D.C. United eliminated after draw with Houston


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."

Green scores again, US settles for 1-1 draw vs New Zealand

Green scores again, US settles for 1-1 draw vs New Zealand

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Julian Green scored his second goal in two matches, before Monty Patterson's equalizer forced the United States to settle for a 1-1 draw in an exhibition against New Zealand on Tuesday night.

Lynden Gooch made his U.S. debut as a second-half substitute in a match played exactly a month before the Americans face Mexico to open their final round of World Cup qualifying.

Goalkeeper William Yarbrough kept New Zealand scoreless over 45 minutes in his first international start and third overall appearance.

David Bingham couldn't do the same in the second half, though he could hardly be blamed for Patterson's strike.

After U.S. forward Jozy Altidore failed to clear a corner kick aimed at New Zealand's Michael Boxhall, Patterson popped up to thump the loose ball into the net from about 5 yards out.

The 21-year-old Green scored his third career goal for the U.S. despite being only on the fringes of the team over the past two years.

Green has made just five appearances since his first goal for the U.S., which came very late in overtime of a 2-1 second-round loss to Belgium in the 2014 World Cup.

But he earned an invite from coach Jurgen Klinsmann to camp after repeatedly making the 18-man roster for German power Bayern Munich.

After scoring the second goal in a 2-0 exhibition win at Cuba on Friday, Green put the U.S. ahead Tuesday in the 27th minute when he reached Altidore's knock-down header on the left flank.

Green dribbled to goal while defender Liam Graham retreated, cut to his right, and then fired a low, 18-yard shot that snuck between wrong-footed goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic and the left post.

Gooch, a 20-year-old who has appeared seven times this season for Sunderland of England's Premier League, came on in the 59th minute.

The California native - whose Irish mother and English father give him three international options - created several lively sequences on the right, drawing chants of ''Gooooch!'' from the announced crowd of 9,012 at RFK Stadium.

In the 64th minute, his cross found Green, who lofted a shot well high of the goal. And in the 89th, his corner found Omar Gonzalez, whose header also soared above the crossbar.

The U.S. continued to press, with Michael Bradley denied by Marinovic's diving stop in the 90th minute, and Gonzalez missing wide on another header in stoppage time.

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."

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