DCU's eastern push continues in Montreal

DCU's eastern push continues in Montreal

D.C. United heads into Saturdays match in Montreal against the suddenly surging Impact reassured of its standing as a legitimate playoff contender in 2012. In addition the true depth of its much heralded depth has also been reaffirmed.

United delivered a 4-2 win over the Chicago Fire on Wednesday with defender Emiliano Dudar and midfielder Branko Boskovic suspended on red cards. Starting outside backs Robbie Russell and Daniel Woolard also remained sidelined by injuries. The absences forced changes, but failed to deter United from responding to Sundays disappointing draw with Philadelphia.

While Dudar and Boskovic are available for the Montreal match, it will be interesting to see if head coach Ben Olsen stays with the formation that brought success against the Fire. For the first time this season Perry Kitchen and Marcelo Sargosa started next to each other in the center of the midfield.

The partnership allowed Kitchen to pick his spots and get involved in the attack. Going forward is not typically Kitchens role, but he was effective. Saragosas work rate helped United seize more possession and disrupt on defense. There were also times when Saragosa provided a surprise element coming out of the midfield and into the attacking third.

"On paper it has always made sense, Olsen said after the game. If their spacing is right, they can coexist. Sometimes when you have two like-minded guys in the same spot, you worry about them both doing that holding midfield role and not being able to push out. I'll tell you what they did it very well tonight and I was very pleased. It's an option now going forward for sure."

Wednesday also saw Andy Najar reprise his role as a right back. It was his third start of the season in that position and he excelled. Najars athleticism and defensive skills helped keep the speedy Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko in check and his explosive runs up the flank helped trigger the offense including an assist on Lionard Pajoys first goal with United.

He (Najar) has these unique qualities and they all lend itself to the modern right back, noted Olsen. You look at soccer now and the outside backs have to be good on the ball and dynamic, they have to have great engines to get up and down the field and they have to be brave in their defending.

United is also in a better emotional state. The 1-1 tie against Philadelphia ended in chaos. Along with the red cards to Dudar and Boskovic anger and frustration boiled over to a point where teammates Brandon McDonald and Chris Korb were shouting at each other. Against Chicago Korb assisted on McDonalds goal.

Captain Dwayne De Rosario, who also missed a penalty kick in the closing moments against the Philadelphia, raised his game. Along with opening the scoring against the Fire with his 99th career goal, De Rosario provided the threat and invention that has made him a league MVP. With Saragosa and Kitchen behind him he was able to keep the pressure on Chicago.

It's a long season and this is crunch time where every team is picking it up a gear and we need to do the same, especially me, De Rosario said. Im one of the main leaders of this team. It's going to take that same mental toughness, that same focus going into Montreal. We're going up against another team that has been doing well, but if we play our game, we should be fine."

The Impact has found its legs in its maiden MLS season. Last week at Stade Saputo the Impact surprised 3-1 for its fourth consecutive win. The Impact has played two more games than any team in the Eastern Conference, but is now in sixth place with 36 points from 27 matches.

Former Italian international Marco Di Vaio is settling in as the Impacts striker and has two goals and one assist during Montreals current four-game winning streak. At the back former United backstop Troy Perkins has provided a steadying influence to the Impact since being acquired in a deal that sent Donovan Ricketts to Portland.

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.