DC United begins Cup quest on the road

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DC United begins Cup quest on the road

D.C. United did it. The Black and Red survived seven MLS matches in the month of May and made it to the top of the Eastern Conference. A break is needed, but there is still work to be done with Tuesdays U.S, Open Cup match on the road against the Richmond Kickers.

Forget a trip to Disney World; United has to wait to fully exhale. United has won two Open Cups and would like to get back to the business of adding to the trophy cabinet. Their opponent the Richmond Kickers made it all the way to the semi-finals of last years competition and beat two MLS team on the road in the process.

You can hear in my voice, a fatigued Dwayne De Rosario said after Saturdays 3-2 win over New England. I am absolutely tired. Its been a lot of games in a short period of time. We withstand the demand that was put on us, and thankfully we have the depth of every guy that is ready to step in and make a difference.

United earned its first three game winning streak since 2008 on the strength of two goals from defenders Brandon McDonald and Dejan Jakovic. Against the Revolution United did squander a two-goal lead, but then was bailed out by Maicon Santos who returned from a calf injury and scored the winning goal to add to his team-leading tally of 8 goals for the season.

I thought we needed to get hold of the ball a little more, said United head coach Ben Olsen. Im looking to get Maicon in the game for the reasons we saw. The guy can score goals and he can hold the ball up. So now you have Maicon holding balls up, making it difficult for their center backs, and you have Dwayne De Rosario in the midfield who always helps us with possessions.

The return of Santos to Uniteds rotation was encouraging with managing injuries the focus for United. Jakovic also was back from an ankle injury and scored his first career MLS goal. Rookie midfielder Nick De Leon also returned from a hamstring injury to give United the strength in numbers in necessary to get through Tuesday.

United goes into this Open Cup match with confidence. Over the last month midfielder Branko Boskovic has unveiled the form that made him a designated player in the first place before being slowed by injuries. Fellow DP Hamdi Salihi has also begun to deliver as advertised with four goals.

Its unbelievable, said Boskovic. My two seasons here, and every time was up and down, and now its the first time we look like a real team. We have a good group and good atmosphere, but we need to continue to win.

It is not a United team that is complacent or claiming league title in May. The 3-2 win over the Revolution on Saturday was a nice reward for a lot of hard work, but it also highlighted the word that still needs to be done. There is a story developing with United, but whether through injuries or inexperience the picture is far from complete.

I want to play a different way, and I wish we wouldve been a little sharper, but again, Im looking at the body of three wins at home, which we havent done at this club since June 2008, Olsen added after Saturdays win This is positive stuff, and Im not downplaying that. Again, Im maybe just being a little negative; Im a little unfulfilled with that game.

The translation of Olsens post-match comments demonstrates how much he believes in this team. Olsen was confident back in January that he had the players to work with. Three months into a MLS campaign Olsens belief has been confirmed. This United team has talent and perhaps of more importance is able to adapt.

Now United will have to adapt one more time before truly getting a break. The Kickers pride themselves on begin giant-killers and are 4-4-1 al time against United. In their last meeting with meaning, United emerged with a 2-0 win over the Kickers in the 2010 U.S. Open Cup.

The current Kickers team is in sixth place in the 11-team USL Pro table. In midfield the Kickers feature David Bulow who last year notched his 14th goal in U.S. Open Cup history against Sporting Kansas City in 2011 to become the tournaments all-time leading scorer. Christopher Agorsor notched four goals last week including two in their U.S. Open Cup second round over Aegean Hawks.

With Heather O'Reilly set to retire, USWNT teammates honor all-time great

With Heather O'Reilly set to retire, USWNT teammates honor all-time great

As U.S. Women’s Soccer star Heather O’Reilly steps into international retirement Thursday night, her soon-to-be former teammates are jumping at the chance to honor O’Reilly one last time.

"She’s the best teammate I ever had,” said Ali Krieger, who has played alongside O’Reilly on the USWNT since 2008. “She’s such an inspiration for so many young athletes, but also for us – her current teammates and the players in the National Women’s Soccer League. She’s been a legend.”

O’Reilly will end her 15-year international career when the U.S. Women face Thailand in Columbus, Ohio on Thursday night.

“She’s motivated me and I know my teammates to want to better themselves every single day,” Krieger said of O’Reilly’s legacy on the national team. “That is something that she can leave us. I’m so happy for her, I’m really proud of her and she continued to inspire me every single day. I wish her all the best and I’m going to miss her like crazy.”

Of all O’Reilly’s teammates, few can appreciate the retiring legend quite like Krieger. The two often featured together on the right side of the U.S. formation, Krieger in defense and O’Reilly just ahead of her in midfield, resulting in a bond that will last beyond their playing days.

“We always say ‘right side – strong side’, so we’re going to hold on to that forever,” Krieger said with a smile. “She’s one of my best friends on the team and I support her decision.”

O’Reilly’s decision was likely made easier by the changing landscape of the national team. After seeing her minutes dwindle during last summer’s successful World Cup run, the 31-year-old veteran was left off the U.S. Olympic Team in August instead traveling to Brazil as an alternate.

Despite that, O’Reilly’s career compares favorably to pretty much every other U.S. international. O'Reilly made her senior international debut while still in high school, and her 230 appearances rank seventh all-time in U.S. Women’s National Team history. 

“It’s so much more than the player that she is and what she’s done for the national team,” said U.S. Women’s National Team forward Crystal Dunn. “It’s her – the person – that I’m going to miss seeing in camps and chatting it up.”

Though they didn’t overlap in Chapel Hill, both Dunn and O’Reilly played collegiately for North Carolina. Thanks to that Tar Heel connection, the duo trained together frequently even when not with the U.S. team.

“She was just one of those people that I looked up to,” Dunn added. “She would kick my butt every single day and I was so in awe that she would go out of her way to help make me better."

MORE SOCCER: STL: 'Tyrant'-like act by Spirit to stifle Rapinoe protest

Spirit players speak out against owner shutting down Rapinoe's protest

Spirit players speak out against owner shutting down Rapinoe's protest

Two days after the Washington Spirit organization changed the timing of their pregame routine in order to preempt Megan Rapinoe’s national anthem protest, Spirit players are speaking out against the team’s decision.

"We respect our owner’s freedom to share his views and we understand his intentions,” read a statement posted on the Spirit website. “But as a team we don’t necessarily agree with those opinions or the actions taken Wednesday evening.” 

The statement - signed ‘all of the players of the Washington Spirit’ - was also posted to Spirit captain, and longtime U.S. Women’s National Team star, Ali Krieger’s personal website. 

“As a team, we were disappointed we were not informed of the plans for the national anthem or given an opportunity to weigh in on the decision,” the statement continued.

The Washington Spirit and Rapinoe’s Seattle Reign FC were still in the locker rooms when the national anthem was played ahead of schedule at Wednesday’s National Women’s Soccer League match between the two teams. 

In an exclusive interview Tuesday afternoon, Rapinoe told CSN that she planned to kneel during the national anthem prior to Wednesday's game - as she did before Sunday's NWSL contest between Seattle and the Chicago Red Stars.