Soccer

United after fresh start against Fire

United after fresh start against Fire

With a missed penalty kick and three red cards in the games closing minutes, its hard not to focus on the end of D.C United 1-1 draw on Sunday against Philadelphia. The late dramatics masks the real concern for United ahead of Wednesdays home game against Chicago.

I think that it is our mentality and our focus we need to chamge, said defender Brandon McDonald. You see the way we played the first 15 minutes of that game and it wasnt good enough. In those games with so much on the line you have to stay focused for the whole game.

To be sure it was hard for United fans to witness Dwayne De Rosario score the apparent the goal-ahead goal on a penalty kick only to have it nullified because of encroachment. The argument between players that followed the call led to a red card for Branko Boskovic.

De Rosarios second penalty kick attempt sailed over the goal. Then Uniteds defender Emiliano Dudar was shown a straight red card for a reckless challenge. Before the final whistle was blown, the Unions Sheanon Williams received his second yellow. There was anger all around with teammates McDonald and Chris Korb arguing while leaving the field.

Yes the finale of the game was messy, but its beginning was even more of a concern.

The way we started was unacceptable from an emotional standpoint, said United head coach Ben Olsen. Also tactically we were a little off. I didnt like the way we responded at the end with Korb and McDonald, but I dealt with it and that should be something that stays in the locker room.

I dont mind the passion and the fight, added Olsen. I saw some commitment from guys I have not seen all year and I have been asking for that. I would like to see that from word go when we are in a situation where we are fighting for our lives in the playoffs.

The heat is very much on in Major League Soccers Eastern Conference. United is on 37 points and back in a playoff position sitting in fifth place. The Fire is four points ahead of United, but has played one more game. It is the first meeting of the season between sides eager to end playoff droughts.

The Fire last made the playoffs in 2009 and is gaining in confidence with three straight wins for the second time this season. United has not been in the post-season since 2007 and Sundays draw with Philadelphia ended a seven-game home winning streak. In its last eight games United has struggled to three wins, four losses, and the one tie.

Its tough right now when you have guys in and out of the lineup, noted United captain Dwayne De Rosario. We have to make it tougher for them (opponents) and set the tone from the opening whistle. We are fortunate that we had a good start; otherwise we would be in a lot of trouble right now. Now we have to wake up and realize every play matters. We cant afford to take plays off.

With Boskovic and Dudar suspended on red cards, Uniteds options are reduced. Boskovic made a difference on set plays and in distribution when he came off the bench against the Union. Dudar had worked his way back into the starting eleven and was especially needed with Robbie Russell and Daniel Woolard sidelined by injuries.

Russell with plantar fasciitis and Woolard, who is recovering from concussion symptoms, are not ready to return. Recently acquired Mike Chabala started at left back against Kansas City. Dejan Jakovic played right back against Philadelphia, but with Dudar out might return to a central partnership with McDonald.

Regardless of how the back is constructed for United, it is the area where critical lapses have to be avoided. United has a talented but young defense. The goalkeeper Bill Hamid is also young and to add to the challenge is the multiple lineup changes brought on by injuries on defense.

For us when we are communicating, we have to be more receptive, McDonald noted. I think the information is there, but sometimes it is not coming in and being processed. We are being more reactive, instead of getting there before the action occurs.

Uniteds defense needs to be ready for a new forward combination that has the Fire excited. Chris Rolfe is back from Denmark and he has picked up where he left in MLS with five goals in twelve matches. Dutch striker Sherjill McDonald in his only his second start with the Fire scored his first goal in a 2-1 victory over New England.

I like that guys understand now it is time to fight, Olsen said. Yes we have to be better, but I thought the second half (against Philadelphia) was probably some of the best stuff we have put together as far as getting after a team and getting our outside backs forward.

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.

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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.