Soccer

D.C. United battles for 2nd place in the regular season finale

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D.C. United battles for 2nd place in the regular season finale

It’s probably a good thing that D.C. United is on the road for its regular season finale Saturday in Chicago. R.F.K. Stadium could use the extra time recover. The old building on East Captiol Street was rocked by United supporters like it was when the playoffs were a given for the Black and Red.

United’s 3-2 win over the Columbus Crew last Saturday secured the team’s first playoff berth since 2007. A tie would have sufficed, but would not have been reflective of United’s commitment. It is a team that believes it is capable of more even with Dwayne De Rosario sidelined with a knee injury.

“It was like the old days. I don’t like to bring up the old days very often, but the feeling in that building felt like the good old days here,” said United head coach Ben Olsen. “I’d like to keep that around. We’re excited to continue to move on and have more moments like this. There is still work to be done.”

The pressure is on for United to wrap up second place in the Eastern Conference. A win or a tie against the Fire would accomplish that and give United a bye in the first round of the playoffs. A loss to the Fire could potentially push United down to fourth place and a one game play-in against the fifth place finisher on Wednesday.

“That four vs. five game is somewhere you don’t want to be. Being in that top three guarantees a home and away series and playing here is a fortress, so that only ups our chances. Being in the top three is huge for us,” said midfielder Nick DeLeon.

United is riding a six-game unbeaten streak that oddly coincides with De Rosario’s absence. The much talked about depth of the team is proving to be more than just talk. The game winning goal against the Crew was a perfect example with Branko Bosokovic and Lewis Neal coming off the bench to combine for the decisive moment.

 In addition United has demonstrated a maturity and ability to grind out results. Conceding two goals, like United did against Columbus, is not representative of how the team has been playing. In the previous five games during its unbeaten run, United had only given up two goals and recorded three shutouts.

“Our defense has been amazing,” said goalkeeper Bill Hamid.  “Our midfielders have been helping on the defensive end and our forwards have been tracking back at the top of our half. Defense wins championships and we have developed into a cohesive group.”

In the Chicago Fire, United will be facing a side in need of a win to land second place. In addition the Fire is trying to get its swagger back. The Fire has lost three of its last four matches including last week’s 1-0 defeat at New England.

The motivation for both teams to secure points sets up for another tense match. United seems more than ready. Over the journey of this season players have accepted new roles like Andy Najar at right back and Marcelo Saragosa playing alongside Perry Kitchen. There is even the possibility of De Rosario returning to the field this year.

“I would say there is probably a chance. I don’t know. And I don’t know if anybody knows right now where he’s at,” Olsen said.” He’s progressing quickly. I’ve told my trainers and doctors, ‘you tell me the day he is ready to go ‘cause I got a job to do and we can’t rely on that’, but it would sure be nice to see him back because that means we were very, very deep into the playoffs.”

It is a promising thought for United supporters, but there is still the regular season to complete.

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.