Soccer

Upon Further Review: Smothering the Fire

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Upon Further Review: Smothering the Fire

Just in time DC United is looking more like a playoff team.  In its regular season home finale before a crowd of over 20,000 at RFK Stadium, the Black and Red delivered another reassuring performance in a 4-0 win over the Chicago Fire to move into second place in the Eastern Conference. 

For United it is its second straight win after suffering through a six-game winless skid that ended on October 2nd with the 2-1 win over New York City FC.   United is one point ahead of the Columbus Crew and with Sunday’s win is assured of at least having one home playoff game.

“That’s important, and it’s important for a whole bunch of reasons”, said head coach Ben Olsen when asked about getting a home playoff game.  “First and foremost our fans get to see us in a playoff game, here at this building. I’m looking forward to seeing RFK again on a playoff night. That’s always, always a special night.”

As expected the visiting Fire played free and loose and had their moments. From the beginning it was United that was the aggressor and the reward came from a Chris Pontius goal in the 39th minute. The game twisted in the balance until Bobby Boswell head home a Fabian Espindola corner kick in the 67th minute.  Espindola and Alvaro Saborio then finished the scoring with goals in the 71st and 80th minutes.

Ben Olsen:

“I think we’re headed in the right way. Again, I think it’s a day where things went our way, but I think the energy and the focus from the group, and the attitude that our group has right now, is a good one. I think we’re heading in the right direction.”

Conclusions:

  1. Chris Pontius is back.  Injuries have been too much of factor in Pontius’ career. United looked on their way to the playoffs in 2011 until he suffered a broken leg late in the season. Pontius did bounce back with 12 goals in 2012, but since then has been slowed by nagging injuries from hamstrings to this summer’s calf injury that bothered him in June and July. Pontius built on the match against New York City, when he had three shots on goal, by helping set the tone against the Fire and scoring his third goal of the season and first since May 30.  “He’s changed the way we can play right now, Olsen noted.  “Again, I said it before, he’s playing very simple, he’s connecting passes and he’s moving without the ball. Sometimes when you do the simple things right, you get rewarded. He’s anticipating plays; defensively he’s putting in real shifts.”
  2. The right eleven. For the second straight game United went with the same starting lineup. Something that is unique in a season when United has had 29 different starting lineups. Once again Alvaro Saborio came on as a second half substitute and for the second straight game he scored. With Pontius and Nick De Leon playing well on the flanks, Chris Rolfe is being used as a forward.  Rolfe makes a difference where ever he plays, but his best position is forward. For now the best option seems to be starting Rolfe and Espindola at forward and then having the luxury of Saborio as an attacking spark off the bench.  

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.