DCU faces must win vs. Toronto FC


DCU faces must win vs. Toronto FC

The Major League Soccer league table suggests D.C. United is in a good position to secure three points Saturday in Toronto. Recent history suggests that predicting results in MLS is not that easy.

United has every reason to be confident. The team is riding a four-game unbeaten streak and suddenly showing more resolve on the road. In Uniteds last three matches away from RFK Stadium they have snared four points including last Saturdays 1-1 draw in Portland.

We have to find ways now to kill games off, said United head coach Ben Olsen. We've done a pretty good job of that as of late, but it will help if we can find a way now to get the second goal when we do have the lead and teams are pushing.

United also has reasons to be concerned. The pain of missing the playoffs the last four seasons is real. On the last day of the regular season in both 2008 and 2009 United had its playoffs dreams squashed. Last year United unraveled over the final month of the season with Chris Pontius sidelined by a broken leg.

More recently United has witnessed Chicago, Houston, and Columbus fall to teams below them in the standings. Indeed this playoff push is not for the faint of heart. Only first place Kansas City has clinched a playoff spot in the east and only five points separate second place New York from sixth place Columbus.

In short Saturdays game against Toronto FC is not without anxiety for the Black and Red. Toronto FC is winless in its last eleven games and is starving for success. TFC should also be angry with four goals conceded in each of its last two games to add to league-high total of 59 goals against for the season.

While it is reasonable to assume that Toronto is due for some measure of happiness in front of its passionate and knowledgeable supporters, it seldom has gone that way. Two years ago United added to Torontos legacy of woe when Julius James scored in a 1-0 win that triggered a chorus of the Twisted Sister song Were Not Going To take It from fans at BMO Field.

Thats history and United has to be concerned with the present. The eerie timing of Dwayne De Rosarios season ending injury, similar to when Pontius was lost last year, unsettled supporters afraid of a similar ending, but the United is demonstrating a resolve made possible by its depth and versatility.

In its last two road matches United has gone with a 4-5-1 formation with Lionard Pajoy as the lone forward up top. Reserve midfielder Lewis Neal is starting to take a more prominent role. He has been used on the flank and as a holding midfielder. Against Portland Chris Pontius shifted into a withdrawn striker role behind Pajoy.

With all its possibilities on the team sheet, United can also take confidence in the possibilities should this tight Eastern Conference come down to a tiebreaker. The first two tiebreakers are total goals scored and goal differential. Only New York has scored more goals than United and only New York and Kansas City has a better goal differential.

I have been here since the 2009 season and we have yet to make the playoffs, said United goalkeeper Bill Hamid. When I was a kid coming to the games, they (United) were always in the playoffs. I want to do my part to make it happen again.

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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