D.C. United still fighting for playoffs

894759.png

D.C. United still fighting for playoffs

There are no style points now for D.C. United, only points in the standings. Uniteds quest to end a five year playoff drought is set to continue on Saturday in Portland with Ben Olsens team strengthened by a goal-scoring boom, but fully prepared to grind out a result.

With four games to go, United enters the weekend in fourth place in Major League Soccers Eastern Conference on 50 points and four points ahead of Houston. The top five teams make the post season and goal scoring is the first tie breaker. United is positioned well with 47 goals, second in the conference to New Yorks 50 goals.

United has scored multiple goals in 14 games this season, but United also taken great pride in securing 1-0 victories in the last two games of its current three-game winning streak. It is Uniteds longest winning streak since May and has come with Dwayne De Rosario sidelined by a knee injury.

Once you win a 1-0 game, they are great, said head coach Ben Olsen. We dont have many of them (1-0 wins) at this club in the last four or five years. Hanging on, especially when these teams have nothing to lose and they just throw crazy numbers forward, it not an easy task. We need to still continue to get better in this next couple games because it is all going to get tougher.

In Uniteds 1-0 win over Chivas USA Sunday, Branko Boskovic came through with his first goal in a Black and Red uniform. Boskovics lifeline to three critical points at home was scored as Chivas continued to introduce offensive players instead of playing like a road team satisfied with a 0-0 draw,

In Portland, United will be dealing with another team that has to throw caution to the wind.

The Timbers are nine points out of a playoff spot with four games to play. On the season the Timbers have given up 50 goals, second only to Toronto F.C., but are difficult at home. They have sold out 32 consecutive matches, and currently have a four game unbeaten streak at Jeld-Wen Field.

Portland is not an easy team, stressed United defender Brandon McDonald. You look at their record you could go Oh we should win this, but its not like that. In this league, anybody can beat anybody so we have to go out and we have to start taking our away matches like we do our home matches.

Uniteds most interesting question remains in midfield. Recently Boskovic has been both a starter and a substitute.

The Timbers have conceded the most goals in the league from set-pieces and United could benefit from Boskovics quality on free kicks and corner kicks. He has also been an asset as a reserve and the central midfield partnership of Perry Kitchen and Marcelo Saragosa has been effective.

Formations are nice to talk about, but this time of year is often more about raw determination.

Before a total collapse in 2010, United just missed out on the playoffs on the final day of the 2008 and 2009 campaigns. United believes it has the depth to avoid a similar fate over the next three weeks.

This is my fourth year here and not having been able to make the playoffs hurts, because this is a team that has had so much success, said United defender Dejan Jakovic. So Im definitely focused on that and Im trying to do anything possible to get this team to the playoffs. And not just the playoffs, but even further.

It's official: U.S. Soccer hires Bruce Arena to replace Jurgen Klinsmann

It's official: U.S. Soccer hires Bruce Arena to replace Jurgen Klinsmann

NEW YORK – Bruce Arena is returning to coach the U.S. national soccer team, a decade after he was fired.

The winningest coach in American national team history, Arena took over Tuesday, one day after Jurgen Klinsmann was fired. The 65-year-old Arena starts work Dec. 1.

With the U.S. 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, the U.S. Soccer Federation wants to spark a turnaround when the playoffs resume March 24 with a home game against Honduras.

"His experience at the international level, understanding of the requirements needed to lead a team through World Cup qualifying, and proven ability to build a successful team were all aspects we felt were vital for the next coach," USSF President Sunil Gulati, who fired Arena in 2006, said in a statement. "I know Bruce will be fully committed to preparing the players for the next eight qualifying games and earning a berth to an eighth straight FIFA World Cup."

Arena first took over as national team coach after the 1998 World Cup and led the U.S. to a 71-30-29 record.

"I'm looking forward to working with a strong group of players that understand the challenge in front of them after the first two games," Arena said in a statement. "Working as a team, I'm confident that we'll take the right steps forward to qualify"

A wisecracking Brooklynite known for blunt talk and sarcasm, he coached the University of Virginia from 1978-95, then led D.C. United to titles in Major League Soccer's first two seasons before losing in the 1998 final. He guided the Americans to the team's best World Cup finish since 1930, a 1-0 loss to Germany in the 2002 quarterfinals.

He was let go after the team's first-round elimination by Ghana in 2006. Arena coached the New York Red Bulls of MLS from July 2006 to November 2007, then was hired the following August by the Galaxy. He led the team to MLS titles in 2011, 2012 and 2014.

Arena was inducted into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2010.

RELATED: AFTER 18-MONTH DOWNWARD SPIRAL, KLINSMANN FALLS ON HIS OWN SWORD

Marquez's late goal lifts Mexico over US 2-1 in World Cup Qualifier

usatsi_9669071.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Marquez's late goal lifts Mexico over US 2-1 in World Cup Qualifier

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Rafa Marquez scored on a header in the 89th minute, and Mexico beat the United States 2-1 Friday night in the Americans' first home loss in World Cup qualifying since 2001.

Miguel Layun put Mexico ahead in the 20th minute, but Bobby Wood tied the score in the 49th.

The U.S. dominated the second half before the 37-year-old Marquez, unmarked and drifting across the penalty area, got the back of his head on Layun's corner kick and lifted the ball over goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

Guzan lost the goalkeeper job to Tim Howard, who started at the last two World Cups. But Howard injured his right leg on a goal kick and was replaced in the 40th minute.

The U.S. had beaten Mexico four straight times by 2-0 scores in home qualifiers -- all at Columbus -- and the Americans had been 30-0-2 at home in qualifying since a 3-2 loss to Honduras at Washington's RFK Stadium in September 2001.