D.C. United wants to be more than opening act

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D.C. United wants to be more than opening act

It doesnt matter that perhaps more than any other MLS franchise D.C. United can appreciate the hard work needed to secure a new stadium. Uniteds goal is to spoil to party and grab three points Saturday in Houston against the Dynamo in the first-ever game at BBVA Compass Stadium.

Its brilliant for the team in orange that it joins now a long list of American professional soccer teams with their own stadium. By all accounts from its location downtown to its layout on the inside, 22,000- seat BBVA Compass Stadium is destined to be a winner. The fanfare surrounding its opening will only add to Uniteds challenge.

In six trips to Houston the Black and Red have never won. Over the years players have changed for the Dynamo, but the head coach Dominic Kinnear has maintained a remarkable consistency. It is a team that won MLS Cups with Dwayne De Rosario and was still competing for one last November without him.

De Rosario is now the central figure both in position and in leadership for United. De Rosario scored 16 goals to win Golden Boot and MVP last year and helped put United back in the conversation for playoffs. With a league-leading 7 assists, De Rosario has helped United to within three points of first place Sporting Kansas City in the Eastern Conference.

Winning against former teams has become something of a specialty for De Rosario. That trend was interrupted ten days ago in a 5-3 loss to the Earthquakes against San Jose. It then made Uniteds response against Toronto FC, another former De Rosario club, even more impressive.

United blanked Toronto FC 2-0.

We were not happy with the five goals we gave up in San Jose and even the two we gave up against Houston the game before that, said Uniteds Chris Pontius. We went in there with a mindset that we were going to get a shutout no matter what and then we would let the offense take care of itself.

Pontius was right. He opened the scoring against Toronto with a left-footed rocket in the 55th minute. Pontius goal broke a scoreless tie against a desperate winless team. With a midweek game and a nightmarish travel experience getting from San Jose to Toronto, this was a trap game for United. They survived and did so with a make shift back line.

Defense will again be a focal point for United. Central defenders Dejan Jakovic and Emiliano Dudar are making progress in their recovery from injuries, but are not expected to be involved on Saturday. Robbie Russell is expected back from a one-game absence because of a hamstring injury and he could slot in the middle next to Brandon McDonald.

With Russells return, Daniel Woolard could switch back from central defense to outside back on the left. Andy Najar might again be the first choice option at right back. That would allow former Dynamo player Danny Cruz to remain in the starting eleven in midfield where he has been for seven of the last eight games.

Najar has excelled in his brief time in the position, although it has now been revealed he played right back for D.C Uniteds academy team. In fact, Najar never actually played his current position until he joined Uniteds senior team. Najars ability to defend and yet go forward adds to an attack that is gaining in confidence and goals.

D.C. United comes into Saturdays game having scored 20 goals through 11 games. With one more tally, the club will match its 2010 goal total, when the team scored 21 goals in 30 games. At the moment, the Black-and-Red are on pace to beat the 2011 mark of 49 goals in 34 games and it all seems to start with leading scorer Maicon Santos.

First and foremost Maicon is giving us a real presence that certainly we lacked last year and the first couple of games this year, said veteran forward Josh Wolff. He has given us a point of reference to play off of and hold balls. Whether it is Pontius or Hamdi (Salihi) with him, it allows those guys to get turned and face goal a bit more. It is big part of the reason we are having success

Head coach Ben Olsen does have options among the front five in Uniteds attack. Rookie Nick De Leon was given a break against Toronto FC, but he has proven himself to be more than capable at left flank. Pontius can play up top or on the flank and now Salihi looks confident after netting two goals in only 50 minutes of playing time last week.

Were starting to see what he (Salihi) is all about, Olsen said. He doesnt need many opportunities to score goals. Forwards are streaky and they go through runs. Theyre human; they go through confidence issues. He wants more. He wants to play more, and I dont blame him.

Though United scored three goals in their victory over the Dynamo two weeks ago at R.F.K. Stadium, chances are likely to limited. The Dynamo is a disciplined team that has survived playing its first seven games on the road while BBVA Compass Stadium was completed and sill managed 8 points and a record of 2-3-2.

The Dynamo lost on Wednesday 1-0 to the Red Bulls. Midfielder Brad Davis is back from a calf strain injury that reduced to a substitutes role in the 3-2, loss to United. Operating from the left flank Davis is still the trigger point for the Dynamo offense and he is particularly dangerous on set pieces.

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.