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MLS Playoffs 2018: Previewing D.C. United vs. Columbus Crew SC

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MLS Playoffs 2018: Previewing D.C. United vs. Columbus Crew SC

By Jason Murphy

With a championship trophy back in Washington D.C. thanks to the Capitals, the nation's capital is hungry for another. The next team with the chance to do so is D.C. United.

The Black-and-Red kick off their quest to hoist a league-record fifth MLS Cup with a knockout-round match against Columbus Crew SC tonight, Thursday, Nov. 1 at 8:00 p.m. ET at Audi Field on FS1.

The summer surge by Wayne Rooney and Co. earned United the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and a home match in the knockout stage. Tonight's one-off will be the 16th home game for D.C. United since the new stadium opened July 14 and the team holds a 12-2-1 record at Audi Field in its inaugural season.

Since the start of September, D.C. United lead MLS in wins (7), goals (21) and points (24) powered by Rooney (9 goals since Sept. 2) and teammate Luciano Acosta (5 goals since Sept. 2).

Although Rooney's introduction catapulted D.C. United to new standards on the offensive side of the ball, the resurgence in defense has been overseen by the return of Bill Hamid between the woodwork. Hamid, who struggled to find playing time at FC Midtjylland after signing with the Norwegian side after the 2017 MLS season, returned on loan this summer and has backstopped 5 shutouts in his 14 matches in net this season.

Since Hamid's return, United has allowed more than a single goal just once, allowing three in a 3-3 tie to the Supporter's Shield-winning New York Red Bulls, and are allowing just 0.86 goals per game.

United have fared well in one-off playoff matches throughout the club's history, owning a 6-4 record but are 0-1 in knockout round games (suffered a 4-2 loss to Montreal in 2016) in MLS' new playoff format that began in 2015.

The two teams split the season series, with both sides holding serve at home (Columbus earning a 3-1 win on March 24 and D.C. returning the favor in a 1-0 win at Navy-Marines Corps Memorial Stadium a few weeks later).

The Black-and-Red have won all three previous playoff meetings between the two MLS original sides, including 6-of-8 total matches played between the two in the postseason. Tonight marks their first postseason meeting since the 1999 Eastern Conference Championship, which United won en route to their third of 4 MLS Cups.

The winner of Thursday night's knockout round match will advance to face No. 1 seed New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, with the legs taking place on Nov. 4 and Nov. 11. The No. 3 seed New York City FC advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals to take on the No. 2 seed Atlanta United following a 3-1 knockout round victory over Philadelphia Union. 

CLICK HERE FOR UPDATED 2018 MLS PLAYOFF BRACKET

HOW TO WATCH D.C. UNITED vs. COLUMBUS CREW SC 

Who: No. 4 seed D.C. United vs. No. 5 seed Columbus Crew SC
What: 2018 MLS Playoffs Eastern Conference Knockout Stage
Where: Audi Field, SW Washington, D.C.
When: Thursday, Nov. 1 at 8:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go

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D.C. United pays record-breaking transfer fee to sign Peruvian midfielder Edison Flores

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D.C. United pays record-breaking transfer fee to sign Peruvian midfielder Edison Flores

As D.C. United looks to replace the production of its three leading goalscorers from last season, including England legend Wayne Rooney, the club announced the signing of Peruvian midfielder Edison Flores Tuesday. To acquire Flores, the Black-and-Red paid Morelia, his former club in Mexico, a $5 million transfer fee — a new club record for D.C. United — according to Steven Goff of the Washington Post. 

The 25-year-old appeared in three matches for Peru’s national team in the 2018 World Cup, which Flores helped his country qualify for with five goals in 14 appearances during World Cup qualification. Flores also netted two goals for Peru’s national team in the 2019 Copa America. 

Flores' contract with D.C. United is for five years for a team-high $2.1 million, according to Goff. The Peruvian will occupy one of the team’s three designated player spots. 

The Black-and-Red have one remaining designated player spot, which they could use for another high-profile acquisition before the season begins on Feb. 29, or during the summer transfer window. 

D.C. United will enter the 2020 season without the services of three of its most prolific attacking options from last year. Rooney, who scored 11 goals in 2019, returned to his native  England for a role as a player-coach with Derby County. Midfielders Luciano Acosta and Lucas Rodriguez, who both scored six goals last season, also left the club.

There's hope that Flores can help offset the effects of that lost production.

“We are excited to add an international player of Edison's pedigree to the team ahead of the 2020 season," Dave Kasper, D.C. United General Manager and VP of Soccer Operations, said in a release. "He is an exciting and dynamic attacking player who creates and scores goals. What has really impressed us is his commitment to the team...he is a versatile and gritty two-way player who plays with a real pulse.

D.C. United acquires Bill Hamid's contract on permanent transfer

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D.C. United acquires Bill Hamid's contract on permanent transfer

Bill Hamid is returning the District for good. 

D.C. United has acquired their goalkeeper permanently after a transfer from FC Midtjylland, the team announced on Monday. The deal is good for three years using Targeted Allocation Monday.

During the 2018 and 2019 seasons, Hamid was on loan from the Danish club. Both years he continued to post superb numbers for United. In 47 starts he had 19 shutouts and a 21-12-14 record. His 14 clean sheets in 2019 led the league and had him in consideration for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.

He had started for the club in some capacity in every season dating back to 2010.  The 29-year-old has club records in starts for goalkeepers (231), minutes (20,589), wins (87), saves (819) and shutouts (68).

"Bringing Bill back to the club in 2020 and beyond was a top priority for us this offseason," general manager Dave Kasper said in a release. “Bill is a leader on and off the field and we’re excited to bring him back to the club that he has worked tirelessly for over the last ten seasons. He is among the best goalkeepers in MLS and he resonates with fans and the community, and we know he is going to be an important piece at the club for the foreseeable future."

For years Hamid has been regarded as one of the top American goalkeepers, but injuries have hindered his growth. He was a part of the wave of USMNT players moving to European clubs when he signed with the Danish team back in 2018. Earlier in Jan. 2019 that appeared to pay off after his stellar season on loan with United. It resulted in Hamid on the USMNT's training camp roster.

The difference now in Hamid's permanent transfer is that he can no longer be called up by his primary team FC Midtjylland. While that never happened in his year and a half on loan with United, that possibility was always there. It's a permanent solution for United and resources can now be focused on other areas of the team. 

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