DC United

Hamid has late save, Jeffrey scores in 92nd; United ties RSL


Hamid has late save, Jeffrey scores in 92nd; United ties RSL

SANDY, Utah (AP) -- Bill Hamid made a save on a breakaway in the 90th minute, Jared Jeffrey scored in stoppage time and D.C. United tied Real Salt Lake 1-1 on Friday night.

Hamid won a 1-on-1 battle after sliding to get a foot on Olmes Garcia's shot. Two minutes later, Fabian Espindola's corner kick was headed in by an unmarked Jeffrey.

D.C. United (5-6-6) is still winless at Rice-Eccles Stadium since its first trip to Utah in 2005.

Juan Manuel Martinez scored in the 57th minute for Real Salt Lake (8-5-4). He received a pass from Yura Movsisyan, dribbled between two defenders and chipped Hamid.

Hamid saved two close-range shots in the 16th minute, denied Movsisyan's near-post attempt in the 47th and made himself big against Joao Plata in the 61st.

5 things to know before D.C. United's season opener

5 things to know before D.C. United's season opener

After losing in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs in a 5-1 loss to eventual runner ups Toronto FC in a scoreline that was far closer than a first glance would indicate (Toronto scored four extra-time goals with United chasing the game) , D.C. United is roaring to get back to MLS action Saturday. 

It's a new-look team with some major losses and key additions that will be on full display during United's season-opening match against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday. 

With that contest being five days away, here are the top five things to know for the 2020/2021 season. 

1. Wayne Rooney is no longer on the team

Unless you hadn't heard, Rooney's two-year stint with D.C. ended after the expiration of his contract last season when he opted to go back to England and become a player-manager for Championship side Derby on an 18-month deal. Rooney was masterful during his United (no, not Manchester) tenure and produced some of the most epic moments the club has ever seen. 

Anytime your then-33-year-old striker can hustle back some 40 yards, earn the ball back from a desperate slide tackle, and then loft a signature ball to the back post for the game-winner, you know you've got a special player on your hands. Rooney cemented himself as one of the most graceful players to play in Major League Soccer. The all-time leader of goals for the England national team notched 23 goals and another 15 assists, leaving a giant hole in the playmaking department. 

Also featured in that miraculous last-gasp winner was the scorer - Luciano "Lucho" Acosta. The Argentine forward was heartbroken a midseason transfer to Paris Saint-Germain didn't pan out, and moved to Mexican Liga MX team Atlas after the expiration of his contract. He bagged 24 goals and 35 assists in four seasons in the nation's capital. 

2. It's a team with talent all over the field

Despite losing the club's two most marketable players, D.C. United maintains a balanced squad all over the pitch following a fruitful offseason that saw the club acquire Edison Flores, Yamil Asad and Atlanta United's Julian Gressel. Asad spent some time with D.C. United on loan before going Atlanta United on a separate loan deal, and will now terrorize opposing fullbacks as a permanent member of D.C. The Buenos Aires product produced 16 goals and 21 assists over the course of those two stints. 

Gressel will bring a playmaking ability that will unlock defenses, having garnered 32 assists since being drafted in 2017 -- the most during that span. The 26-year-old German drives in the final third with the kind of force that gives fits to defenders, and can also be deployed at right back if necessary. He could be an even more influential signing than Flores, but more on him later. 

Ola Kamara is a proven No. 9 and can bag goals in bunches. The Norweigan striker has got 51 MLS goals to his name, and his left boot has produced at least 14 goals in each of his previous three full seasons with the Columbus Crew and LA Galaxy, respectively. After making the move back to MLS from the Chinese Super League, Kamara will be a menace up top. 

The midfield group of Felipe Martins, Junior Moreno, and Russell Canouse is solid. Emmanuel Boateng is a speedy option off the bench, and Gressel's arrival will help put coach Ben Olsen's mind at ease with the Paul Arriola injury news. 

