Soccer

United look to make dreams a reality vs. Dynamo

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United look to make dreams a reality vs. Dynamo

If D.C. United can turn belief into goals, then the Black and Red will make it through to their sixth MLS Cup appearance. The home side is confident, but the reality is United is down two goals heading into Sunday's Eastern Conference finale against Houston at R.F.K. Stadium.

It's a total-goal series and the Dynamo is in the lead in its bid to return to MLS Cup for a second consecutive year after a 3-1 win over United last Sunday. The Dynamo entered the post-season as the last seed in the Eastern Conference, but reached this point with a win over Chicago and two-goal victory in game one of its series with Sporting Kansas City.

"We cannot go out and expect to get two goals in the first ten minutes," said United midfielder Perry Kitchen. "We expect them to have a similar approach to when they played K.C. in K.C. with the same sort of scenario. They might sit back and with stand the pressure. We need to be patient; we need to move the ball, still keep the width, and hopefully get chances."

A two-goal cushion was enough to put the Dynamo through to the Eastern Conference finals after a 1-0 loss to Kansas City in the second leg. United will be trying disrupt that pattern by the Dynamo and is hoping the return of Bill Hamid from red card suspension and the availability of Dwyane De Rosario makes a difference.

De Rosario has been sidelined since mid-September with a knee injury suffered in a World Cup qualifier for Canada. Without De Rosario United surprisingly put together a nine-game unbeaten run. It is not clear if De Rosario will start, but his assistance will likely be needed for a team that is also dealing with other injuries.

"It does seem like a game that you might want to use a guy like Dwayne De Rosario, but a lot of things happen in ninety minutes of soccer," said United head coach Ben Olsen. "You prepare in certain ways and you have to be ready to adapt. Dwayne is pretty gutsy and he can find through more than your average player from my experience with him."

"We just have to get one first," added De Rosario, who sounded ready to have his number called. "We know we have to score multiple goals, but we have to get one first. If we get that first goal with the fans and playing at home everything else will follow with the momentum. We have to get that first one and of course we canít concede."

Certainly De Rosario, who won two MLS Cups with Houston, would be a welcome addition to United's team sheet. Chris Pontius, Brandon McDonald and Marcelo Saragosa all failed to finish the first game in Houston because of injuries. Olsen called the groin injury to Pontius the most severe of his ailing players, but did not rule him out for Sunday.

Despite the injuries and two-goal deficit, United remains convinced it still has enough to earn a chance to host MLS Cup 2012. Recent history probably helps United believe with players like Lewis Neal, Branko Boskovic, and Hamdi Salihi all playing a part in decisive moments in allowing United to grab points and second place in the Eastern Conference.

"We have adequate backups and we know that everyone of us will be ready to step up regardless of who is in there," said Hamid. "Throughout the season we have had to lean on every single player in this locker room. We know anyone can go out there, stay tuned in and perform and get the job done."

Houston was on its heels in the first leg after a goal from United rookie Nick De Leon. The game then slowly unraveled for United after a no-call on a now much debated challenge by the Dynamo's Andre Hainault. Regardless of the call, the Dynamo showed its quality and playoff pedigree with three second-half goals.

"We can't be silly in particular on set pieces where they have shown they are pretty darn good at," said Olsen. "Of course we have to make things happen, but that's what we do at home. We know we have to be aggressive and go after them, but we have to be patient. It is that fine balance."

While the Dynamo has the most important factor, the score line, in its favor, United is looking forward to playing at home. The Black and Red worked hard to earn the home field advantage, although Hurricane Sandy forced them to surrender it in the New York series. Now United is hoping the wider field, Houston's field was only 115x70, and passionate fan base will make a difference.

"Every home game we come out and put our stamp on the game as early as possible," Hamid said. "If we do that then maybe the game opens up and we take advantages of some chances. If we take advantage of our chances and tuck those away, then we can definitely make our mark on this game."

United fans are counting on that and there is really no other option.

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