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MLS Playoffs 2018: Previewing D.C. United vs. Columbus Crew SC

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MLS Playoffs 2018: Previewing D.C. United vs. Columbus Crew SC

By Jason Murphy

With a championship trophy back in Washington D.C. thanks to the Capitals, the nation's capital is hungry for another. The next team with the chance to do so is D.C. United.

The Black-and-Red kick off their quest to hoist a league-record fifth MLS Cup with a knockout-round match against Columbus Crew SC tonight, Thursday, Nov. 1 at 8:00 p.m. ET at Audi Field on FS1.

The summer surge by Wayne Rooney and Co. earned United the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and a home match in the knockout stage. Tonight's one-off will be the 16th home game for D.C. United since the new stadium opened July 14 and the team holds a 12-2-1 record at Audi Field in its inaugural season.

Since the start of September, D.C. United lead MLS in wins (7), goals (21) and points (24) powered by Rooney (9 goals since Sept. 2) and teammate Luciano Acosta (5 goals since Sept. 2).

Although Rooney's introduction catapulted D.C. United to new standards on the offensive side of the ball, the resurgence in defense has been overseen by the return of Bill Hamid between the woodwork. Hamid, who struggled to find playing time at FC Midtjylland after signing with the Norwegian side after the 2017 MLS season, returned on loan this summer and has backstopped 5 shutouts in his 14 matches in net this season.

Since Hamid's return, United has allowed more than a single goal just once, allowing three in a 3-3 tie to the Supporter's Shield-winning New York Red Bulls, and are allowing just 0.86 goals per game.

United have fared well in one-off playoff matches throughout the club's history, owning a 6-4 record but are 0-1 in knockout round games (suffered a 4-2 loss to Montreal in 2016) in MLS' new playoff format that began in 2015.

The two teams split the season series, with both sides holding serve at home (Columbus earning a 3-1 win on March 24 and D.C. returning the favor in a 1-0 win at Navy-Marines Corps Memorial Stadium a few weeks later).

The Black-and-Red have won all three previous playoff meetings between the two MLS original sides, including 6-of-8 total matches played between the two in the postseason. Tonight marks their first postseason meeting since the 1999 Eastern Conference Championship, which United won en route to their third of 4 MLS Cups.

The winner of Thursday night's knockout round match will advance to face No. 1 seed New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, with the legs taking place on Nov. 4 and Nov. 11. The No. 3 seed New York City FC advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals to take on the No. 2 seed Atlanta United following a 3-1 knockout round victory over Philadelphia Union. 

CLICK HERE FOR UPDATED 2018 MLS PLAYOFF BRACKET

HOW TO WATCH D.C. UNITED vs. COLUMBUS CREW SC 

Who: No. 4 seed D.C. United vs. No. 5 seed Columbus Crew SC
What: 2018 MLS Playoffs Eastern Conference Knockout Stage
Where: Audi Field, SW Washington, D.C.
When: Thursday, Nov. 1 at 8:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go

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Game Preview: Washington Spirit vs. Portland Thorns at Audi Field

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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.

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New DC United member Wayne Rooney attends July 4th Nationals game

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New DC United member Wayne Rooney attends July 4th Nationals game

English soccer star Wayne Rooney, who recently signed on to play with DC United, spent his Independence Day at Nationals Park watching the Nats lose to the Red Sox, again.

For the blissfully unaware, the Nationals got stomped by the Red Sox 11-4 on Tuesday night. The Sox finished the sweep yesterday with a 2-0 victory.

Regardless, we're glad he got outside to "enjoy a day at the baseball" before the humidity became unbearable.

The Nationals did add some neat starred-and-striped flair to their already patriotic uniforms for this week's homestand, and had a pretty sick fireworks display after Tuesday's game, so it wasn't all bad. Though Nats fans are understandably disheartened by the Nats' recent slump, Rooney's presence at yesterday's game was undeniably cool. 

The Nationals are 6-18 since June 8, worse than the Mets' previously unsurpassed 7-17 record in that time span.

Washington is gearing up to host this year's MLB All Star Game next week. Meanwhile, Rooney's two-year deal in DC was confirmed last week.

There's a joke in here somewhere about a British soccer star attending a DC team's game on the anniversary of our country's split from Great Britain, but we're not going to force it.

 

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