Soccer

DC United looking for one more at home

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DC United looking for one more at home

D.C. United is so close. For the first time in almost three years United has chance to slip into first place with a win Saturday at home against New England. The top spot in the Eastern Conference would be a welcome reward for United ahead of a 21-day break from league play.

A victory over the Revolution would also extend Uniteds unbeaten streak at R.F.K. Stadium to eight games. United has not lost at home since the 1-0 season-opening defeat to Sporting Kansas City. Since then United has survived injuries to multiple players and thrived with its depth from goalkeeper to forward.

I hate to say it, but it has been a blessing in a lot of ways that we have had some minor injuries throughout this stretch, said United head coach Ben Olsen. Guys have had to come in and do their part. Now going through this middle part of the season hopefully we will continue to find a rhythm and trust our depth and continue with wins.

It was June of 2009 when United used goals from Jamie Moreno and Christian Gomez to capture a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire and a first place standing. It has been an interesting ride since, but this is now a club that appears to being moving from strength to strength. Adversity has been turned into opportunity and United is after its first three-game winning streak since 2008.

We are in no position to be complacent, Olsen added. We havent made the playoffs in a few years. We are doing in my mind what D.C. United should do and those are win games, put teams on their heels, and entertain the fans.

Through 14 games this year United is 7-4-3 with 24 points. Only in four other years did United rack up points at a better pace. Three of those seasons, 1997, 1998, 1999, United made it all the way to MLS Cup and in 2006 captured the Supporters Shield. United is trending positive and after not recording back-to-back victories in 89 games has done it twice in less than a month.

Wins over Colorado and Toronto FC highlighted Uniteds versatility and resourcefulness. Dwayne De Rosario earned MLS Player-of-the-Week with three goals at both striker and attacking midfielder. Branko Boskovic started both games and was an attacking midfielder, left-sided midfielder, and alongside Perry Kitchen in the middle.

Hes a rhythm player, and he needs these games, said Olsen of Boskovic. He needs more games, and hes only going to improve. Weve done him a little bit of an injustice in that he hasnt played a lot of minutes. Hes been 20 minutes here, 30 minutes there, filling rolls for us, and thats no way to get a rhythm. Its not an easy way to play.

When Danny Cruz suffered a hamstring injury in the 3-1 over Toronto FC, Andy Najar shifted from right back to right midfield and then assisted on Hamdi Salihis goal. For most of his pro career Najar has been known as a midfielder, but now has started twice and appeared in two other games at right back.

Hes (Najar) playing hungry, like hes got something to prove, Olsen said Were, just in fact, really seeing Andy consistently playing with the hunger, I see that in him. Competition will do that sometimes. He played right back, Im asking him to do that, and the plays he was making on their defenders was pretty fun to watch.

Despite Cruz injury that could coast him four weeks, there is encouraging news out of Uniteds training room. Defender Emiliano Dudar and midfielder Nick De Leon were back in the mix at practice after battling hamstring injuries in recent weeks. Leading scorers Chris Pontius and Maicon Santos are eager to get back in the side.

Santos and Pontius have both missed the last two games with injuries and are listed as probable for Saturday. The emergence Salihi with four goals in the last five games has helped United navigate through the absence of Santos and Pontius. United now has 16 players who have either scored or have an assist, or both.

Saturday United will face a Revolution side that is playing with more confidence and is averaging 2.25 goals per game in May after being shutout in four of their first seven games. The Revs have conceded five goals on set-piece situations to tie Toronto for most in MLS.

Regardless of the opponent United has been playing with a swagger not seen in years. A win on Saturday will give United a first place position to match that swagger.

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.