Soccer

United must dictate play in rematch against Union

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United must dictate play in rematch against Union

The Philadelphia Union is improving and will bring a two-game winning streak to RFK Stadium for Saturday’s match against D.C. United (Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on CSN). The Black and Red is still in first place in the Eastern Conference, but recently has been less than convincing and lost to the Union two weeks ago in Philadelphia.

For DC United the meeting with the Union will be third game in the club’s wild stretch of five games in fourteen days. It is comforting for United that the game is at RFK Stadium where United has not lost since last June, but the team also realizes it can’t just rely on the game’s location to secure three points.

The Union was the better side when the two teams met on May 17 and was able to escape with a win on a stoppage time goal from Zach Pfeffer. Last week on the road against the Red Bulls, the Union proved its win over United was no fluke with a 2-0 shutout despite only having 34 percent of the possession.

The challenge:

  1.  Build on positives. While United has struggled in its last three games with only one shot on target and three corners, the quality is there even with Fabian Espindola sidelined by a knee injury the last five games. In the 1-0 loss to Portland showed plenty of heart and desire, but needs to be more precise in the final third. An attack partnership of Chirs Rolfe and Jairo Arrieta can be dangerous. Markus Halsti and Facundo Coria provide options, either starting or off the bench, to help with distribution and creativity in the midfield. The defense, with Bill Hamid as the anchor in goal, has been solid and now Steve Birnbaum is a healthy option again in the back four. Injuries and schedule have not been kind, but United still has what it takes to get three points at home.
  2. Not the same Philadelphia. Just two weeks ago the Union was dealing with a four-game losing streak, but now is trying to make it three wins in a row. The Union is getting healthy and leading scorer Fernando Aristeguita is back after being cut from Venezuela’s Copa American roster. The defense has strengthened with consecutive shutouts and outside back Fabinho is especially dangerous going forward with assists in the last two games.

Bottom line: At home United needs to dictate play, but be aware of Union’s ability to counter.

And it is not a challenge, but what it is all about…

DC United has signed 17-year old Francis Wesley from Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic and according to the club “will figure prominently in the team’s plans for its May 30 match vs. the Philadelphia Union at RFK Stadium.” Wesley is battling blood cancer and has always dreamed of being a professional soccer player.

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.