Challenges mount for DC United

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Challenges mount for DC United

When the midway point of the Major League Soccer season was reached with D.C. United in first placed in the Eastern Conference, head coach Ben Olsen was quick to point out that goals were not achieved and that the teams work was far from over.

The workload seems even greater now. Sporting Kansas City is back in first place. The New York Red Bulls managed to survive the heat, and a mid-week match against Chicago, to take all three points and leap over D.C. into second place. Uniteds opponent on Saturday, the Columbus Crew, is in eighth place and should be highly motivated playing at home.

Last week at Crew Stadium, the Crew was blanked by Kansas City 2-0. Forward Emilio Renteria received a red car for a head butt of Paulo Nagamura and will miss the United match. The two argued after Renteria was fouled by Nagamura. Renteria only has two goals on the season, but the Crews leading scorer Eddie Gaven only has 4 goals.

The Crew in 20 matches has managed only 17 goals. Only Chivas USA, with 12 goals on the season, has found the back of the newt fewer times. Injuries have been a problem for the Crew, who lost midfielder Bernardo Anor to a torn ACL, and now the team has 11 players on its injured list.

A wounded team can be a dangerous team, but still the Crew has failed to show real bite in its attack and has been shutout six times. To stay at least within shouting distance of the playoff race the Crew has relied heavily on the goalkeeping of Andy Gruenebaum and the organizational skills of defender Chad Marshall. The Crew has only allowed 19 goals.

United has been playing with less swagger of. As they reached the seasons 17-pgame mark there were troubling signs. The Black and Red managed to hold on to a 3-2 win over New England at home. That was followed by a less than convincing 1-0 road win in Philadelphia and then a collapse in 3-2 loss away to the New York Red Bulls.

Last week United showed plenty of promise in the opening 15 minutes in Houston. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid received a red card in the 16th minute and United was reduced to ten-men. Sometimes down a man teams will play inspired and punch above their weight to get a result. It was not that way for United against the Dynamo.

I thought we could have been meaner, I thought we could have been angrier, Olsen said.
I thought our shape could have been better and you keep the game 1-0 as long as you can. We got a little stretched, and we got impatient.

The first 15 minutes, it was going back and forth, added midfielder Danny Cruz. We had a couple great chances and they had a couple great chances and then the red card changes the entire dynamic of the game. Hats off to them, scoring four goals is not easy to do whether you are up a man or not. We just have to learn from it."

Olsen and United now have to figure out the response to the 4-0 loss to the Dynamo. On the team sheet there will be changes with defender Robbie Russell out with a foot injury and midfielder Branko Boskovic nursing a calf strain. As he did against the Dynamo, Chris Korb likely will replace Russell, but Boskovics replacement is open for debate.

In the last two months Boskovic has played his best soccer with United. Putting Boskovic in an attacking midfield role and then pushing Dwayne De Rosario closer to goal seemed to be the teams way forward. The question now has to be whether De Rosario drops back in the midfield or will Olsen try someone else there and keep De Rosario as a withdrawn striker.

If De Rosario is back in midfield then it likely would mean Chris Pontius would return to forward. That shuffle would then open an opportunity for Nick De Leon to return to the starting lineup and play on the left flank. De Leon is due to get a a chance again to show the spark that made him look like the steal of the MLS draft in the opening two months of the season.

Hope Solo criticizes 'cowardly' Swedish team following Olympic loss

Hope Solo criticizes 'cowardly' Swedish team following Olympic loss

The U.S. Women's Soccer Team was bounced from the Olympic Tournament on Friday following a shocking 1-1 shootout loss to Sweden.

The USWNT had to once again rally back from 1-0 — as they did against Colombia — with Alex Morgan scoring an equalizer in the 78th minute.

After 30 minutes fo scoreless extra time, the game went to penalty kicks. Morgan and Christen Press missed their attempts, and Hope Solo was unable to stop Lisa Dahlkvist's attempt, snapping the USWNT's 14-game Olympic win streak. It was also the first time the USWNT did not advance to the Olympic gold medal games.

Solo, who has been the focal point of the USWNT's time in Rio due to the chants of "Zika" lobbed her way in the tournament opener, along with her subpar performance in the 2-2 draw against Colombia, once again made headlines following the shocking loss.

While Solo was lauded for the poise she showed following the major gaffe in the Colombia game, she had some choice words for the Swedish team following the loss on Friday.

Solo has never been one to mince words.  

While it was not particularly clear that the Swedish side was playing dirty, Sweden did have 15 penalties to the United States too. The United States outshot Sweden 27-6 and had six shots on goal to Sweden's two. But despite the stat discrepancy, Sweden packed their defense in, forcing the United States to take an increased number of shots from outside. Sweden also did a tremendous job of counter-attacking with deep balls, which the side — coached by former USWNT coach Pia Sundhage — a bevy of uneven scoring chances.

When asked about her "coward" comment, Solo provided clearer detail.

