Soccer

Weary United looks for breakthrough on the road

Weary United looks for breakthrough on the road

The Major League Soccers schedule makers must have a sense or humor. To be sure it must be a twisted sense of humor. The busiest stretch of Uniteds season, five games in 14 days, ends in a place where the Black and Red has only one win in seven tries.

To add to the challenge of Saturday's match in Salt Lake City, United is just not a good road team right now. For all its success at R.F.K. Stadium, only one loss, United has lost five consecutive road games. During that road slide United has been shut out three times and outscored 13-3.

Uniteds last win away from home was an unconvincing 1-0 victory in June at Philadelphia. To add to the concern, Uniteds last two matches at home have been ties that ended up stinging as much as losses. Wednesdays 2-2 draw with New York included Dwayne De Rosarios 100th career goal, but then the Red Bulls equalized in the 88th minute.

A point is okay. We continue to do okay at home, said United head coach Ben Olsen. Im upset we couldnt get a win on the day he (De Rosario) gets his 100th, but he lead by example and I thought it was a good performance from him.

De Rosario is reasserting his leadership role with United. After alternating for most of the season between withdrawn forward and attacking midfielder, De Rosario seems to have settled into a role closer to goal. In 25 games De Rosario has been a forward 12 times and a midfielder 13 times.

Now for United it is in part about finding a true strike partnership up top. Leading scorer Chris Pontius, who has appeared in ten games at forward, has been on the flanks in midfield for six of his last seven starts. Maicon Santos had a stretch of six goals in six games early in the season, but has been saddled with injuries and has only one goal since April 28.

The need for help at forward triggered United to trade Danny Cruz to Philadelphia for Lionard Pajoy. In four games with United Pajoy has one goal, but he has been active and also demonstrated a strength to be able to hold the ball in the final third. The final element for Pajoy, who had five goals in 20 games with the Union, is to develop chemistry with United.

Were very lucky we have him, De Rosario said of Pajoy. The amount of ground he covers is pretty impressive. Hes played more minutes this week than anybody and he just keeps going. He holds the ball up well and hes a handful for defenders.

It is also encouraging for United that rookie Nick DeLeon is healthy and seems to have emerged from a freshman slump. After scoring three goals in the first month of his career, DeLeon did not ignite again until August and now has two goals in the last four matches. In addition his assist on De Rosarios 100th career goal is of the highest quality.

In Real Salt Lake, United will have to deal with a high caliber team. Real is two wins away from becoming the first team since D.C. from 2005-2007 to win 15 games in three consecutive seasons.

Like United, Real had a fairly busy August with four league matches and one CONCACAF Champions League encounter. It was not the best of months for Real with a three game losing streak, including a 2-1 loss at home to Dallas, that was finally ended with a 0-0 draw last Friday in Philadelphia.

Getting a clean sheet and a point in Philadelphia provided a lift for Real. The 0-0 tie came at the end of a grueling stretch of three games in seven days, but also highlighted Reals offensive woes. In their last five games Real has only scored four goals with three coming from forward Alvaro Saborio.

Dealing with Reals midfield will be a high priority for United. U.S. Mens National Team star Kyle Beckerman provides support and wins balls to allow Javier Morales to be a creative force. It has not been an easy summer for Morales who has not scored since June 23rd and only has two assists since then.

For United as much as talent and skill against Real Salt Lake, they will need old fashioned grit and determination to break their road slide. Often in road matches United has unraveled at critical moments and needs to maintain focus.

I think the last five or six games weve been giving up goals on set pieces, De Rosario said. We really have to limit that. Someone has to commit himself, dive in front of the ball, jump in front of the ball, whatever the case is."

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