DC United-Toronto FC preview

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DC United-Toronto FC preview

D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen spent his 35th birthday on Thursday flying from San Jose to Toronto. Along with checked baggage, Olsen and United are saddled with mixed emotions ahead of Saturdays road match against Toronto FC and it has nothing to do with long airport delays that slowed their journey to Canada.

The mid-week 5-3 loss to the Earthquakes ended Uniteds seven-game unbeaten run. It was a curious game. Dwayne De Rosario provided the dream start for the Black and Red with a wonderful goal eight minutes into the match. The Earthquakes responded later in the half with three goals in a 12-minute span and led at halftime 3-1.

I was proud of the way the guys fought and came back, Olsen said. Overall, Im disappointed in the loss, but there is a lot of fight in this team, and when we get healthy, I think that we are going to be OK.

As United prepares to face winless Toronto, health and fatigue are issues. With three goals and 21 shots Uniteds offense is threatening. On defense injuries have led to inconsistency. The absence of center back Emiliano Dudar, who Olsen described as a stud this season, because of a hamstring was glaring against the Earthquakes.

I think we missed a center back today, and thats not against Perry (Kitchen) or Robbie (Russell), but theyre not center backs, Olsen said after the loss in San Jose. Dudars out, and Dejan (Jakovic), they would have really helped out on a big (guy) like (Steven) Lenhart, who had a good day.

Against the earthquakes, both Kitchen and Russell logged time in the middle of the defense. Kitchen started on the back line, but was shifted to defensive midfield after Marcelo Saragosa struggled there in the first half. Russell then moved into the middle with Andy Najar introduced in Russells position at right back.

Against that backdrop the focus remains on Uniteds defense against Toronto. If Kitchen remains in midfield, the question will be who will partner centrally with Brandon McDonald. Dudar is not an option and Jakovic is listed as questionable with a sprained ankle. Also, goalkeeper Joe Willis should not be blamed for allowing five goals, but Bill Hamid is eager for his second start of the season.

At forward, designated player Hamdi Salihi came off the bench and was finally able to open his United scoring account. Salihis first goal probably should have come earlier, but he was denied by the crossbar and an incredible save by Vancouvers Joe Cannon. On Wednesday Salihi was able to run on to a precise pass from De Rosario and chip it over charging Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch.

With Rapid Vienna in Austria, Salihi scored 36 goals in 67 appearances. Salihis last start was on April 14 against New England when he was pulled after 65 lackluster minutes. Now Olsen must weigh whether to reward Salihi with a start against keeping Chris Pontius and Maicon Santos together.

He (Salihi) looked sharp, Olsen said. He was able to connect on some passes and made some nice runs. Thats what he does. He makes great runs. If we are able to find like De Ro did then he is going to score goals. Its not been an easy road, but he has been a real pro.

Pontius and Santos have formed a strong strike partnership, but failed to connect with each other Wednesday against the Earthquakes. United also needs to get its wide players more involved. Nick De Leon and Danny Cruz were not as effective as in previous games and with Saturday marking the third game in seven days change is possible.

Toronto FC is looking for change in the form of results. The Reds as they are known have yet to win in seven MLS matches. As a team they have six goals and seven assists. De Rosario alone has seven assists and Santos has six goals by himself. They also played mid-week and drew 0-0 to Montreal in the group stage of the Canadian Championship.

I have watched them and they (Toronto FC) are better than their record. Olsen noted. They are low on confidence but can be dangerous because they might just say lets go play free to make the best of the situation.

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.