"Sweden dropped off," she said to reporters after the game. "They didn't want to play. They didn't want to pass the ball. They didn't want to play great soccer. It was a combative game, a physical game. Exactly what their game plan was. They dropped into a 50. They didn't try and press. They didn't want to open the game. We had that style of play when Pia was our coach. i don't think they're going to make it far in the tournament. I think it was very cowardly.

"But they won. They're moving on, and we're going home."

Solo then took to Twitter to clarify her comments.

But the outcome remains the same: A stunning loss before the medal round, and to make matters worse, the result will be overshadowed by critical comments.

RELATED: WOULD THIS TEAM OF MARYLAND NATIVES WIN OLYMPIC GOLD?

U.S. women suffer shocking Olympic elimination in shootout loss to Sweden

U.S. women suffer shocking Olympic elimination in shootout loss to Sweden

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — The three-time defending champion U.S. women's national team will miss the Olympic final for the first time after being ousted by Sweden on penalties following a 1-1 draw in the quarterfinals on Friday.

Tied after three rounds in the shootout, Sweden captain Caroline Seger beat Hope Solo and Christen Press' attempt against Hedvig Lindhal went over the net. With the next kick, Lisa Dahlkvist beat an outstretched Solo for the win.

RELATED: HOPE SOLO CRITICIZES "COWARDLY" SWEDISH TEAM AFTER LOSS

As Sweden celebrated, U.S. captain Carli Lloyd crouched on the field at Mane Garrincha Stadium. It was the first time that an Olympic women's match had gone to penalties.

It was the earliest the United States had ever been eliminated from the Olympics since women's soccer became a sport in 1996.

After a scoreless first half, Stina Blackstenius scored in the 61st minute to give Sweden a 1-0 lead.

Alex Morgan scored the equalizer in the 78th and the match went to extra time. Lloyd had a header called back for offside in the 115th minute, and Lotta Schelin was offside on her attempt against Solo a minute later -- although replays appeared to show otherwise.

The reigning World Cup champions, who are also four-time Olympic champions, had not dropped a match this year. But it Sweden that will play either Australia or host Brazil in the semifinals.

Blackstenius, who came in as a substitute in the first half, broke away and shook off defender Julie Johnston to beat Solo and give Sweden the lead. It was just her second international goal.

Sweden's coach, Pia Sundhage, high-fived her assistants on the bench. Sundhage coached the U.S. team for five years and led the squad to gold medals in both Beijing and London.

The United States got the equalizer with Morgan's shot that bounced off a Sweden defender. It was Morgan's team-leading 13th goal of the year. Lloyd nearly put the United States ahead in the 85th but her kick to the far corner went just wide.

The Americans won their first two matches in Brazil before a surprising 2-2 draw in Manaus against Colombia, which had already been eliminated.

Johnston returned to the starting lineup after missing the last two games with a groin injury and coach Jill Ellis played all her regular starters after rotating and resting many against Colombia in the heat and humidity of the Amazon. Megan Rapinoe, who started against Colombia after missing more than eight months after right knee surgery, was on the bench but came on as a substitute in the second half.

Press replaced Rapinoe in the extra period.

Sweden had won only five matches against the United States. The two teams played to a scoreless draw at last year's World Cup. The last time the two teams met in the Olympics was at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Sundhage was a player on the Sweden team that fell 2-1 to the Americans.

Ranked sixth in the world, Sweden had struggled in its Olympic group with a 5-1 loss to host Brazil and finished 1-1-1.

Lloyd buried her head in her hands early in the second half after her free kick was off the mark. Just moments later, she had another that was off-target, too. The United States struggled to finish throughout the match.

The crowd at Mane Garrincha Stadium in was sparse at the start of the match and never extended much past the lower bowl of the massive 72,000-seat stadium that was reconstructed and expanded for the men's 2014 World Cup.

The fans that were there continued to jeer Solo with shouts of "Zika!" everytime she touched the ball. The fans have taunted her since the opening match in Brazil because of her posts on social media about the virus.

Field condition concerning ahead of USWNT quarterfinal match with Sweden

Field condition concerning ahead of USWNT quarterfinal match with Sweden

The United States is set to play Sweden on Friday in the quarterfinal round of the women’s soccer tournament at the Rio Olympics. The U.S. – fresh off winning their group – is one victory away from advancing to the medal round.

The match will be played at noon ET on NBCSN and while both teams hope to be prepared for Friday’s win-or-go-home affair, the field at Brasilia’s Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha does not appear to be ready for the rigors of elimination soccer.

Friday’s game will be the ninth Olympic match played at Brasilia’s primary stadium. The stadium, named after Brazilian soccer legend Garrincha, hosted a men’s soccer doubleheader (Mexico-South Korea and Argentina-Honduras) on Wednesday night. 

According to a report in the Brazilian publication oLiberal, ‘emergency’ work was done on the field in the three weeks leading up to the Olympics. The Brazilian men’s team opener their Olympic campaign in Brasilia with a scoreless draw against South Africa. 

A men’s quarterfinal between Portugal and Germany is scheduled for Saturday at the Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha, less than 24 hours after the conclusion of the U.S. vs. Sweden women’s game.