Soccer

Conference-leading DCU travels to Orlando

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Conference-leading DCU travels to Orlando

Resilient and deep are two words to describe DC United as the Black and Red reaches the halfway point of the season. Even after a stretch of five games in fourteen days, United is still in first place in the Eastern Conference ahead of Sunday’s match in Orlando.

It has not always been pretty for United and has been far from smooth, but United can look back at the first 16 games of the season with pride. The top of the table story has been crafted even though United has already used 13 different starting lineups and driving force Fabian Espindola has only appeared in four games.

Back from recent ailments at training on Friday were Bill Hamid, Chris Pontius, and Chris Korb.  Taylor Kemp who has been bothered by a groin injury is now listed as probable and could return to start at left back. In short United is healthier than the team has been in recent weeks and should be rested.

Orlando is now having results to match the team’s incredible support in central Florida where at home the Lions, as the team is known, are averaging over 36,000 fans per game. Last week Orlando stunned Chicago on the road with a 3-2 win to extend its unbeaten run to four games and move into fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

The challenge:

  1. Be creative and assertive. Last Saturday against Toronto it was great that United scored first, but seemed to run out of ideas after that in a 2-1 loss. The team looked tired and the heavy schedule seemed to weigh on United. Now with healthy options, including possibly Taylor Kemp at let back, United needs to be aggressive, but under control. Too often last week United struggled with possession and costly turnovers ignited Toronto attacks. The last time in Orlando United was out played and only saved by Luis Silva’s free kick in the 90th minute and the goalkeeping of Bill Hamid. At RFK when the two teams met, United had to rally for a 2-1 win.
  2. Limiting Kaka.  After early questions about Kaka’s ability to fit into MLS, the Brazilian great has now scored three goals in the last four games to increase his goal scoring total to six on the season. Beyond the goals Kaka has the ability to dictate the flow and pace of the game. United needs to disrupt Kaka and avoid giving up set pieces.  Only one of Kaka’s goals has been from the run of play.  There will be extra pressure on Kaka because starting forward Cyle Larin will miss the match with the Canadian National Team. Larin had scored four goals over the last six matches. Also midfielder Darwin Ceren will be absent because he was with El Salvador’s National Team.

Bottom line: Orlando has improved, but minus Larin and Ceren, the Lions are not at full strength. United has an opportunity on the road to flex its muscles as the conference leader.

MORE SOCCER: US Women draw with Sweden

Game Preview: Washington Spirit vs. Portland Thorns at Audi Field

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USA Today Sports Images

Game Preview: Washington Spirit vs. Portland Thorns at Audi Field

The Washington Spirit, one of nine teams in the National Women's Soccer League, will pay a visit to Audi Field later this summer.

The game versus the Portland Thorns FC is scheduled for August 25 at 8 pm. Tickets can be purchased online via Ticketmaster and start at $31, but will also be available at the door. 

If you're looking for where to watch the Spirit take on the Thorns from the comfort of your own couch, the game will be broadcast on ESPNews starting at 7:38 pm. Dalen Cuff is set to host the pregame show, with USA Women's National Team alumnus Aly Wagner commentating alongside Jenn Hildreth, in her second season of NWSL coverage.

Considering the recent addition of the legendary Wayne Rooney and their move to the new facility, DC United has a lot to celebrate.

Audi Field, which opened in Washington D.C.'s Buzzard Point on July 9, seats 20,000 spectators. For DC United, who previously played at RFK Stadium, the capacity is a step down from the almost 46,000 seats at RFK. But for the Spirit, who call Germantown's Maryland Soccerplex their home, the audience will hopefully far outnumber the Plex's usual 3,000 to 4,000 spectators.

The Spirit have struggled this season, with an unusually high amound of draws and more losses than wins. Though fan favorite and star forward Mallory Pugh is still sidelined with a PCL sprain, the team hopes to improve their ability to close one-goal deficits and gain a sustained offensive advantage. 

Aside from the Audi Field game, the Spirit will host two more home games this season. Utah Royals FC will visit the Soccerplex on Wednesday, August 22, and Sky Blue FC will close out the Spirit's home season on Saturday, September 1. Tickets for either game at their usual field can be purchased through the Washington Spirit's website or upon entry. 

If you haven't paid attention to women's soccer since the USWNT's 2015 World Cup victory, no worries. There's no better time than the present to support women's pro sports. Regardless of the end result, Portland vs. Washington will be a great match-up to watch, and the event has already made DC sports history.

MORE DC SPORTS NEWS:

Wayne Rooney stuns D.C. soccer fans with surprise appearance during World Cup viewing

Wayne Rooney stuns D.C. soccer fans with surprise appearance during World Cup viewing

Washington Dulles International Airport was flooded by soccer fans alike Thursday afternoon awaiting the arrival of one specific person inside the international arrivals terminal: England's all-time goalscorer Wayne Rooney. 

Over 100 fans packed the halls as the 32-year-old made his way out of the airport while posing for pictures and signing autographs. 

Rooney penned a two-and-a-half year guaranteed contract worth about $13 million, which makes him the highest-paid player in D.C. United history. 

He officially becomes available to play for the club beginning July 10, after the transfer window opens. This means his first game could potentially be against Vancouver inside the brand new Audi Field July 10. 

After greeting fans at the airport, Rooney and his camp piled into two blacks SUVs en route to Northeast D.C. 

Little did World Cup fans taking in the England-Belgium match at Wunder Garten know that they were about to be surprised by Wayne Rooney himself. 

In an appearance that lasted just over seven minutes and included a slew of selfies, short conversations and one television interview, Rooney's presence dazzled fans and left others stunned. 

One England native who is now a D.C. resident told me: "We grew up watching him (Rooney) score in the World Cup and that was really important to us. It's hard to believe he just walked through here."

As you would imagine, management at Wunder Garten was thrilled, too.  

"It was great for us because it put us on the map. For someone as famous as Wayne Rooney to come through our establishment, shake hands and hang out, that means a lot. We loved having him here and would love to have him back," said Michael Keller, a member of the bar's management staff. 

 The Englishman will have his hands full as he attempts to put D.C. United back on the map this season. 

Follow Rooney on Twitter and Instagram @WayneRooney.