July 14, 2020

D.C. United Game 13 Recap: One brilliant Espindola goal enough for United victory

Fabian Espindola’s campaign for Major League Soccer MVP benefited from another memorable moment Saturday night, as D.C. United’s leading scorer lofted home a ridiculous goal in the first half that stood up in United’s 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City before 18,522 on a beautiful night at RFK Stadium. The win lifted United into second place in the Eastern Conference (6-4-3, 21 points), just two points out of first thanks to New England’s shocking loss to Montreal.

For all Espindola has done in helping to resurrect United on the field so far this season, his goal Saturday night was the masterpiece of his highlight video. Taking a layoff from right back Chris Korb, Espindola appeared to pose little threat, as SKC defender Seth Sinovic tracked him, but didn’t close him down. This can be forgiven, since Espindola was moving the ball back to his left, away from goal. [Read more…]

D.C. United Game 11 Recap: United wins and looks good doing it, 2-0 over Houston

The D.C. United squad on the field at RFK Stadium Wednesday night bore no resemblance to that which struggled through the 2013 season. That was partially due to a much changed roster, but on Wednesday, it was also due to a night of solid play, entertaining attacks, two wonderful goals, and a 2-0 victory for United over the Houston Dynamo before 8,224 in Washington.

Chris Rolfe opened the scoring in the 28th minute, as he and forward partner Fabian Espindola worked a nice 2-on-2 vs. the Houston defense. After a Lewis Neal throw-in, Espindola worked into the Dynamo defensive third, then passed the ball off to his left for Rolfe, who worked man to man against Houston defender David Horst. Rolfe made some space, moved the ball left, at which time Horst lost his balance. Rolfe then fired a low shot to the left of Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall to make it 1-0. [Read more…]

D.C. United Game 9 Recap: Early goal and Hamid’s saves lift United to rare road win

Yes, D.C. United fans, it is still legal and in fact encouraged for your local 11 to go on the road and win a match in Major League Soccer play. You could understand if some folks forgot what that felt like before Saturday’s 1-0 victory by United at the Philadelphia Union in front of 18,522 (including a healthy number of United supporters) at PPL Park. Chris Rolfe scored the only goal in the 6th minute. United hadn’t won a league away match since the 2012 season. With the win, D.C. improved to 4-3-2 (14 points), good enough for second place in the Eastern Conference pending other results Saturday.

It wasn’t exactly the most convincing of wins, but given the long barren stretch away from the rickety confines of RFK Stadium, no one should really be picky. Rolfe’s goal came from the center of the penalty area, past not only Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath, but also United players Eddie Johnson and Lewis Neal, who both had made smart runs toward the goal as Rolfe took his chance. Both were in offside position, but neither deflected the ball, and while they were between MacMath and where the ball entered the goal, MacMath never made a move to try and save the shot, so he wasn’t impeded and the goal stood despite Philadelphia’s protests.

Johnson, who has been notable for his lack of goals since coming to United from the Seattle Sounders in the offseason, may have had his first later in the half, but he was ruled to be offside upon receiving a nice lead pass from midfielder Davy Arnaud. If Johnson was offside, it was his right arm, which he wouldn’t have been able to use to score a goal. Johnson continued with the play and beat a charging MacMath, but the goal – which would have been Johnson’s much anticipated first for the club – was waived off. [Read more…]

D.C. United Game 5 Recap: Sweet victory for United over rival New York

D.C. United earned a valuable three points over its biggest rival Saturday night before 12,364 at RFK Stadium, as United tripped up the New York Red Bulls, 1-0, on a 4th-minute goal by Davy Arnaud. The win lifted United to 2-2-1 on the season (seven points), and allowed D.C. to claim seven of a possible nine points from a three-game home-stand against Eastern Conference foes Chicago, New England, and New York.

Arnaud’s goal was a thing of beauty early in the game that looks like it came straight from the training ground. After United won a corner that was taken to the left of New York goalkeeper Luis Robles, Fabian Espindola sent the kick into the center of the penalty area. There, United defender Bobby Boswell flicked a header forward and to his left, where Arnaud ran on to it and headed it to the opposite corner past Robles to give D.C. a lead it would never relinquish. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 76 Recap: Caps lack urgency; shutout by Stars

“If somehow we make the playoffs and we play like this who are we kidding?”
Capitals head coach Adam Oates

Game Recap Co-Authored by Dave and Cheryl Nichols

With seven games left on the schedule, every game is “must win” for the Washington Capitals. On Tuesday, at the Verizon Center no less, the Caps faced a Western Conference team that is in very much the same position. The result: the Dallas Stars spanked the Caps 5-0, all but eliminating the Caps from any further playoff discussion.

