DCU, Red Bull playoff series rescheduled

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DCU, Red Bull playoff series rescheduled

Due to the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, Major League Soccer requested that D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls switch their home matches in the upcoming two-match Eastern Conference semifinals.  DCU will now open the series at home on Saturday, November 3 at 8 p.m. and their originally scheduled November 7 match in Washington will now be played that night in New York at 8 p.m.

"This was a tough decision but one that is much bigger than the sport of soccer,"  said league commissioner Don Garber.  "Hurricane Sandy is an epic and unprecedented natural disaster, one that continues to affect all of us who live in the New York, New Jersey and tri-state area.  Most of us are still without power and with limited access to communication."

Much of New York City and New Jersey remains without power and with severe flooding in some areas.  The league offices remain closed and have been without power since Monday.  While flood waters reached Red Bull Arena, the stadium did not experience any interior water damage but has relied on backup generators since the storm hit.  

"We thought at the end of the day it was in both parties' best interest to find a suitable alternative," said New York Red Bulls General Manager Jerome de Bontin.

Many attendees rely upon PATH trains to travel to Red Bull Arena.  With the entire New York Subway system, including the PATH, suspended, De Bontin assured that Red Bull is working with the city to find alternative transportation for their Wednesday home match should the PATH still be unavailable.  

"This will have a competitive impact on D.C., we understand that and deeply appreciate their support," said Garber.

Tickets purchased for the November 7 match at RFK will be honored for the newly schedule home game on Saturday or will be refunded.  Both matches will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network.  In addition, both clubs have agreed to allow a greater ticket allotment and more flexible seating options for visiting fans.  

"Our fans in the past have responded very quickly when we've had playoff games with quick turnarounds," said D.C. United President and CEO Kevin Payne.  "We think that we still have among the best fan bases in the league and we are entirely confident that our fans will come out and give us the home field advantage that we would have enjoyed Wednesday night."

"I think that there are very few teams in Major League Soccer that could pull something like this off," said Garber.  "Part of our willingness to go down this path was the confidence that we have in Kevin [Payne] and D.C. United and, frankly, the passion of their fans."

The league hopes that Red Bull Arena will be ready to host the second match of the series come Wednesday.  According to De Bontin, the club expects to have full power back by Monday, though league officials will look for a suitable alternative in the area should their power not be restored. 

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.