DCU ready for second leg of playoff against New York Red Bulls

pontius.jpg

DCU ready for second leg of playoff against New York Red Bulls

For tension and emotion, perhaps not soccer, the rivalry between D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls did not disappoint in Saturday’s playoff opener at R.F.K. Stadium. A 1-1 result in that game has set the stage for a dramatic series finale Wednesday at Red Bull Arena.

In the regular season the two teams combined for 14 goals in three games, but in game one of their Eastern Conference semifinal United and the Red Bulls had to rely on own goals to secure a point. The game was also marked by Chris Pontius’ missed penalty kick and a red card to United defender Andy Najar. 

“We have no fear of going up to New York and playing them there,” said United president Kevin Payne. “We lost 3-2 to them this year. We played very poorly in the first half of that game, but we absolutely dominated them in the second half of that game. There is no question in the minds of anybody in this room that we can go up to New York and win the game.”

It will be difficult. The Red Bulls have been a hard side to figure out. Their second leading scorer Kenny Cooper did not play in the first match. It’s an example of the unpredictability of a team filled with quality that failed to win consecutive matches over the last two months of the season.

“We’ve been strong at home – we just only lost one game this season against Kansas City, otherwise we’ve been winning most of the games,” said Red Bulls’ head coach Hans Backe. “But I mean, it’s the playoffs now and it’ll probably be almost the same type of game, very even. It can end up the same way and go to penalty or shootout, whatever it is. But it will be tight.”

Confidence is clearly not in short supply in the Black and Red camp. With Saturday’s result United, although disappointed to not snare three points, is now unbeaten in its last eight games. That eight game run has come without Dwayne De Rosario because of a knee injury and now Najar’s red card will force more change.

“The way he (Najar) can attack from the right fullback position, he’s a threat all day long, so they of course will miss him,” Backe said. “It will help us for our defense, definitely, so we can look into that. Attacking-wise, I’m not sure, but definitely defensively.”

Although it has not been announced by head coach Ben Olsen, Robbie Russell is the likely choice to fill-in for Najar at right back. In 14 of his 16 starts this season, Russell played at right back. Russell’s season was derailed in mid-July by a foot injury. Russell, who won a title with Real Salt Lake, would give United much-needed playoff experience if he is called on.

“Every playoff team you play on is unique,” noted Russell. “This team is the epitome of team. On any given night someone else has stepped up for us big. I am looking forward to see who steps up big for us this coming game.”

In attack Lionard Pajoy has become more of a force for United and provided essential goals in a win over Philadelphia and a tie with Chicago in the regular season finale. Twice in the final seven games of the regular season Lewis Neal came off the bench to score game-winners. Branko Boskovic and Hamdi Salihi have also come off the bench to score and deliver three points to United.

“We have to match their intensity up there and we’ve got to play offensively up there like we did down here,” said Pontius.”It’s a ninety minute game out there and it would be even sweeter to take it from them at their home field.”

Quick Links

Nationals honor Jose Fernandez before series opener against Marlins

gonzalezfernandez930.jpg
Twitter: @MiamiHerald

Nationals honor Jose Fernandez before series opener against Marlins

The first game of the Nationals series against the Marlins started late after a nearly two-hour-long rain delay. However, before the first pitch, the Nats played a tribute to Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, whose recent death has left the entire MLB community in shock.

A video tweeted by @masnNationals shows both teams standing on the field, while the clips of Fernandez play on the video board in center field. 

Gio Gonzalez, who was good friends with Fernandez and attended his funeral on Thursday, is seen with tears in his eyes, waving his hat toward the sky. Gonzalez also hung a Fernandez jersey in the Nationals' dugout prior to the game. 

The Diamondbacks also left a message for the Marlins in the visitor's clubhouse at Nationals Park before leaving town Thursday. 

Fernandez's death is reaching even further than baseball. The Miami Hurricanes tweeted a picture of decals they added to their helmets for their game tomorrow against Georgia Tech.

