Soccer

Will D.C. United's return home spark the offense?

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Will D.C. United's return home spark the offense?

It’s been over a month through five games and two competitions, but DC United is finally back at home. The Black and Red is hoping home is where the offense is when it plays host to the Philadelphia Union Sunday at RFK Stadium.

In a season when United is in contention for first place in the Eastern Conference and the Supporter’s Shield, the team’s offense has struggled. From 24 matches United has only collected 22 goals. In its just completed stretch of five straight road games, including a loss to Philadelphia in the U.S. Open Cup, United only scored three times including a 1-0 result at Chicago.

Still United is having a good season and wants to take full advantage of it. To that end United traded Luis Silva to Real Salt Lake for Costa Rican international Alvaro Saborio. In 127 matches with RSL Saborio found the back of the net 63 times and has 35 goals in 102 matches with the Costa Rican national Team.

Philadelphia is coming off what head coach Jim Curtin calls “the most important win in club history.” On Tuesday the Union down to ten men eliminated the New York Red Bulls from the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup after a dramatic penalty kick shootout. The Union had reached the quarterfinals by rallying to beat United 2-1 while also reduced to ten men.

The Union appears to be on the rise. After a demoralizing 5-1 loss to the Galaxy in Los Angeles, the Union enjoyed a three-game unbeaten run before a 2-1 road loss to Toronto. 

The challenge:

  1. 1. Reuniting Saborio and Espindola. The addition of Alvaro Saborio not only gives United a proven goal scorer, but it reunites him with Fabian Espindola. With RSL Saborio and Espindola combined for 65 goals and 21 assists from 2010-2012. Saborio has also had experience with Jairo Arrita when the two have cross paths for national team duty with Costa Rica’s national team. United can be dangerous, but has lacked the proverbial bite in the attacking third. Espindola and Saborio should add a fresh dynamic and free up Chris Rolfe and Nick De Leon to create havoc on the flanks.
  2. 2. Control the middle against the Union. When the Union’s central midfield trio of Brian Carroll, Cristian  Maidana and Vincent Nogueira have time and space to dictate possession, it allows outside backs Raymon Gaidds and Fabinho to get involved in the attack. United needs to do what it can to disrupt the Union’s midfield to limit the effectiveness of Gaddis and Fabinho going forward. It is a Union team that collectively believes. The Union’s last seven goals have been provided by seven different players. 

RELATED: Upon further review: United falls to FC Dallas in stoppage time

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.