Minus De Rosario DCU searches for a plus

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Minus De Rosario DCU searches for a plus

The stadium lights went out at one point during Canadas World Cup qualifier Tuesday in Panama. D.C. United is hoping its bid for the playoffs will not be short circuited by the loss of Dwayne De Rosario to a knee injury suffered in that game.

Life for United without the Canadian international will begin Saturday against New England at RFK Stadium. De Rosario, who played in 26 of Uniteds 27 MLS matches, is out 10-12 weeks because of a sprained MCL that happened in Canadas 2-0 loss to Panama. Just a week ago in the home fixture against Panama De Rosario provided the goal in a 1-0 win.

He is a guy thats scored a bunch of goals for us and for other teams, so it's a guy you want on the field, United midfielder Chris Pontius said of De Rosario. In teams that make deep runs and playoffs, numerous players step up not just one player. We have got to find that and everyone has got to take a little more pressure on their shoulders.

De Rosario is Uniteds captain and has accepted different roles. This season he has been used as both an attacking midfielder and withdrawn forward. De Rosario is tied for second in the league with 12 assists to go with seven goals. On August 29th the reigning league MVP scored his 100th career goal in a 2-2 tie with the New York Red Bulls.

If anything I think there is a higher percentage chance that it (loss of De Rosario) could bring us together, said United head coach Ben Olsen. I dont know if that is going to happen, but I could see that happening more than these guys throwing in the towel. It is not in this groups DNA.

Heading into the match against the Revolution Uniteds first playoff berth in five years is far from assured. United is in sixth place in the Eastern Conference and one point behind Columbus and the final playoff spot. United was in first place at the midpoint of the season, but has lost five of its last nine matches over the past two months.

The timing of De Rosarios injury has also triggered an ominous feeling among Uniteds supporters. On September 10th of last year Pontius suffered a season-ending broken leg against in a 3-0 victory over Chivas USA. United stumbled without Pontius and lost six of its final nine matches.

I think we are stronger mentally and we have better personnel than we did last year at this point, Olsen said. It is great measuring stick for us to move forward and see which guys are ready to give more.

Although its not likely, United has not ruled out looking for help outside the club, but the MLS roster freeze is 5 PM on Saturday. Olsen joked that few clubs are willing to give up a goal scorer for a fourth round draft pick anyway. Against that backdrop it is both a challenge and opportunity for the players on the current roster to somehow fill the void in De Rosarios absence.

For the last four games, starting with a 4-2 win over Chicago, United has gone with a central midfield partnership of Marcelo Saragosa and Perry Kitchen. Over that same stretch Pontius has returned to a role on the left flank. It appears Olsen then has to find someone to partner with forward Lionard Pajoy.

Since being acquired in the trade that sent Danny Cruz to Philadelphia, Pajoy has started Uniteds last five matches and scored on goal. Maicon Santos is healthy again after missing five consecutive matches with a sore foot and is possible option to join Pajoy up top. Santos has seven goals on the season, but has not scored since Uniteds last meeting with New England on May 26.

For all Uniteds troubles on the road, six consecutive losses, United has not lost at home since the season opener against Kansas City. In the Revolution, United will be facing a side that went into a summer swoon. The Revolution had a 10-game winless streak, including seven losses, before finally breaking through in a 2-0 win over Columbus.

Saturdays game will mark Olsens entrance into the D.C. Uniteds Hall of Tradition. Olsen will be recognized for his service to the club as player and will join John Harkes, Marco Etcheverry, Jeff Agoos, Raul Diaz Arce, Eddie Pope and Richie Williams with a banner on the south wall at RFK Stadium.

Olsen appreciates the honor, but his concern is helping to recapture the clubs winning tradition by guiding the Black and Red into the playoffs as a head coach. The matches still have to be played, and without De Rosario, but Uniteds record over its final seven opponents is an impressive 7-1-1.

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.