“It’s frustrating to see it, for all of us, ” said defenseman Karl Alzner. “We are all asking ourselves the exact same question and everybody wants to do it and be the guy, sometimes it’s being 20 guys and not just the guy, and maybe that has something to do with it. I am not too sure. It’s frustrating. Obviously, we are not happy with the way that we have been playing. Terrible time to go on a skid.”

Dallas broke the ice in middle of a sleepy first period. Tyler Seguin won a puck battle behind the Caps net with John Carlson and fed Jamie Benn at the top of the left wing circle. Benn’s shot headed for Jaroslav Halak’s crest, but Seguin did nice work to drive the net and tipped the puck past Halak on the glove side to put Dallas up 1-0.

The Stars added to that lead in the second. A terrible line change led to a 2-on-0 and Ray Whitney faked Halak out of his skates for his ninth goal of the season. Another defensive breakdown 34 seconds later allowed Dustin Jeffrey to register his first goal of the season, sending Halak to the bench replaced by Braden Holtby, more a wake-up call to his teammates, who left him out to dry all night long.

“We’re all a group,” said Caps Head Coach Adam Oates to the guys in the second intermission, ‘You know what, we’re down and if we come back – we have before, we could – we can’t come back playing wrong. If somehow we make the playoffs and we play like this who are we kidding? We have to figure out a way to get better together. It is just us collectively in here.’ Obviously it’s very disappointing.”

Dallas added insult to injury in the third, with Jeffrey scoring his second of the game, on a feed by the veteran Whitney. As if that wasn’t enough (and it was more than enough) Ryan Garbutt tacked on a short-handed goal with 5:10 left in the contest.

Caps Captain Alex Ovechkin was asked if he had an answer for the reoccurring mistakes.

“It’s hard to say sometimes now. We understand the position and we need the points, but we didn’t get the points. We made some mistakes. We turned over one in our zone, [one] in the neutral zone and it cost us the game.”

“It goes back to wanting to be ‘the guy.’” explained defenseman Karl Alzner. “You want to make the nice play to spark the team, to get a goal or make the nice pass to break us out. Very few teams can do that; it’s about playing simple, and it’s not always fun to play that way, and we sure haven’t helped ourselves by us all being irresponsible on the ice with the puck in all three zones. We’ve got to be smarter and we’ve got to make simple plays.”

The “lack of urgency” was a hot topic throughout the arena and locker room. Goalie Braden Holtby had a strong opinion. “There wasn’t any today, that’s for sure. That was zero urgency.” Defenseman John Carlson agreed, however, explained, “In certain situations. Then I think we over exerted ourselves on other situations that we didn’t need to.”

“The last three games we’ve played,” Holtby paused before completing his thought, “have just not even been close to good enough to play in the playoffs. Or do anything in the playoffs for that matter.”

The Capitals have six games left, likely needing six wins, with their final two games hosting Western Conference powerhouses Chicago and St. Louis. You’re never eliminated until you’re mathematically eliminated, but even the most optimistic supporters have to be prepared at this point for this team not qualifying for the playoffs.

“As a team we thought we’d probably need all seven to get in [to the playoffs], but now we have no choice,” said Caps defenseman John Carlson, “It’s probably going to be a win-out situation.”

The team will need to bounce back from this loss to have any hopes of the playoffs. “You just have to brush it off,” said Eric Fehr. “It’s not going to be an easy one to brush off, but we still have a chance. We still have an opportunity. We’ve got to win some games, we’ve got to go on a roll, but you can’t sulk with games like this. You’ve got to put them behind you.”

Holtby added, “No one played good tonight. Everyone has to expect more of themselves. It’s a collective unit, you can’t point fingers. It’s the Washington Capitals. We have to do better. A lot better.”

Tonight was the 220th consecutive sellout at the Verizon Center and the fans let the Washington Capitals how they felt about the loss.

Holtby sided with the fans. “If I was a fan, I’d be booing us right now. In a tight race, like we’re in, and you lose five nothing, it’s awful.”

Washington Capitals Game 59 Recap: Capitals shut out Devils 3-0; Erat scores his first of the season

The Washington Capitals have five Olympians on their roster, but before they set off for Sochi they had one more task to complete. After sacking the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday, the Capitals finished off their four game homestand with another victory, a 3-0 decision over the New Jersey Devils.

The Caps enter the Olympic break on a 5-2-1 tear.

Braden Holtby got his second start of the week, and earned his third shutout of the season.

Julien Brouillete, called up from Hershey this week to aid an ailing Caps defense, scored the first goal of the game in the third period and the first of his career, with his parents in attendance as well.

