Soccer

D.C. United set to host Revolution in playoff opener

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D.C. United set to host Revolution in playoff opener

There is no time for DC United to dwell on the 5-0 loss to the Crew in Sunday’s regular season finale in Columbus. It was the Black and Reds worst loss since 1997, but now has to shift from huge disappointment to high drama and Wednesday’s home playoff game (7:30 p.m. on CSN Plus). 

By dropping to fourth place in the Eastern Conference, United will host the fifth-seeded New England Revolution in the single elimination Knockout Round. The winner of Wednesday’s match at RFK Stadium will host game one of a two-legged aggregate goal Eastern Conference semifinal series on Sunday. 

There is nothing new about drama with United and the Revolution. In the 2004 Eastern Conference final United defeated the Revolution in one of the best games in MLS playoff history. United won on penalties after the two teams battled to a 3-3 draw over 120 minutes. The Revolution then defeated United 1-0 in the 2006 Eastern Conference final.

Both United and the Revolution had less than convincing finishes to the regular season. The Revs were flying high with an eight game unbeaten run, including seven wins, which spanned from the July 18th to September 16th.  It then dramatically changed and the Revolution only collected one win in its final five games; Sunday’s 3-1 win over New York City FC.

For most of the 2015 season United maintained first place in the Eastern Conference and had serious designs on the Supporter’s Shield. Instead the Black and Red is in the Knockout Round mainly because of a six-game winless skid through August and September. There was still a chance to finish in second place, but that was wiped out by Sunday’s nightmare in Columbus. 

The challenge:

  1. Set the tone. United finished the regular season 8-11-2 when allowing opponents to score first. While we praised United’s resiliency, the postseason is not the time to chase a game. Sunday served as a cruel reminder of that as United’s pursuit of an equalizer to close only a one-goal deficit led to a five-goal loss.
  2. Don’t reinvent the wheel. United is at its best when its outside backs, Taylor Kemp and Sean Franklin are able to jump into the offense. For Kemp and Franklin to be involved going forward there has to be possession and that means strong midfield play. The last three games Perry Kitchen and Markus Halsti have partnered in the center of the midfield and it certainly worked in wins over New York City FC and Chicago. Another option might be to move Nick De Leon central, switch Chris Rolfe back to the left flank opposite Chris Pontius, and then start Alvaro Saborio up top with Fabian Espindola.
  3. The Revolution. Midfielder Lee Nguyen has been the force for the Revs this season with 10 assists as an encore to his last year when he was under MVP consideration and scored 18 goals. Nguyen drives things in a midfield that offers danger from Teal Bunbury on the flank and the distribution skills of Jermaine Jones. Charlie Davies leads the Revolution with ten goals, but his goal on Sunday against NYCFC ended a drought of nine games without a goal.

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.