Soccer

United headed to Philly with big plans

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United headed to Philly with big plans

D.C. United has reached the point where winning is just not good enough. The Black and Red head into Thursdays match at Philadelphia with head coach Ben Olsen asking for more from his team in the wake of a 2-1 win over New England.

The goals were top notch for United. Just a day after inking a new contract Chris Pontius rewarded Uniteds faith in him with an equalizing goal on a strike from the top of the defensive arc. Substitute Lewis Neal came on as a substitute for Branko Boskovic in the second half and was the unlikely hero with the game-winner for his first career MLS goal.

Three points were gained in the standings to put United back in the top five of the Eastern Conference and a playoff position, but the result did little to relieve Olsens anxiety as the team moves forward with Dwayne De Rosario because of a season-ending knee injury. In short little impressed Olsen with the exception of goalkeeper Bill Hamid who made two incredible saves in the games final minutes.

We were rusty. It was not a great game and we were probably a little lucky. It could have gone either way, Olsen said. We are going to have to do much better than that going forward if were going to reach our goal. After they scored, we snapped out of it a little bit and our urgency was better, but overall nobody on our team today really played great, except Bill Hamid.

For the first time in four games United departed from a central midfield partnership of Perry Kitchen and Marcelo Saragosa and instead Boskovic started in place of Saragosa and played in front of Kitchen in an attacking midfield role. It was Boskovics first start since August 11th and he was frustrated with being replaced by Neal.

The season is almost over and they say I am still not fit, Boskovic said. What can I say? I feel good. Maybe I look like I am not ready, but thats how I look, thats how I play, that is my style that is how I run. I cant change how I am. Its a little bit stupid to say I am not fit but the season is over. When am I going to be ready if I am not now ready?"

I dont feel like having a debate on whether he is fit or not, responded Olsen. He is unhappy with the sub, fine. Thats normal, I like that, and I was the same way. This is not personal this is all about making decisions that will help this team win games. Branko has been a great soldier. I am surprised it has taken him this long to say something.

Boskovic, who assisted on Pontius goal and is second on the team to De Rosario in assists with five, made it clear he was happy with Uniteds victory. To be sure it is the final push for the playoffs and emotions are running high, and United is trying to end a five year playoff drought.

Aside from the emotions, clear decisions have to be made about the way forward. Is Boskovic the answer in midfield? Is Maicon Santos, who started his first game since July 15th, the answer up top with forward Lionard Pajoy? Is the SantosPajoy combination the way forward, or does Pontius, who leads the team with 11 goals, belong back at forward where he has played ten times this season.

While Uniteds sorts out its attack, it is encouraging that Robbie Russell has returned to the field Russell played the final seven minutes against the Revolution in his first game action since July 15th. Russell had been out since July 15th with plantar fasciitis and in his absence there have been several replacements at right back including Andy Najar.

Against Philadelphia United will continue to have to go without Daniel Woolard at left back. Woolard is still recovering from a concussion and has not played since August 4rth. The impact of Woolards absence of the last seven games, only two United wins in that span, has probably not been emphasized enough.

In Philadelphia, United is dealing with a dangerous team. Since John Hackworth replaced Peter Nowak as head coach, the Union has worked harder and been better. In Hackworths first game, United just barely escaped with a 1-0 win in Philadelphia. Since that game in mid-June, the Union has been a respectable 5-5-4.

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.