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.

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

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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.