“I’m sure he’s flying high right now. Big goal,” said Adam Oates. “But you know what, Backy [Nicklas Backstrom] won a draw. That’s what it’s about. You win a draw, we get it across the blue line, you throw it to the net with a little bit of a screen and you’ve got a chance to get a goal.”

Martin Erat experienced a milestone of sorts himself, as well. The Devils pulled Cory Schneider for the extra man to try to tie the game with two minutes left, but Erat fired a wrister at the empty net, finally scoring his first goal of the season, just before his trip to the Olympics as a member of the Czech team.

Troy Brouwer scored his 100th career goal just a few seconds later to cap off the win.

Adam Oates was impressed with the patience of his players during a game that was sleepy at times.

“Obviously the Devils play that kind of game. They are willing to play it every night, and it’s a frustrating team to play. They don’t give you much. I looked up with nine minutes left in the third period, and I think it was 20 each in shots. Both teams played stingy. It was good.”

Washington Capitals Game 57 Recap: Capitals shut out 1-0 by Islanders, but Neuvirth solid in third straight start

In the Washington Capitals’ crucial Metropolitan Division matchup against the New York Islanders, both teams were scoreless after two periods, which hadn’t even occurred once in any of the Capitals 57 games this season. The Capitals also desperately needed a win against a divisional opponent to stay in the playoff hunt, but fell short and were shut out 1-0 by Evgeny Nabokov and the Islanders.

The Capitals’ power play struggles continued, even against the Islanders’ league worst penalty kill. For a team that relies as heavily on the man advantage to score as the Capitals do, going 0-for-6 on the power play is not an ideal situation.

On the other hand, it isn’t good to rely on the man advantage as much as the Capitals have this season. Teams don’t get as many power plays in the playoffs, so they have to find ways to score at even strength, something the Capitals have had difficulty doing consistently.

Stringing a few wins together would probably help the Capitals postseason chances. Karl Alzner cautioned against the team going “win one, lose one, the rest of the way.” Adam Oates agreed that close games like the 1-0 decision Tuesday to the Islanders are games that playoff teams have to win.

He didn’t imply that the Capitals are not a playoff team, but he has a good point. Much has been made over the last several years of the Capitals’ lack of “killer instinct” or, more formally, taking advantage of an opponent while they are vulnerable. The Islanders are drowning in the Metro Division and have the worst penalty kill in the league, but the Capitals couldn’t throw a knockout punch while the Islanders were exposed.

Michael Neuvirth was solid in his third straight start, his third game in five days. He stopped 27 of 28 shots, and certainly deserved better that what he got from his teammates – five penalty kills and no goal support.

“We just have to stay out of the penalty box,” said Eric Fehr. “We’ve been doing this to ourselves for the past two weeks. Takes the momentum right out of the game.”

Oates also pointed to weariness as a factor in the loss. “Maybe a little fatigue for the boys,” he said. “We played a lot of hockey. It is tough sledding out there, game in and game out, and you’re fighting a lot of uphill battles. I didn’t think they executed either. Both power plays were pretty ineffective, and their goalie played well early. Neuvy [Michal Neuvirth] played well the whole game. We didn’t test them much late.”

The Capitals take on the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday and the New Jersey Devils on Saturday to round out their homestand before the Olympic break.

Washington Capitals Game 52 Recap: Capitals snap losing streak with 5-0 rout of Canadiens

In their second game in as many nights, almost halfway through their five-game roadtrip, the Washington Capitals finally broke their seven-game losing streak with a 5-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens.

Braden Holtby earned his ninth career shutout and only faced 21 shots from the Canadiens, who mustered a mere three shots in the first period, and didn’t have a shot on goal in the second period until the 13-minute mark.

Alex Ovechkin, back in action after missing one game with a still-vague lower-body injury, scored the first of the Capitals four goals in the second period. John Erskine, Jay Beagle, and John Carlson contributed to the Caps second-period offense. Fresh from Hershey, recent call-up Casey Wellman scored the Capitals’ fifth and final goal of the game in the third period, off a nice feed from Ovechkin after the veteran drew the defense away on the break.

Sometimes, all it takes to break a bad streak is playing a team that’s a little worse off than you, and taking advantage of them. That’s what the Capitals did to the Canadiens, a team that should be better than they are currently playing, because they are actually a good team.

It remains to be seen if the Capitals will be able to clean up the wreckage of their six-game skid and make their way to the playoffs. Their remaining schedule is tough, and packed with skilled teams both before and after the Olympic break.

The Capitals still have lingering issues on the blue line and at forward depth that need to be addressed. Another bad blow would be Mikhail Grabovski missing an extended period of time, which hopefully is not the case. That’s not to say fans shouldn’t be happy to see the Caps finally come out on top after what seemed like an endless stretch of disappointments in the month of January. They’ve been playing some of their best hockey and not getting the points to show for it. Ganging up on the Canadiens was just what the Capitals needed.

