behind 2-0 in the first 15 minutes against the Philadelphia Union. United managed to tie the game with two goals less than ten minutes apart, but gave up a third Philadelphia goal in the second half to lose 3-2. Matters got even worse on Sunday, when United conceded two second-half goals to the Columbus Crew and lost 2-1. These results left D.C. United two points out of the final MLS wild card playoff spot, currently held by the New York Red Bulls. (The top three teams in each conference automatically make the MLS playoffs, with the next four in the overall standings getting in as wild cards.)

The good news for United is that they still have four games left to play (more than any of their fellow playoff contenders), starting with a match against last-place Vancouver on October 12 and closing with three decisive (and perfectly winnable) games at home against Chicago, Portland, and Sporting  Kansas City. The bad news is that the Black-and-Red have struggled in the less-than-cozy confines of RFK Stadium this season, winning just 4 of their 14 home games. In addition, the team will play those final four games in a span of ten days, thanks in large part to the Portland game being rescheduled from late August due to Hurricane Irene, and the compressed schedule will test the team’s fitness to the maximum.

But all these facts are unknowable variables to D.C. United’s playoff equation right now. Though they could miss the playoffs if the season ended today, D.C. United could still win the Eastern Conference with the right combination of results. Let’s take a look at how the playoff contenders’ remaining schedules stack up.

Eastern Conference

Sporting Kansas City (45 points)–New York (H) Oct. 15, D.C. United (A) Oct.22

Philadelphia Union (44 points)–Seattle (A) Oct. 8, Toronto FC (H) Oct. 15, New York (A) Oct. 20

Columbus Crew (44 points)–New England (A) Oct. 15, Chicago (A) Oct. 22

Wild Card Race

Last Team In

New York Red Bulls (40 points)–Los Angeles (H) Oct. 4, Sporting Kansas City (A) Oct. 15, Philadelphia (H) Oct. 20

Outside Looking In

Portland (40 points)–Houston (H) Oct. 14, D.C. United (A) Oct. 19, Real Salt Lake (A) Oct. 22

D.C. United (38 points)–Vancouver (A) Oct. 12, Chicago (H) Oct. 15, Portland (H) Oct. 19, Sporting Kansas City (H) Oct. 22

Chicago (37 points) – FC Dallas (H) Oct.12, D.C. United (A) Oct. 15, Columbus (H) Oct. 22

Chivas USA (36 points)–Los Angeles (A) Oct. 16, Seattle (H) Oct. 22

As you can see, the schedule doesn’t exactly do any of D.C. United’s competitors favors. With the exception of Columbus, every team has at least one match against teams above them in the league table. The two teams that D.C. United fans should be watching closely at this point are Philadelphia and New York (this should come naturally to you, right?). New York has seemed to be in danger for going off the rails for weeks now, with defender Rafa Marquez openly questioning the caliber of his teammates and pressure building on head coach Hans Backe. However, New York’s raw attacking talent has been enough to keep them in the playoff places so far, but two matches in five days against conference leaders Kansas City and Philadelphia could be their downfall.

Philadelphia, on the other hand, has a winnable home match against Toronto sandwiched between a tough match at Seattle and the trip to New York. They have a game in hand on their two fellow conference title contenders, but those extra three points aren’t in the bag by any stretch.

As for United, I think that they’ll manage between six and eight points from their final four games (Vancouver seems a sure win, but the others are toss-ups). That would likely be enough to get Ben Olsen’s team into the playoffs and may even be enough to host a wild-card game at RFK Stadium. But the club’s results this season have been dotted with inexplicable losses (including a 1-0 home loss to the New England Revolution, who will likely finish the season in last place in the East). If the unthinkable happens and United come up short, they will have no one to blame but themselves.

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