United after fresh start against Fire

United after fresh start against Fire

With a missed penalty kick and three red cards in the games closing minutes, its hard not to focus on the end of D.C United 1-1 draw on Sunday against Philadelphia. The late dramatics masks the real concern for United ahead of Wednesdays home game against Chicago.

I think that it is our mentality and our focus we need to chamge, said defender Brandon McDonald. You see the way we played the first 15 minutes of that game and it wasnt good enough. In those games with so much on the line you have to stay focused for the whole game.

To be sure it was hard for United fans to witness Dwayne De Rosario score the apparent the goal-ahead goal on a penalty kick only to have it nullified because of encroachment. The argument between players that followed the call led to a red card for Branko Boskovic.

De Rosarios second penalty kick attempt sailed over the goal. Then Uniteds defender Emiliano Dudar was shown a straight red card for a reckless challenge. Before the final whistle was blown, the Unions Sheanon Williams received his second yellow. There was anger all around with teammates McDonald and Chris Korb arguing while leaving the field.

Yes the finale of the game was messy, but its beginning was even more of a concern.

The way we started was unacceptable from an emotional standpoint, said United head coach Ben Olsen. Also tactically we were a little off. I didnt like the way we responded at the end with Korb and McDonald, but I dealt with it and that should be something that stays in the locker room.

I dont mind the passion and the fight, added Olsen. I saw some commitment from guys I have not seen all year and I have been asking for that. I would like to see that from word go when we are in a situation where we are fighting for our lives in the playoffs.

The heat is very much on in Major League Soccers Eastern Conference. United is on 37 points and back in a playoff position sitting in fifth place. The Fire is four points ahead of United, but has played one more game. It is the first meeting of the season between sides eager to end playoff droughts.

The Fire last made the playoffs in 2009 and is gaining in confidence with three straight wins for the second time this season. United has not been in the post-season since 2007 and Sundays draw with Philadelphia ended a seven-game home winning streak. In its last eight games United has struggled to three wins, four losses, and the one tie.

Its tough right now when you have guys in and out of the lineup, noted United captain Dwayne De Rosario. We have to make it tougher for them (opponents) and set the tone from the opening whistle. We are fortunate that we had a good start; otherwise we would be in a lot of trouble right now. Now we have to wake up and realize every play matters. We cant afford to take plays off.

With Boskovic and Dudar suspended on red cards, Uniteds options are reduced. Boskovic made a difference on set plays and in distribution when he came off the bench against the Union. Dudar had worked his way back into the starting eleven and was especially needed with Robbie Russell and Daniel Woolard sidelined by injuries.

Russell with plantar fasciitis and Woolard, who is recovering from concussion symptoms, are not ready to return. Recently acquired Mike Chabala started at left back against Kansas City. Dejan Jakovic played right back against Philadelphia, but with Dudar out might return to a central partnership with McDonald.

Regardless of how the back is constructed for United, it is the area where critical lapses have to be avoided. United has a talented but young defense. The goalkeeper Bill Hamid is also young and to add to the challenge is the multiple lineup changes brought on by injuries on defense.

For us when we are communicating, we have to be more receptive, McDonald noted. I think the information is there, but sometimes it is not coming in and being processed. We are being more reactive, instead of getting there before the action occurs.

Uniteds defense needs to be ready for a new forward combination that has the Fire excited. Chris Rolfe is back from Denmark and he has picked up where he left in MLS with five goals in twelve matches. Dutch striker Sherjill McDonald in his only his second start with the Fire scored his first goal in a 2-1 victory over New England.

I like that guys understand now it is time to fight, Olsen said. Yes we have to be better, but I thought the second half (against Philadelphia) was probably some of the best stuff we have put together as far as getting after a team and getting our outside backs forward.

Hope Solo criticizes 'cowardly' Swedish team following Olympic loss

Hope Solo criticizes 'cowardly' Swedish team following Olympic loss

The U.S. Women's Soccer Team was bounced from the Olympic Tournament on Friday following a shocking 1-1 shootout loss to Sweden.

The USWNT had to once again rally back from 1-0 — as they did against Colombia — with Alex Morgan scoring an equalizer in the 78th minute.

After 30 minutes fo scoreless extra time, the game went to penalty kicks. Morgan and Christen Press missed their attempts, and Hope Solo was unable to stop Lisa Dahlkvist's attempt, snapping the USWNT's 14-game Olympic win streak. It was also the first time the USWNT did not advance to the Olympic gold medal games.

Solo, who has been the focal point of the USWNT's time in Rio due to the chants of "Zika" lobbed her way in the tournament opener, along with her subpar performance in the 2-2 draw against Colombia, once again made headlines following the shocking loss.

While Solo was lauded for the poise she showed following the major gaffe in the Colombia game, she had some choice words for the Swedish team following the loss on Friday.

Solo has never been one to mince words.  

While it was not particularly clear that the Swedish side was playing dirty, Sweden did have 15 penalties to the United States too. The United States outshot Sweden 27-6 and had six shots on goal to Sweden's two. But despite the stat discrepancy, Sweden packed their defense in, forcing the United States to take an increased number of shots from outside. Sweden also did a tremendous job of counter-attacking with deep balls, which the side — coached by former USWNT coach Pia Sundhage — a bevy of uneven scoring chances.

