Soccer

For D.C. United opportunity lost

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For D.C. United opportunity lost

After dominating the first half of their first playoff match in five years, D.C. United had nothing to show for it despite numerous first-half scoring chances, including a penalty kick awarded to captain Chris Pontius.  

Their persistence was finally rewarded in the 61st minute when Roy Miller’s attempt to clear a cross from Chris Korb to Nick DeLeon ended up in the back of his own net.  

“It was a great ball by Korb and Nick [DeLeon] put pressure on their defender to clear the ball,” said Pontius.  “We had so many great chances, something was bound to happen.”

Moments later D.C. United would even things up with their own own goal.  As Bill Hamid attempted to knock down a rebound from Thierry Henry’s corner kick, the netminder fell back into his own net.   Believing he had been fouled by New York’s Marcus Holgersson, Hamid chased the referee out to midfield in a moment of lost composure that would set the tone for DCU’s second half.

“I got bumped,” said Hamid.  “Watch the replay.  I got bumped.”

United’s frustration with the Red Bulls’ physical play and lack of referee calls finally boiled over in the 70th minute when Andy Najar was tagged with a yellow card for a slide tackle.  Clearly unhappy with the call, the defender threw the ball back at the referee, earning a second yellow card and automatic dejection from the game.  

“I’ve never seen that and for a fact I don’t think it was intentional,” said Dejan Jakovic of Najar’s outburst.  “He turned around and threw the ball --he didn’t see where he was throwing it-- and unfortunately it ended up hitting the ref.”

“It’s a playoff game and there are high emotions,” said Pontius.  “We gotta keep our heads a little bit better but this team has a lot of character and a lot of passion and I think you saw that tonight.”

DCU would be forced to play out the remainder of the match with a side of 10.   Despite their man advantage, the Red Bulls were unable to capitalize and failed to put a shot on goal.  

In 94 minutes of play, United’s defense held the Red Bulls, who boast two of the league’s top scorers, to just two shots on goal.  United put five shots on target, narrowly missed on a pair of goal mouth attemps from Branko Boskovic and DeLeon and still managed four strikes to New York's one after losing Najar, yet both teams exited the field in an unsatisfying 1-1 draw.  

“I think we played a great game.  Even when we went down a man we still had some chances,” said Jakovic.  “I don’t think a lot of calls went our way and obviously some frustration came into play but that’s part of the game.  We held our shape and kept them in front of us and the whole game I don’t think they were really dangerous at all.”

Najar will have to sit as the two-game series heads to New York on Wednesday, November 7 to determine who will advance to the Eastern Conference Championship.  

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.