It is clear that although Jose may be gone, he will always be rememered by the entire sports community. 

Quick Links

Fantasy Football: Updated Week 4 rankings

Fantasy Football: Updated Week 4 rankings

Updated Week 4 fantasy football rankings following news on several key players, including Bills receiver Sammy Watkins placed on injured reserve. 

Quarterbacks

1.  Philip Rivers, SD -- The Saints defense has only allowed three touchdown passes, but they're not stopping anyone. Opponents are averagng over 300 passing yards per game. Look for Rivers top that at home in what projects as another shootout.
 
2.  Cam Newton, CAR
 
3.  Drew Brees, NO
 
4.  Andrew Luck, IND
 
5.  Matthew Stafford, DET
 
6.  Kirk Cousins, WAS
 
7.  Andy Dalton, CIN
 
8.  Carson Palmer, ARI
 
9.  Blake Bortles, JAC
 
10.  Ben Roethlisberger, PIT
 
11.  Derek Carr, OAK
 
12.  Joe Flacco, BAL
 
13.  Matt Ryan, ATL
 
14.  Russell Wilson, SEA - The Seahawks offensive line is a mess, the Jets defensive front rocks and Wilson isn't 100 percent. Don't be shy about sitting him for comparable option.
 
15.  Dak Prescott, DAL
 
16.  Trevor Siemian, DEN
 
17.  Eli Manning, NYG
 
18.  Jameis Winston, TB
 
19.  Alex Smith, KC
 
20.  Ryan Tannehill, MIA
 
21.  Jimmy Garoppolo, NE
 
22.  Sam Bradford, MIN
 
23.  Brian Hoyer, CHI -- For those in need, Hoyer faces a Lions defense that has allowed an NFL-high 10 touchdown passes.
 
24.  Brock Osweiler, HOU
 
25.  Tyrod Taylor, BUF
 
26.  Marcus Mariota, TEN
 
27.  Ryan Fitzpatrick, NYJ
 
28.  Blaine Gabbert, SF
 
29.  Jacoby Brissett, NEQ
 
30.  Cody Kessler, CLEQ

Running Backs

1. David Johnson, ARI
 
2.  Le'Veon Bell, PIT - He's baaaaaack. Adjust your lineups. Not the easiest of returning matchups, but Kansas City hasn't been exactly stout against the run so far.
 
3.  Ezekiel Elliott, DAL
 
4.  C.J. Anderson, DEN
 
5.  Melvin Gordon, SD
 
6.  Lamar Miller, HOU
 
7.  LeGarrette Blount, NE
 
8.  Mark Ingram, NO
 
9.  DeMarco Murray, TEN
 
10.  LeSean McCoy, BUF
 
11.  Todd Gurley, LA
 
12.  Carlos Hyde, SF
 
13.  Christine Michael, SEA
 
14.  Jeremy Hill, CIN
 
15.  Matt Forte, NYJ
 
16.  Frank Gore, IND
 
17.  Charles Sims, TB
 
18.  Devonta Freeman, ATL
 
19.  Matt Jones, WAS
 
20.  Isaiah Crowell, CLE -- The Redskins are not good stopping the run and the Browns will want to help rookie QB Cody Kesseler  by featuring Crowell and Duke Johnson.
 
21.  Jordan Howard, CHI
 
22.  Spencer Ware, KC
 
23.  Latavius Murray, OAK
 
24.  Theo Riddick, DET
 
25.  Jerick McKinnon, MIN
 
26.  Tevin Coleman, ATL
 
27.  Giovani Bernard, CIN
 
28.  Orleans Darkwa, NYG -- Tricky call here since Rashard Jennings looks like a game-time decision. If Jennings sits and with no Shane Vereen, Darkwa would receve 18+ touches.
 
