D.C. United eliminated after draw with Houston

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D.C. United eliminated after draw with Houston

United knew the challenge was formidable: win by three or more goals in order to advance. They also knew they’d need to so without the aid of their leading goal-scorer, Chris Pontius, and a bruised up backline that dearly missed the services of Brandon McDonald.

Unfortunately, the task would prove too difficult for the Black and Red and instead of advancing to their first MLS Cup Final since 2004, the Houston Dynamo will make their second consecutive appearance.

"It’s a lot to ask but we worked our tails off," said DCU defender Perry Kitchen. "We had our chances and it just wasn’t meant to be."

Despite controlling possession and outshooting the Dynamo six shots to three in the first half, United failed to produce on offense and allowed Houston to deliver the final dagger in the 33rd minute. 

Driving to the DCU net, Brad Davis escaped Dejan Jakovic’s slide tackle and chipped one into the box for Boniek Garcia to blast by Bill Hamid. The goal put Houston up 1-0 and United into a three-goal hole.

"We talked about keeping [Houston at] zero," said United coach Ben Olsen. "As much this game was about offense and us having to score a bunch of goals, it was also about keeping them off the board."

"We all still believed. It was still doable," said Hamid. "We sure had enough chances to get back in the game even after the goal that we let in. It’s unfortunate. We played our hearts out and never gave up."

In the second half, Dwayne De Rosario returned to the pitch for United for the first time since suffering a grade 3 MCL injury in early September.

"At that point we’re throwing the kitchen sink and trying to get some looks –and we did, said Olsen. "I think we could have made it a bit more interesting down the stretch if we’d had a little bit more composure in front of goal."

As D.C. United’s patched-up roster continued to press, sending 13 shots to the Houston net, five on target, they did so to the detriment of their defense. United allowed several breakaways on the counter attack in the second half, forcing Hamid to make more saves than the keeper, returning after his one-game red card suspension, would have liked.

Though the Black and Red were able to work De Rosario back into their lineup, defensive authority Brandon McDonald and lead goal-scorer Pontius were unable to return for the deciding match. Though Pontius had been listed as questionable with a groin strain, Olsen admitted after the match that there was no chance of seeing the captain back on the pitch. 

"At some point it’s just not going to be good enough down the stretch if you have injuries and you’re not playing with your full squad," said Olsen. "But I’m glad we hung on this long."

Luckily for United, they would not permit another Houston goal, and were finally able to produce one of their own late in the half as Branko Bokovic notched the equalizer. Unfortunately though, DCU could not undo the 3-goal deficit and their long-awaited playoff run came to an end Sunday night. 

For United it was a bitter ending to an otherwise benchmark season, which included an 19-game unbeaten streak at home and their first playoff berth in five years. 

"I think we can look back and say we had a hell of a year," said Kitchen. "It was unbelievable at times so we should keep our heads high and be proud of everything we’ve done.

"It’s definitely bittersweet because we wanted to win this whole thing, that’s the goal for every team. It’s been a tough year. Nothing’s been handed to us. We’ve had to fight for everything. We’ve battled through injuries and have always found a way. We just fell short this series but we know we’ll be back for years to come and I think this is a great stepping stone to get this club back to where it’s used to being."

NWSL Highlights: Spirit catch Thorns atop standings in Week 13

NWSL Highlights: Spirit catch Thorns atop standings in Week 13

Week 13 in the National Women’s Soccer League saw the Washington Spirit finally catch the Portland Thorns atop the table, while the Houston Dash snapped a six-game losing streak.

Orlando and Chicago squared off in a game with huge playoff implications, and Sky Blue FC and Boston met for Northeast bragging rights.

NWSL Week 10 highlights include final games by USWNT members

NWSL Week 10 highlights include final games by USWNT members

Another week of NWSL action is in the books, but Week 10 was far from just another slate of games. We saw the Western New York Flash make league history in Rochester plus late drama in Orlando and Washington.

This was also the final weekend of NWSL play before members of the U.S. Women's National Team report for camp ahead of the Rio Olympics. 

With 1-0 loss to Colombia, US finishes 4th in Copa America

With 1-0 loss to Colombia, US finishes 4th in Copa America

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Carlos Bacca beat goalkeeper Tim Howard by sliding to poke in a headed cross in the 31st minute, and the United States finished fourth in the Copa America with a 1-0 defeat against Colombia on Saturday night.

After losing to Argentina 4-0 in the semifinals, the 31st-ranked U.S. was beaten by No. 3 Colombia for the second time in the 16-nation tournament.

Bobby Wood came closest to scoring for the U.S. when he hit a post in the 62nd, one minute after Colombia's Juan Cuadrado hit the underside of the crossbar.

The U.S. matched its previous best finish in the tournament, when it lost to Colombia in the 1995 fourth-place game at Uruguay.

After the Americans lost to Jamaica in the semifinals of last year's CONCACAF Gold Cup and struggled in the semifinal round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann was hoping his team would rebound in the Copa, when right back DeAndre Yedlin, central defender John Brooks, midfielder Gyasi Zardes and forward Bobby Wood solidified their positions as regular starters.

Darlington Nagbe and 17-year-old Christian Pulisic again entered as second-half subs, two more players who could break through and replace veterans during the remaining 16 months of World Cup qualifying.

Colombia, which never has won the Copa America, finished third for fourth time but first since 1995. Argentina plays Chile for the title on Sunday night in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Both teams finished a man short, when American defender Michael Orozco and Colombian defender Santiago Arias were ejected for a confrontation in the third minute of second-half stoppage time. Orozco is suspended the U.S.'s World Cup qualifier at St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Sept. 2, and Arias for Colombia's qualifier against Venezuela.

Klinsmann inserted the 37-year-old Howard into his lineup in place of Brad Guzan, who had started the previous nine games. Matt Besler was in central defense instead of Brooks, who was bothered by knee inflammation, and Orozco was at left back because Fabian Johnson has a sore groin.

Midfielders Jermaine Jones and Alejandro Bedoya returned to the lineup along with Wood after the three served one-game suspensions.

Colombia scored after Juan Cuadrado, from along a flank, cut the ball back to James Rodriguez, just outside the penalty area. Arias made a run to get by Bedoya, and Rodriguez lofted a pass to Arias, who jumped at the edge of the 6-yard box and headed the ball across Howard's goal to Bacca. The forward slid ahead of Yedlin to nudge the ball in for his 13th international goal, his second of the tournament.

Clint Dempsey, who led the U.S. with three goals in the tournament, nearly scored on a free kick in the 51st minute. Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina dived left and lifted his right arm to tip Dempsey's effort wide.