D.C. United Game 27 Recap: Torres goal enough to condemn United to another loss

D.C. United fell to 3-19-5 (14 points) on the season Sunday night after losing 1-0 at one of Major League Soccer’s other bad teams, Chivas USA, before a mere 7,781 at the StubHub Center in Carson, Ca. Erick Torres scored the game’s lone goal in the 51st minute and despite a couple decent opportunities for United, there were few moments, if any, where it felt like United was going to score.

United have scored only four goals in road matches this 2013 MLS season, and 16 for the whole season total. Chivas USA came into the game having allowed a league-worst 48 goals (almost 2 per game), but United were unable to produce even an equalizing goal. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 117 Review: Strasburg masterful as Nats complete sweep of Phillies

This is the Stephen Strasburg everyone has been waiting to see this season.

In perhaps his most dominant start of the season, the Washington Nationals ace allowed just four hits and one walk, striking out 10, to lead the Nats to a 6-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies, sweeping their fading arch-rivals in the three-game weekend set, before 32,355 ecstatic fans at Nationals Park.

The win was Strasburg’s first complete game shut out in his big league career. He needed just 99 pitches — 66 strikes — to dispatch the Phillies and earn his sixth win of the season.

Strasburg had little trouble recording outs in the early going, but dealt with a twinge in his leg in the second inning, drawing the trainer, and later was hit by a pitch in his right upper arm trying to bunt. But neither had much of any effect as he just kept recording out after out.

Strasburg (W, 6-9. 2.83) cruised through the middle innings and got to the late innings with a very manageable pitch count. He gave up a single to Kevin Frandsen in the seventh inning, but retired the next six batters in succession to enter the ninth inning with just 90 pitches thrown. He took the mound for the final inning to chants of “Let’s Go Strasburg,” and perhaps wired with too much adrenaline, fired three straight balls to catcher Carlos Ruiz. But the big right-hander bore down and got Ruiz to fly to center and Jimmy Rollins popped to short for the second out.

Frandsen then ripped a liner to third, but Ryan Zimmerman laid out with a full dive to snare the drive, ensuring Strasburg would record his first complete game and complete the sweep of the Phils.

The Nats (57-60) broke ahead in the bottom of the first frame against Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick (L, 10-9, 4.48). Denard Span singled and went to second on Ryan Zimmerman’s ground out to third. Bryce Harper struck out swinging but hot-hitting Jayson Werth came through with a base hit to center to plate the Nats first run of the game.

Washington added to the lead in the fourth. Ian Desmond led off with a single to right field. He stole second and Adam LaRoche walked. Wilson Ramos delivered with a single to left center, scoring Desmond from second. Steve Lombardozzi bounced back to the pitcher, but Kendrick couldn’t make a clean pickup and had to settle for the force at second instead of completing the double play.

That would cost the Phillies. After Strasburg struck out, Span bounced a chopper off the plate, and there was no chance for a play anywhere. LaRoche came home on the play to make it 3-0. Zimmerman then reached on an infield single to load the bases, but Harper flied out to medium-deep center field to end the frame.

The Nats broke it open in the fifth. They loaded the bases on singles by Werth and Desmond and walk by LaRoche. Wilson Ramos grounded to second, but Chase Utley eschewed the double play chance and threw home. But the throw bounced in and catcher Erik Kratz couldn’t handle it. Werth scored on the slide, and when Kratz couldn’t find the ball behind home plate, Desmond scampered home with a second run.

Steve Lombardozzi followed with a single that scored LaRoche to make it 6-0, but Ramos was thrown out on the play trying to go first to third.

The rest was up to the starting pitcher, and he did not disappoint whatsoever.

THE GOOD: Strasburg, obviously. He’s been good, but not great, this season, and suffered more time than not from a lack of run support. But this was vintage Strasburg. Props to Jayson Werth for continuing his hot hitting, and Wilson Ramos (2-for-4) and Steve Lombardozzi (3-for-4) did good work at the bottom of the order.

THE BAD: Adam LaRoche went 0-for-2, though he did draw two walks and scored twice.

THE UGLY: Bryce Harper went 0-for-5 and stranded five runners.

THE STATS: 13 hits, 3 BBs, 7 Ks. 5-for-13 with RISP, 9 LOB. No errors, 2 DPs.

NEXT GAME: Tuesday against the San Francisco Giants at 7:05 pm. Gio Gonzalez (7-5, 3.52) hosts Madison Bumgarner (11-7, 2.75).

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