29.  Dwayne Washington, DET
 
30.  Cameron Artis-Payne, CAR
 
31.  Chris Ivory, JACQ
 
32.  Terrance West, BAL
 
33.  T.J. Yeldon, JAC
 
34.  Duke Johnson, CLE
 
35.  Justin Forsett, BAL
 
36.  Matt Asiata, MIN
 
37.  Fozzy Whittaker, CAR
 
38.  DeAngelo Williams, PIT
 
39.  Derrick Henry, TEN
 
40.  Jamaal Charles, KC -- Good news! Charles (knee) will reportedly make his season debut. However, Spencer Ware likely remains heavily involved for now as Kansas City works its star back into action. Monitor news Sunday morning if you're considering using Charles as an RB2 or Flex.
 
41.  James White, NE
 
42.  Chris Thompson, WAS
 
43.  Damien Williams, MIA
 
44.  Kenyan Drake, MIA
 
45.  Jay Ajayi, MIA
 
46.  Alfred Morris, DAL
 
47.  Travaris Cadet, NO
 
48.  Robert Kelley, WAS
 
49.  Bilal Powell, NYJ
 
50.  DeAndre Washington, OAK
 
51.  Shaun Draughn, SF
 
52.  Dexter McCluster, SD
 
53.  Paul Perkins, NYG
 
54.  Chris Johnson, ARI
 
55.  Jalen Richard, OAK
 
56.  Devontae Booker, DEN
 
57.  Mike Gillislee, BUF
 
58.  Bobby Rainey, NYG
 
59.  Jacquizz Rodgers, TB
 
60.  Robert Turbin, IND

Wide Receivers

1.  Antonio Brown, PIT
 
2.  A.J. Green, CIN
 
3.  Allen Robinson, JAC
 
4.  Julio Jones, ATL
 
5.  Odell Beckham Jr., NYG
 
6.  DeAndre Hopkins, HOU
 
7.  Marvin Jones, DET
 
8.  Alshon Jeffery, CHI
 
9.  Larry Fitzgerald, ARI
 
10.  Travis Benjamin, SD -- The DFS stack of the week? Benjamin and Philip Rivers against the Saints' terrible secondary. Factor in the likelihood Antonio Gates sits and Benjamin could get 15+ targets.
 
11.  T.Y. Hilton, IND
 
12.  Brandin Cooks, NO
 
13.  Amari Cooper, OAK
 
14.  Kelvin Benjamin, CAR
 
15.  Mike Evans, TB
 
16.  Demaryius Thomas, DEN
 
17.  DeSean Jackson, WAS
 
18.  Jarvis Landry, MIAQ
 
19.  Doug Baldwin, SEA
 
20.  Julian Edelman, NE
 
21.  Stefon Diggs, MIN
 
22.  Emmanuel Sanders, DEN -- His 27 targets nearly doubles teammates Demaryius Thomas. Now faces a Bucs defense allowing the third most points to fantasy wide receivers.
 
23.  Jeremy Maclin, KC
 
24.  Michael Crabtree, OAK
 
25.  Terrelle Pryor, CLE
 
26.  Willie Snead, NO
 
27.  Tyrell Williams, SD
 
28.  Sterling Shepard, NYG
 
29.  Brandon Marshall, NYJ
 
30.  Steve Smith, BAL -- Prediction: Smith goes for 90+ yards and a touchdown. Jalen Ramsey angered him. Sorry, Oakland. This ranking could rise by Sunday.
 
