Soccer

D.C. United facing international stars of NYCFC at Yankee Stadium

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D.C. United facing international stars of NYCFC at Yankee Stadium

In climbing to the top of Major League Soccer, D.C. United has now used 23 different starting lineups in 25 games. It is an amazing storyline from this successful season for the Black and Red and there might another first eleven on the field Thursday when United plays New York City FC at Yankee Stadium.

Fabian Espindola did not play in Saturday’s 1-0 win at Montreal after he suffered a knee injury last week in a training session. He is expected to be sidelined between ten days and two weeks.

Last season Espindola’s will and 11 goals and nine assists helped propel United back into the playoffs after a forgettable 2013 season.

This season Espindola has been limited to just 11 appearances in 25 games with three goals and five assists. Still United has managed to make up for Espindola’s absences, whether through injury or six-game suspension to start the season, and will be charged with finding a way without him to jump start an offense that only produced one shot last week.

Soccer’s return to Yankee Stadium for the first time since the famed New York Cosmos graced the hallowed field in the Bronx has been a smashing success. Despite early struggles New York City FC is averaging 28,961 fans per game. The Cosmos with Pele as the main attraction attracted just over 18,000 fans per game.

Like the Cosmos once had, New York City FC boasts its own star power. Spanish World Cup winner David Villa has been an instant hit with 13 goals from 20 matches and was the MVP at the recent MLS All-Star game. Villa has been joined by Chelsea legend and former England international Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo who won a World Cup with Italy in 2006.

The challenge:

1. Finding offense on the road. In Montreal one shot, Chris Rolfe’s goal, did the trick and United became the first team in MLS history to win a game with only one shot. For the season United with only seven road goals is tied with Colorado for fewest scores away from home in MLS. With Espindola sidelined by injury, head coach Ben Olsen started Alvaro Saborio and Jairo Arrieta together at forward against Montreal. Saborio and Arrieta certainly know how to score, but United played very direct and struggled to get them involved. One option to help keep possession and create more opportunities might be for United to move Chris Rolfe back to attacking midfielder and use either Conor Doyle or a now healthy Chris Pontius on the flank. NYCFC goalkeeper Josh Saunders has faced the 2nd most shots in MLS this season. There is an opportunity here if United is able to apply pressure.

2. Dealing with an angry NYCFC squad. New York was humbled in a 2-0 loss to the Red Bulls in the Hudson River derby, but it was the first game that David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo played together in the NYCFC starting lineup. As a head coach Jason Kreis knows how to figure things out and his team is only four points out of a playoff spot. Finding a way to mute Villa will be essential for United. Villa is 3rd in MLS in goals scored (13) with eight coming at home. He is also third in shots and shots on goal in MLS.

MORE D.C. UNITED: Smart-spending United face off against big-money New York

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.