DCU ready to make history

D.C. United vs. Red Bulls

DCU ready to make history

When D.C. United takes the field this Saturday for the first game of their two-game Eastern Conference Semifinals series, they'll be lining up against a side featuring two of the league's top scorers in Kenny Cooper (18 goals) and Thierry Henry (15 goals).  Thanks to the pair's goal scoring prowess the Red Bulls rank third in the league in goals with 53.  In addition, Henry and company bring a wealth of playoff experience to the pitch. 

"They've got more World Cup games than we have playoff games," said DCU head coach Ben Olsen.  "It's a great group they've put together, a star-studded line up and they're playing very well right now. Guys like Henry are playing at their tops --he's playing better than I've ever seen him play in America."

D.C. United has not seen a playoff match since 2007 and not a single player from that team remains in the line up.  For captain Chris Pontius, DCU's longest tenured player, Saturday's match will be the first playoff game of his career.

"They have experience and they have very good players," said Pontius.  "I think as a team we've really come together these last few weeks.  I think the results have shown that.  We're a tough team to beat right now and I don't think anyone looks forward to playing us."

Though New York's roster boasts players with experience in just about every soccer championship in the world, the team is overwhelmingly top heavy.  Two players account for 62-percent of the Red Bulls' high-flying offense.  After Cooper and Henry, scoring drops off sharply.

"We've got a big job ahead of us," added Olsen.  "But I like our team.  We've got a good team, a good group, and sometimes that gets you past a team that has great individuals and that's kind of what I think is what this is about right now: it's a team versus some really experienced, good individuals and we'll see what ends up happening.

"Rarely in this league have teams been very very good on the offensive side and very very good on the defensive side.  Usually it's been one or the other or a balance of both.  I'd like to think that we're a balance of both right now, but make no mistake: their attack is real.  They've got some offensive weapons and some real experience up there so you try to keep them off the board."

Olsen was a part of D.C. United's rich history --one that includes winning more championships than any other team in the league.  Now in his coaching role, Olsen is ready for a new chapter in United's history. 

"The past is the past here. I want to start creating the future and making some history of our own."

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

usatsi_9669071.jpg
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.