Soccer

First place United look for more against the Union

793650.png

First place United look for more against the Union

D.C. United is well aware of the calendar. It is June and thats not when trophies are handed out. United has every reason to be proud of winning four of six matches in May and grabbing first place in the Eastern Conference, but there is more work to do.

It is not about where we are, it is about the next game, Uniteds head coach Ben Olsen emphasized. Now that we are in first place we have a bigger target on our back and we can expect teams to fight harder against us. We have a full squad for the first time, so that is a good thing.

With a healthy team Olsen has plenty of options as United prepares to jump back into MLS play after a 22-day break with a road game Saturday against Philadelphia. It is the Union that spoiled Uniteds break from league play by knocking them out of the Open Cup in a round-of-sixteen match last week.

The loss to the Union in Open Cup play was jarring to United. Olsen called the defeat to the Union a wakeup call that served notice that his team might not be as good as they think they are. Olsens belief in the team is still as strong as ever, but he is hoping out of the disappointment of the Union loss a new resolve will emerge.

I would like to see us play with more anger, added Olsen. Successful clubs often play with chips on their shoulders and take on a real us against them mentality. We should have that anger against Philadelphia because they took what we wanted. They were hungrier.

There are definitely some hurt feelings, added defender Robbie Russell. Theres definitely some bitterness. Losing in the Open Cup like that and then playing that same team the first game back, theres going to be some emotion left over.

There will probably be a lot of emotion to go around. The Union has had a turbulent week. Peter Nowak was dismissed as head coach on Wednesday and Saturday will be interim head coach John Hackworths first game in charge. Hackworth was Nowaks assistant and the two had been together since the launch of the franchise in 2010.

Under Nowak, who led United to a MLS Cup title in 2004, the Union went 21-30-24. In the Unions second season there were signs of progress culminating in a playoff appearance. Since then the team has changed dramatically with goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, defender Dan Califf and forward Sebastian Le Toux and Danny Mwanga among the players to leave the Union.

The win over United in the Open Cup has been by far the highlight of the Unions season. Only Toronto FC has been worse in MLS play. In fact the Unions last MLS game was a 1-0 loss to Toronto. The Union has only two wins in eleven matches and has managed only eight goals, but in sports a team playing its first game for a new coach, even an interim one, is often dangerous.

Back to United and its desire to play with a new focus and yes even a new anger in an effort to maintain the first place standing it worked so hard to achieve. It will be up to Olsen to find the right mix among his now healthy and rested arsenal of players.

Midfielder Dwayne DeRosario and defender Dejan Jakavic were away with the Canadian Mens National Team for World Cup qualifying. Only De Rosario played in Tuesdays 0-0 draw with Honduras, but he should be ready to go for Saturday. De Rosario is two goals shy of 100 career MLS goals.

Regardless of who plays, Olsen has made it clear how he wants United to play. It is not just about channeling emotion, but also maturing as a team and becoming one that can manage prosperity. The Black and Red have come a long way since its low point in 2010 and is dictating the flow of games.

Its a concentration issue, Olsen said of Uniteds need to improve. We start to move it around and get some joy on the ball and that is okay, but we have been getting complacent. Against New England it was like we had a two-goal lead and thought that the job was done. We have been grinding it out for the last month.

With a first place target on its back United will try to do more than just grind it out in Saturdays rematch against the Union.

The Washington Spirit are hitting the road to face off against Utah Royals FC on Saturday

The Washington Spirit are hitting the road to face off against Utah Royals FC on Saturday

The Washington Spirit are hitting the road as they prepare to face off against the Utah Royals FC on Saturday at 9 p.m. 

Utah is hosting Washington in their home opener of the season at the Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. 

The Spirit are coming off of a victory over Sky Blue FC 2-0. The win moving the Spirit to the top of the NWSL rankings. 

It was a big night for the Spirit’s new additions.

During Saturday’s game against Sky Blue FC Spirit rookie defender Sam Staab scored a corner kick during the 59th minute giving the Spirit a 1-0 lead. Washington’s Megan Crosson also scored her first goal two minutes into the second half-stoppage time, sealing the win.

This will be the first game of the season for Utah. Utah finished the 2018 season with a record of 9-7-8, falling two points short of the playoffs. 

New Utah Royals FC midfielder Veronica “Vero" Boquete is expected to be a major contribution to Utah this season. Boquete is a Spanish Women’s National Team veteran midfielder who was captain of Spain’s first-ever World Cup in 2015. Bouquet was named NWSL Best XI after winning league Player of the Week three times. 

The last time the Washington played Utah, Washington lost 0-1. 

MORE SPIRIT NEWS:

Washington Spirit home opener on Saturday

Washington Spirit home opener on Saturday

The Washington Spirit will kick off their first game of the 2019 NWSL season on Saturday, April 13th at 7:00p.m. The Spirit will host the Sky Blue FC at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Md. The game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.

Washington finished the 2018 season in eighth place with a 2-17-5 record and 35 goals. However, with some new additions to the roster they are expected to make major improvements in the 2019 season.  

During the off-season the Spirit announced former professional soccer player Richie Burke as the new head coach and signed all five of their 2018 NWSL College Draft picks, including first-round picks Jordan DiBiasi, Sam Staab, Tegan McGrady and Dorian Bailey, and second-round pick Bayley Feist. The Spirit also added two new international players in midfielders Amy Harrison and Chloe Logarzo of Australia. 

USWNT trio Andi Sullivan, Mallory Pugh and Rose Lavelle and goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe will return to the team. 

In 2018 Bledsoe and Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridanboth led the league in saves with 108, setting a new NWSL record. 

The last time the two teams met they played to a 1-1 draw. Sky Blue FC midfielder Sarah Killion tied the game in the 87th minute after Spirit forward Arielle Ship put the Spirit in the lead during the 71st minute. 

Tickets can be purchased here