Soccer

United begins four-game road stretch in Chicago

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United begins four-game road stretch in Chicago

Summer is here and DC United is hitting the road.

The Black and Red will not return home to what has been the very friendly confines of RFK Stadium until July 26 and begins a stretch of four road games in two weeks Wednesday in Chicago.

With its win on Sunday against New England, United enjoys a seven-point cushion on the second place Revolution. The secure standing at the top of the Eastern Conference is even though United, through injury and schedule management, has used 17 different starting lineups in 18 league games.

Included in United’s latest congested stretch is a round of 16 U.S. Open Cup match at Philadelphia on June 30. After Wednesday’s game in Chicago, United will travel to a match on Saturday in Toronto. It will briefly come home for its Cup meeting with the Union before having to head west and face Seattle on July 3.

Chicago is in last place in the Eastern Conference on 14 points and is trying to end a three-game losing streak. At the end of May the Fire crafted an impressive 3-0 shutout of Montreal, but its current slide started with a 3-1 loss to United at RFK, continued when it blew a lead in 3-2 loss to Orlando, and bottomed out in 2-0 shutout loss to New England. 

The challenge:

  1. Better start. DC United has become the master escape artist of MLS with a 5-4-1 record when it concedes the first goal. Without question it is a positive that United has been able to wiggle out of so many jams and still get points, but the challenge of playing from behind will be greater on the road especially against a Chicago team desperate for points.
  2. A goal for Nick De Leon. It is fair to say United is a better team when Nick De Leon is in the lineup. It was great to see him score in the Open Cup last week in Pittsburgh, but he has not scored in league play since last July. On Sunday, De Leon earned his third assist of the season when he connected with Fabian Espindola who provided the cross on Chris Rolfe’s goal. De Leon’s work rate is exceptional and now he just needs the reward of a goal.
  3. The Halsti impact. Look for Finnish international Markus Halsti to start in the center of midfield with Davy Arnaud sidelined by yellow card accumulation. In his time so far with United he has displayed vision on offense and steel on defense that will be needed against Chicago.
  4. Beware of the wounded Fire. It is a positive for Chicago that Mike Magee is back after missing nine months with hip and knee injuries. On the negative side, a back injury likely will keep midfielder Shaun Maloney out for two to three weeks and David Accam is dealing with a slight hamstring injury. Maloney and Accam have given life to the Fire’s offense and will be missed. Still Magee is back in the equation and Kennedy Igboananike and Harrison Shipp remain attacking threats.

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.