For D.C. United opportunity lost

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For D.C. United opportunity lost

After dominating the first half of their first playoff match in five years, D.C. United had nothing to show for it despite numerous first-half scoring chances, including a penalty kick awarded to captain Chris Pontius.  

Their persistence was finally rewarded in the 61st minute when Roy Miller’s attempt to clear a cross from Chris Korb to Nick DeLeon ended up in the back of his own net.  

“It was a great ball by Korb and Nick [DeLeon] put pressure on their defender to clear the ball,” said Pontius.  “We had so many great chances, something was bound to happen.”

Moments later D.C. United would even things up with their own own goal.  As Bill Hamid attempted to knock down a rebound from Thierry Henry’s corner kick, the netminder fell back into his own net.   Believing he had been fouled by New York’s Marcus Holgersson, Hamid chased the referee out to midfield in a moment of lost composure that would set the tone for DCU’s second half.

“I got bumped,” said Hamid.  “Watch the replay.  I got bumped.”

United’s frustration with the Red Bulls’ physical play and lack of referee calls finally boiled over in the 70th minute when Andy Najar was tagged with a yellow card for a slide tackle.  Clearly unhappy with the call, the defender threw the ball back at the referee, earning a second yellow card and automatic dejection from the game.  

“I’ve never seen that and for a fact I don’t think it was intentional,” said Dejan Jakovic of Najar’s outburst.  “He turned around and threw the ball --he didn’t see where he was throwing it-- and unfortunately it ended up hitting the ref.”

“It’s a playoff game and there are high emotions,” said Pontius.  “We gotta keep our heads a little bit better but this team has a lot of character and a lot of passion and I think you saw that tonight.”

DCU would be forced to play out the remainder of the match with a side of 10.   Despite their man advantage, the Red Bulls were unable to capitalize and failed to put a shot on goal.  

In 94 minutes of play, United’s defense held the Red Bulls, who boast two of the league’s top scorers, to just two shots on goal.  United put five shots on target, narrowly missed on a pair of goal mouth attemps from Branko Boskovic and DeLeon and still managed four strikes to New York's one after losing Najar, yet both teams exited the field in an unsatisfying 1-1 draw.  

“I think we played a great game.  Even when we went down a man we still had some chances,” said Jakovic.  “I don’t think a lot of calls went our way and obviously some frustration came into play but that’s part of the game.  We held our shape and kept them in front of us and the whole game I don’t think they were really dangerous at all.”

Najar will have to sit as the two-game series heads to New York on Wednesday, November 7 to determine who will advance to the Eastern Conference Championship.  

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.