Soccer

The Big Twenty: DC United wins MLS Cup

The Big Twenty: DC United wins MLS Cup

For the next three weeks, NBC Sports Washington will be rolling out the 20 biggest stories in DMV sports in the past 20 years. Here is No. 19.

A new phenom. A new coach. A renewed hope that DC United could return to glory and capture their first MLS Cup title since 1999.

That is exactly what transpired as the 2004 MLS season brought the fourth championship in team history to DC United.

The offseason started with the departure of Ray Hudson behind the bench, replaced by retired Chicago Fire star Peter Nowak. One of the best players in the early days of MLS, Nowak had retired from playing in 2002 before taking a job in the Chicago front office. When DCU’s ownership came calling, Nowak jumped at the chance to take over the most highly-decorated team in the league’s young history.

In the same month that Nowak took the helm, DC United brought 14-year-old phenom Freddy Adu aboard, becoming the youngest American to ever sign a contract in any professional league. The youngster carried plenty of hype into his first professional season and finished third on the team with five goals while playing in every match.

The retirement of longtime club legend, and last remaining member of the inaugural 1996 team, Marco Etcheverry at the end of the 2003 season brought an end to the initial Golden Age of DC United when the club collected eight trophies across all competitions in the first three years of its existence. 2004 marked the start of a second golden age with the team winning another four trophies to add to the trophy case in the next four years.

The regular season started slowly for United with a 5-8-6 record in the first 19 games of the season. The team rebounded in August and rode a 6-2-3 close to the season to the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Forwards Alecko Eskandarian and Jaime Moreno shouldered the scoring load for the Black-and-Red with 10 and seven goals respectively as DC got set for a Conference Semifinal matchup with the New York/New Jersey Metrostars in the first round of the postseason.

United ran through the MetroStars with back-to-back 2-0 victories, booking its place in the Eastern Conference Final with the New England Revolution. A riveting back-and-forth game saw United take the lead three separate times only for the Revolution to equalize thrice themselves. All level at three after 90 minutes and extra time, the game was decided in the first-ever penalty shootout in MLS history. In the sudden-death sixth round, United’s Brian Carroll scored and goalkeeper Nick Rimando saved a Clint Dempsey penalty to advance to the club’s fifth MLS Cup in the first nine years of the league.

Kansas City Wizards emerged from the Western Conference to face the Black-and-Red in MLS Cup 2004 played at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA. Kansas City took an early lead before DC scored three goals in seven minutes and held on for the fourth title in the club’s eight-year history, and to date, the last time the club has lifted the MLS Cup.

D.C. United to return to Audi Field as MLS will host local matches beginning August 12

D.C. United to return to Audi Field as MLS will host local matches beginning August 12

Following the conclusion of the MLS is Back Tournament, MLS will continue its 25th season by having teams compete in their local markets, the league announced on Saturday.

Thus, D.C. United will be returning to Audi Field for regular-season action. The team will open up on the road against FC Cincinnati on Friday, August 21, before having its home opener on Tuesday, August 25, against the New England Revolution. For at least the beginning of the season, no fans will be in attendance. 

“I would like to thank everyone involved with the MLS is Back Tournament -- players, coaches, staff and partners -- for their role in helping us recapture the momentum we had at the beginning of our 25th season and reconnect with our passionate fans,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “Since suspending play in March, we have been working on plans to play as much of our season as possible, beginning with the tournament in Florida and resuming in our local markets following the competition. We remain focused on the health and safety of our players, coaches and staff, and look forward to continuing our season in our home markets.”

Though the league is planning to allow teams to travel after holding the tournament in a bubble, it doesn't mean protocols will lessen in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Players will continue to be tested every other day and are strongly advised to limit exposure outside of team facilities and mandated areas.

However, a major complication is how the three Canadian teams (Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver) will handle the season. Much like how the Toronto Blue Jays had to relocate to Buffalo to play the MLB season, Canada still has tight restrictions in place when it comes to leaving the country and coming back.

MLS states that it will have a clearer picture of the schedule in September, but initially plans to have U.S. teams only square off against one another. That may lead to the three teams north of the border only playing one another for the beginning of the season. PLans there remain uncertain. 

As it stands now, the league is set to kick off on August 12 and each team will play 18 games. Decision Day will be on November 8, and 18 teams will enter the playoffs. That number is four more than last season. The MLS Cup will take place on December 12. 

The MLS is Back Tournament is set to come to a conclusion on August 11 and the Portland Timbers will take on Orlando City for the title on August 11. D.C. United did not reach the knockout stage after finishing last in their group.

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Christian Pulisic continues to shine for Chelsea early in FA Cup Final, leaves match with injury

Christian Pulisic continues to shine for Chelsea early in FA Cup Final, leaves match with injury

Since the resumption of soccer in England, USNMT star and Chelsea attacker Christian Pulisic has been among the best in the sport. He continued that on Saturday, wasting no time giving his team the lead in the FA Cup Final against Arsenal.

Pulisic netted a goal just five minutes into the match.

The FA Cup is a knockout-style tournament that pits the best British soccer teams against one another. Pulisic's goal not only gave Chelsea an early advantage, but put him in the history books as he became the first U.S International player to score in the final.

Pulisic's brilliance on Saturday is just the latest impressive performance by the 21-year old. His effort since the Premier League returned helped Chelsea finish in the top four of the league.

Unfortunately for Pulisic and Chelsea, he did not get the opportunity to further leave his mark on the FA Cup Final and he exited in the 48th minute with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.

Though he had to leave the contest early, Pulisic once again proved that he is an emerging star both nationally and internationally.

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