When asked about her "coward" comment, Solo provided clearer detail.

"Sweden dropped off," she said to reporters after the game. "They didn't want to play. They didn't want to pass the ball. They didn't want to play great soccer. It was a combative game, a physical game. Exactly what their game plan was. They dropped into a 50. They didn't try and press. They didn't want to open the game. We had that style of play when Pia was our coach. i don't think they're going to make it far in the tournament. I think it was very cowardly.

"But they won. They're moving on, and we're going home."

Solo then took to Twitter to clarify her comments.

But the outcome remains the same: A stunning loss before the medal round, and to make matters worse, the result will be overshadowed by critical comments.

RELATED: WOULD THIS TEAM OF MARYLAND NATIVES WIN OLYMPIC GOLD?

U.S. women suffer shocking Olympic elimination in shootout loss to Sweden

U.S. women suffer shocking Olympic elimination in shootout loss to Sweden

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — The three-time defending champion U.S. women's national team will miss the Olympic final for the first time after being ousted by Sweden on penalties following a 1-1 draw in the quarterfinals on Friday.

Tied after three rounds in the shootout, Sweden captain Caroline Seger beat Hope Solo and Christen Press' attempt against Hedvig Lindhal went over the net. With the next kick, Lisa Dahlkvist beat an outstretched Solo for the win.

RELATED: HOPE SOLO CRITICIZES "COWARDLY" SWEDISH TEAM AFTER LOSS

As Sweden celebrated, U.S. captain Carli Lloyd crouched on the field at Mane Garrincha Stadium. It was the first time that an Olympic women's match had gone to penalties.

It was the earliest the United States had ever been eliminated from the Olympics since women's soccer became a sport in 1996.

After a scoreless first half, Stina Blackstenius scored in the 61st minute to give Sweden a 1-0 lead.

Alex Morgan scored the equalizer in the 78th and the match went to extra time. Lloyd had a header called back for offside in the 115th minute, and Lotta Schelin was offside on her attempt against Solo a minute later -- although replays appeared to show otherwise.

The reigning World Cup champions, who are also four-time Olympic champions, had not dropped a match this year. But it Sweden that will play either Australia or host Brazil in the semifinals.

Blackstenius, who came in as a substitute in the first half, broke away and shook off defender Julie Johnston to beat Solo and give Sweden the lead. It was just her second international goal.

Sweden's coach, Pia Sundhage, high-fived her assistants on the bench. Sundhage coached the U.S. team for five years and led the squad to gold medals in both Beijing and London.

The United States got the equalizer with Morgan's shot that bounced off a Sweden defender. It was Morgan's team-leading 13th goal of the year. Lloyd nearly put the United States ahead in the 85th but her kick to the far corner went just wide.

The Americans won their first two matches in Brazil before a surprising 2-2 draw in Manaus against Colombia, which had already been eliminated.

Johnston returned to the starting lineup after missing the last two games with a groin injury and coach Jill Ellis played all her regular starters after rotating and resting many against Colombia in the heat and humidity of the Amazon. Megan Rapinoe, who started against Colombia after missing more than eight months after right knee surgery, was on the bench but came on as a substitute in the second half.

Press replaced Rapinoe in the extra period.

Sweden had won only five matches against the United States. The two teams played to a scoreless draw at last year's World Cup. The last time the two teams met in the Olympics was at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Sundhage was a player on the Sweden team that fell 2-1 to the Americans.

Ranked sixth in the world, Sweden had struggled in its Olympic group with a 5-1 loss to host Brazil and finished 1-1-1.

Lloyd buried her head in her hands early in the second half after her free kick was off the mark. Just moments later, she had another that was off-target, too. The United States struggled to finish throughout the match.

The crowd at Mane Garrincha Stadium in was sparse at the start of the match and never extended much past the lower bowl of the massive 72,000-seat stadium that was reconstructed and expanded for the men's 2014 World Cup.

The fans that were there continued to jeer Solo with shouts of "Zika!" everytime she touched the ball. The fans have taunted her since the opening match in Brazil because of her posts on social media about the virus.

Field condition concerning ahead of USWNT quarterfinal match with Sweden

Field condition concerning ahead of USWNT quarterfinal match with Sweden

The United States is set to play Sweden on Friday in the quarterfinal round of the women’s soccer tournament at the Rio Olympics. The U.S. – fresh off winning their group – is one victory away from advancing to the medal round.

The match will be played at noon ET on NBCSN and while both teams hope to be prepared for Friday’s win-or-go-home affair, the field at Brasilia’s Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha does not appear to be ready for the rigors of elimination soccer.

Friday’s game will be the ninth Olympic match played at Brasilia’s primary stadium. The stadium, named after Brazilian soccer legend Garrincha, hosted a men’s soccer doubleheader (Mexico-South Korea and Argentina-Honduras) on Wednesday night. 

According to a report in the Brazilian publication oLiberal, ‘emergency’ work was done on the field in the three weeks leading up to the Olympics. The Brazilian men’s team opener their Olympic campaign in Brasilia with a scoreless draw against South Africa. 

A men’s quarterfinal between Portugal and Germany is scheduled for Saturday at the Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha, less than 24 hours after the conclusion of the U.S. vs. Sweden women’s game.