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


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.

Green scores again, US settles for 1-1 draw vs New Zealand

Green scores again, US settles for 1-1 draw vs New Zealand

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Julian Green scored his second goal in two matches, before Monty Patterson's equalizer forced the United States to settle for a 1-1 draw in an exhibition against New Zealand on Tuesday night.

Lynden Gooch made his U.S. debut as a second-half substitute in a match played exactly a month before the Americans face Mexico to open their final round of World Cup qualifying.

Goalkeeper William Yarbrough kept New Zealand scoreless over 45 minutes in his first international start and third overall appearance.

David Bingham couldn't do the same in the second half, though he could hardly be blamed for Patterson's strike.

After U.S. forward Jozy Altidore failed to clear a corner kick aimed at New Zealand's Michael Boxhall, Patterson popped up to thump the loose ball into the net from about 5 yards out.

The 21-year-old Green scored his third career goal for the U.S. despite being only on the fringes of the team over the past two years.

Green has made just five appearances since his first goal for the U.S., which came very late in overtime of a 2-1 second-round loss to Belgium in the 2014 World Cup.

But he earned an invite from coach Jurgen Klinsmann to camp after repeatedly making the 18-man roster for German power Bayern Munich.

After scoring the second goal in a 2-0 exhibition win at Cuba on Friday, Green put the U.S. ahead Tuesday in the 27th minute when he reached Altidore's knock-down header on the left flank.

Green dribbled to goal while defender Liam Graham retreated, cut to his right, and then fired a low, 18-yard shot that snuck between wrong-footed goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic and the left post.

Gooch, a 20-year-old who has appeared seven times this season for Sunderland of England's Premier League, came on in the 59th minute.

The California native - whose Irish mother and English father give him three international options - created several lively sequences on the right, drawing chants of ''Gooooch!'' from the announced crowd of 9,012 at RFK Stadium.

In the 64th minute, his cross found Green, who lofted a shot well high of the goal. And in the 89th, his corner found Omar Gonzalez, whose header also soared above the crossbar.

The U.S. continued to press, with Michael Bradley denied by Marinovic's diving stop in the 90th minute, and Gonzalez missing wide on another header in stoppage time.

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."

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