In defense, the backline is headlined by veteran center back Steve Birnbaum. Frederic Brillant and University of Maryland product Donovan Pines will also help protect goalkeeper Bill Hamid's goal, which was a fortress last season in securing 14 clean sheets. Hamid is among the best keepers in the league, and climbed into the top-10 shutout leaders in league history this past season. United made his loan move from Danish side FC Midtjylland permanent this offseason. 

3. Paul Arriola's knee injury is a big blow

Arriola has been a menace down the right wing for D.C. and the USMNT, and was pegged as the leading figure after Rooney and Acosta's departures. But a Feb. 15 partially torn ACL injury dealt both the team and Arriola a huge blow heading into the season. 

Arriola, 25, was signed for a then-club record fee of $3 million to pry his rights away from the Galaxy upon his departure from Club Tijuana. The versatile winger has 33 international caps to his name, and has been deployed at right back for both club and country. While Gressel softens the blow, Arriola's potential late-season return could be a huge boost come postseason time. 

4. The club's record signing has some boots to fill

D.C. United's decision to splash the cash to secure the services of one Edison Flores showed the overall league's trend of getting away from the big-name Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Rooney's of the world that were closer to the retirement horizon and more towards younger players with something more to prove. 

In Flores, D.C. United get a No. 10 ready to put his imprint on this team with a low center of gravity equipped for dazzling dribbling skills and a powerful left foot. The Peruvian international has risen to perform at the biggest stage during the 2018 World Cup, scoring a counter-attack goal to help seal the first victory for his country after being absent from the World Cup for 36 years. 

Expect him to play underneath Kamara, linking up often with the target man to put the finishing touches on attacks. He can also play on the wings while interchanging with the other forwards. 

The Black-and-Red paid a reported $5 million to land Flores on a five-year deal, according to the Washington Post's Steve Goff. He's the gritty, passionate, and fiesty type of player you'd expect from a South American product. In placing the designated player tag on Flores, D.C. still has one more to fill to address any other needs that could arise. 

5. Ben Olsen brings a decade worth of experience 

Head coach Ben Olsen is entering his 10th season at the helm of D.C. United and doesn't have all that much to show for it. He hasn't led his United outfit past the quarterfinal round of the MLS Cup or above a 4th-placed regular-season finish since winning Coach of the Year award in 2014 - when he led the biggest turnaround in league history when United finished first in the Eastern Conference. 

Now, despite having the respect of the team ownership with 11 years and over 200 appearances made as a player before becoming the manager in the middle of the 2010 season, Olsen might see some pressure starting to mount if D.C. fails to get out to a good start to the season. He was the youngest coach to ever get 100 MLS wins at 41 last season and is United's longest-tenured coach.

Yet, without major silverware since winning the MLS Cup in 2004, Olsen might have to scrape together a magical season. He certainly has talent on the team to make a push further in the playoffs. 

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Report: Wayne Rooney may return to DC—as an opponent

Report: Wayne Rooney may return to DC—as an opponent

The last time Wayne Rooney stepped onto Audi Field, he did so as the face of D.C. United.

Now, he slated to return as a member of the opposition.

The Washington Post reported Monday that D.C. United and Rooney’s current club Derby County are close to finalizing a friendly match to be played between the two clubs in October.

Rooney, 34, joined United in 2018 after garnering international fame as a member of Manchester United from 2004-17. He’s a five-time Premier League champion who brought an level of pedigree to Washington that D.C. hadn’t seen before.

The Liverpool native was slated to play through the 2020 season with United but opted to return to England due to personal reasons. His final game with United came last October, when the club lost 5-1 to Toronto FC in the first round of the MLS playoffs.

As pointed out by The Post, the match would be scheduled for an unusual date. With MLS playoffs beginning in mid-October, the friendly would presumably be scheduled between the regular-season finale and start of the postseason. Friendlies between American and European teams are usually held from May through June.

United will begin its MLS slate Saturday when it hosts the Colorado Rapids for the season opener.

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