Soccer

DCU begins road trip in San Jose

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DCU begins road trip in San Jose

They have new found swagger and they have unbeaten streaks. The San Jose Earthquakes and D.C. United were both spectators in the playoffs last season, but ahead of their Wednesday meeting they are Major League Soccers hottest teams.

For United the match against the Earthquakes will be the first of three straight games on the road and the Black and Red begins its journey with a league-high seven game unbeaten streak punctuated by consecutive wins for the first time since 2009. The Earthquakes have not lost in six matches.

Oh and the swagger is there and was on display for United and the Earthquakes in their most recent matches. Steven Lenhart scored two goals including the game winner in the 93rd minute to life the Quakes to a 2-1 win in Philadelphia. At home United navigated through a disciplined Houston team to win 3-2 on the strength of two Maicon Santos goals.

Theres something to this team, theyve got a little bit of chutzpah, United head coach Ben Olsen said after Saturdays victory over the Dynamo. We had a couple plays when we fouled up, and Houston capitalized and we had guys bail them out. Thats part of being a team.

Now the trick is for United to survive and excel away from home while dealing with the loss of Emiliano Dudar on defense. Dudar is now sidelined with a hamstring injury suffered against the Dynamo. A hamstring injury forced Dudar to miss two games in April. When healthy Dudar has arguably been Uniteds best defender with a precise ability to distribute from the back.

We have some options, Olsen said of Uniteds need to replace Dudar in the first eleven. Perrys (Kitchen) played there before; Robbies (Russell) played there; Daniel Woolards played there. Its not ideal because Dudars been a stud, and well be missing him.

Olsen is confident that United will weather Dudars loss and noted, theres some spirit to this team, and a little adversity isnt going to scare them. Uniteds adversity includes the absence of defender Dejan Jakovic who is recovering from an ankle sprain. Brandon McDonald has been the constant in the middle of Uniteds defense and has only missed one game because of suspension.

With Dudar and Jakovic missing, its hard not to envision Perry Kitchen moving back to the back line from defensive midfield. Kitchen moved to right back when Dudar was injured and then Robbie Russell slotted in next to McDonald. Marcelo Saragosa is back from Brazil after the death of his father and can again be the top choice at defensive midfielder.

United has plenty of healthy options in attack. Up front a connection is being made between Chris Pontius and Maicon Santos. Over the last four games Santos and Pontius have combined to score eight of Uniteds ten goals. Each has found the net four times and Pontius with his runs is drawing defenders and opening space for Santos.

Maicon is a big boy and willing to do a lot of the work as far as holding the balls up and fighting, said Olsen. Chris is very mobile underneath and behind. He plays off Maicon very well. For now, its a good partnership.

The Earthquakes also boast impressive offensive options. Chris Wondolowski has scored 42 goals since the start of the 2010 MLS season, including eight this year. He was shutout last week against Philadelphia, but Lenharts two goals delivered San Joses first win without a Wondolowski goal since last June.

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.