31.  Will Fuller, HOU
 
32.  Allen Hurns, JAC
 
33.  Devante Parker, MIAQ
 
34.  Mike Wallace, BAL
 
35.  Michael Floyd, ARIQ
 
36.  Jamison Crowder, WAS
 
37.  Phillip Dorsett, INDQ
 
38.  Golden Tate, DET
 
39.  Tavon Austin, LAQ
 
40.  Tajae Sharpe, TENQ
 
41.  Quincy Enunwa, NYJ -- No Eric Decker means more work for the impressive Enunwa
 
42.  Tyler Lockett, SEAQ
 
43.  Cole Beasley, DAL
 
44.  Michael Thomas, NO
 
45.  Torrey Smith, SFQ
 
46.  Mohamed Sanu, ATLQ
 
47.  Terrance Williams, DAL
 
48.  Victor Cruz, NYG
 
49.  Pierre Garcon, WAS
 
50.  Dez Bryant, DALQ
 
51.  Kevin White, CHI
 
52.  Kenny Britt, LAQ
 
53.  Anquan Boldin, DET
 
54.  Chris Hogan, NE
 
55.  Marquise Goodwin, BUF
 
56.  Vincent Jackson, TB
 
57.  Robert Woods, BUF
 
58.  Dontrelle Inman, SD
 
59.  Markus Wheaton, PIT
 
60.  Kenny Stills, MIA

Tight Ends

1.  Greg Olsen, CAR
 
2.  Jordan Reed, WAS
 
3.  Rob Gronkowski, NE -- Patriots list Gronk as questionable. It would be understandable why owners would fret using him after last week's bait and switch. Just not sure how you can though assuming the Sunday morning news isn't scary.
 
4.  Travis Kelce, KC
 
5.  Eric Ebron, DET
 
6.  Dennis Pitta, BAL
 
7.  Kyle Rudolph, MIN
 
8.  Coby Fleener, NO
 
9.  Julius Thomas, JACQ
 
10.  Jason Witten, DAL
 
11.  Zach Miller, CHI
 
12.  Delanie Walker, TENQ
 
13.  Dwayne Allen, IND
 
14.  Jimmy Graham, SEAQ
 
15.  Gary Barnidge, CLE
 
16.  Jacob Tamme, ATL
 
17.  Hunter Henry, SD
 
18.  Martellus Bennett, NE
 
19.  Jack Doyle, IND
 
20.  Charles Clay, BUF
 
21.  Cameron Brate, TB
 
22.  Clive Walford, OAK
 
23.  Jesse James, PIT
 
24.  Larry Donnell, NYG
 
25.  Vance McDonald, SF

Defenses

1.  Arizona Cardinals
 
2.  Denver Broncos
 
3.  Seattle Seahawks
 
4.  Houston Texans
 
5.  New England Patriots
 
6.  Minnesota Vikings
 
7.  Carolina Panthers
 
8.  Cincinnati Bengals
 
9.  New York Jets
 
10.  Washington Redskins -- Home game against a rookie QB in his first road start screams streaming option
 
11.  Kansas City Chiefs
 
12.  Pittsburgh Steelers
 
13.  Baltimore Ravens
 
14.  Los Angeles Rams
 
15.  New York Giants
 
16.  Buffalo Bills
 
17.  Detroit Lions
 
18.  Miami Dolphins
 
19.  Indianapolis Colts
 
20.  Dallas Cowboys

Kickers

1.  Stephen Gostkowski, NE
 
2.  Adam Vinatieri, IND
 
3.  Chandler Catanzaro, ARI
 
4.  Justin Tucker, BAL
 
5.  Dan Bailey, DAL
 
6.  Steven Hauschka, SEA
 
7.  Graham Gano, CAR
 
8.  Josh Lambo, SD
 
9.  Brandon McManus, DEN
 
10.  Dustin Hopkins, WAS
 
11.  Blair Walsh, MIN
 
12.  Matt Prater, DET
 
13.  Cairo Santos, KC
 
14.  Will Lutz, NO
 
15.  Chris Boswell, PIT
 
16.  Josh Brown, NYG -- Minnesota has allowed the most field goal attempts (12) thru three weeks. 
 
17.  Matt Bryant, ATL
 
18.  Nick Novak, HOU
 
19.  Mike Nugent, CINQ
 
20.  Sebastian Janikowski, OAK