Soccer

First place D.C. United travels to Portland to face reeling Timbers

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First place D.C. United travels to Portland to face reeling Timbers

By Dave Johnson

DC United and the Portland Timbers are both dealing with a congested fixture list and the loss of a key offensive player. That’s where the similarities end as United and the Timbers get set to meet Wednesday in Portland.

United and the Timers are both in the middle of a stretch of three games in eight days. Fabian Espindola, United’s leading scorer in 2014, is expected to miss a fifth straight game with a knee injury. For the Timbers playmaker Diego Valeri, who had 11 goals and 14 assists last season, suffered an ankle injury Saturday in Toronto.

The Timbers paid for a slow start last season and missed the playoffs. After Saturday’s 1-0 defeat in Toronto the Timbers are tied for dead last in the Western Conference with just 13 points from 12 matches—the same point total after 12 games year.

United earned a 1-1 tie with mixed emotions Saturday at New England. Jairo Arrieta provided the second-half equalizer that allowed United to snare the point in the standings and maintain first place ahead of the Revolution. Still United wanted more with the Revolution reduced to nine men for most of the second half.

The challenge:

  1. Turning opportunity into success. While United is enjoying life at the top of the Eastern Conference, it has been less than convincing in attack without Fabian Espindola. It took the introduction of Taylor Kemp at left back, and with the Revolution down to nine-men, for United to become more threatening in Saturday’s match. Over the last two games United has managed only one shot on target. There is an opportunity against Portland for someone to fill the attacking void. With a home game against Philadelphia ahead on Saturday head coach Ben Olsen will likely use different options. The match against the Timbers offers the opportunity for a second consecutive start for Conor Doyle. Perhaps Arrieta, who came on as a substitute against New England, joins Doyle as forwards in the first eleven. This would allow Doyle to play deeper which he often did against New England. Markus Halsti who played 80 minutes against Philadelphia in the center of midfield might be used again and his quality in distribution will be needed to help United maintain possession and find rhythm on offense. Miguel Aguilar also started against Philadelphia and could find his way back on the field in Portland. With a tight schedule and banged up bodies, there is an opportunity in Portland for several United players to seize the moment.
  2. Dealing with Portland’s sense of urgency. The need for a sense of urgency is something being openly discussed around the Timbers. Head coach Caleb Porter brought it up Saturday in Toronto as for the second consecutive game the Timbers conceded a goal in the opening 10 minutes. While the Timbers have a Western Conference game this weekend against Colorado, they cannot afford to lose at home to United and turn a slow start into a slide. Designated player and forward Fanendo Adi scored three goals in the Timbers first four matches, but he has only scored once since.

 

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.