DCU president and CEO steps down

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DCU president and CEO steps down

After 17 years with the club, D.C. United president and CEO Kevin Payne announced his resignation today.  

“Very few people in American soccer have put their stamp on a club as Kevin has with D.C. United,” said United Head Coach Ben Olsen. “His loyalty to the team and me is something for which I’ll always be indebted.”

Payne has served at the helm since United first came to the district in 1996. During his tenure the club became the most decorated MLS franchise, winning four MLS Cup titles.

“Kevin’s lengthy list of accomplishments speaks to his strong acumen as a leader,” said owner Jason Levien in a team statement. “His dedication to the organization deserves deep admiration and appreciation. As D.C. United begins a new chapter, Kevin's leadership has helped to prepare us for this important and potential-filled inflection point in the club’s history.”

During his time in D.C., Payne also earned honors and awards of his own, including the prestigious Werner Fricker Builder Award by U.S. Soccer in February 2011 for his work promoting soccer in the U.S.

“They say the only constant in life is change,” said Payne.  “For me, D.C. United has been like my child.  We brought the team into the D.C. and national sports world 17 years ago and every day since – good and bad – has been a labor of love.  This team has provided many great memories of championships and historic accomplishments, but I will best remember the people I've had the chance to meet, to work with, strive with, celebrate with, and sometimes to share disappointment with. 

“To the players, coaches, co-workers and fans, I can only say thank you so much for the great privilege of having been part of the D.C. United family.  It’s very difficult for me to express how I have felt, and still feel, about all of you.  I will forward a longer statement in the weeks to come to try to do a better job of thanking everyone for all they have meant to me. 

“I'm very excited about the next phase of my life, and very excited about the next phase for D.C. United, as well.  I know the leadership of the team will take it to new heights on, and off, the field.  I look forward to returning to RFK and wish everyone in the D.C. United family the best of luck.”

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."

MORE SOCCER: STL: 'Tyrant'-like act by Spirit to stifle Rapinoe protest

Spirit players speak out against owner shutting down Rapinoe's protest

Spirit players speak out against owner shutting down Rapinoe's protest

Two days after the Washington Spirit organization changed the timing of their pregame routine in order to preempt Megan Rapinoe’s national anthem protest, Spirit players are speaking out against the team’s decision.

"We respect our owner’s freedom to share his views and we understand his intentions,” read a statement posted on the Spirit website. “But as a team we don’t necessarily agree with those opinions or the actions taken Wednesday evening.” 

The statement - signed ‘all of the players of the Washington Spirit’ - was also posted to Spirit captain, and longtime U.S. Women’s National Team star, Ali Krieger’s personal website. 

“As a team, we were disappointed we were not informed of the plans for the national anthem or given an opportunity to weigh in on the decision,” the statement continued.

The Washington Spirit and Rapinoe’s Seattle Reign FC were still in the locker rooms when the national anthem was played ahead of schedule at Wednesday’s National Women’s Soccer League match between the two teams. 

In an exclusive interview Tuesday afternoon, Rapinoe told CSN that she planned to kneel during the national anthem prior to Wednesday's game - as she did before Sunday's NWSL contest between Seattle and the Chicago Red Stars.