Olsen, United ready to take New York

799914.png

Olsen, United ready to take New York

U.S. Open Cup disappointment aside, D.C. United is trying to keep the feel-good factor going. The Black and Red navigated their way to three points last week in Philadelphia to remain in first place and now feature an All-Star coach on the sideline for Sundays game against New York.

It was announced this week that Ben Olsen will serve as head coach when the Major League Soccer All Stars play Chelsea next month in Philadelphia. Olsen, who takes his job seriously but not himself, joked that he was the choice because they ran out of candidates and with the game at PPL Park it would be an easy commute for him.

In reality Olsen, in only his second full season as head coach, is honored at his All-Star inclusion. Olsen is quick to make it a team honor with credit to his players and staff. It adds up because United continues to come together as a group. Depth had added competition within the squad and the strength is showing in the results.

In jumping back into league play after a 22-day break, United found a way to get the desired result against the Union and extend its winning streak to four games. As expected the Union, playing in interim head coachs John Hackworths first game, brought fresh ideas and energy to the field. The Union had the better of the possession and play, but United had Chris Pontius goal to secure the 1-0 win.

The ability to grind out results is a big difference this year, said Olsen. Last year we were in a bunch of games, but we just did not have the experience to manage games and see games out. We do want to get to that point where we are dominating possession and style. That still needs to come.

As United goes in pursuit of that style, the plot thickens. With the aid of some traveling United supporters, Sunday nights nationally televised match against the Red Bulls is sold out. The match will also be the second in the Atlantic Cup. With the support of Chris Pontius hat trick United won the first meeting back in April 4-1.

United vs. Red Bulls is also a top of the table clash. After 16 matches United is at the top with 30 points. The Red Bulls are in third place and have 27 points from 15 matches with Sporting Kansas City sandwiched in between on 29 points from just 14 matches. The Red Bulls managed to salvage a 1-1 tie mid-week on the road against Vancouver.

The Red Bulls have now gone three games without a win since running up an impressive five-game winning streak. Most of that winning streak was accomplished without forward Thierry Henry, who has been bothered by a calf strain. In addition defender Rafael Marquez has been absent because of a thigh injury, but both players could be on the field Sunday.

If Henry is in the lineup we know what he offers, added Olsen. But for the most part well try and get ourselves as ready as we can be on our side and everything we can control on our end and then see what their lineup has in store when we get to New York.

Indeed regardless of who is in on New Yorks side, United has to be focused on developing the way Olsen wants his team to play. There are no excuses. United is healthy and can use the summer months for a launching pad for a strong finish to the season and a road win on Sunday would add rocket fuel to the cause.

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.