United have to get creative against Dynamo

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United have to get creative against Dynamo

R.F.K Stadium is big, but on the field space will be at a premium for D.C United in Saturday's home match against the Houston Dynamo. An organized and disciplined Dynamo side has found a way to 8 points from 5 matches and will test United's six-game unbeaten run.

"They (Houston) know each other very well," said United head coach Ben Olsen. "You don't get a lot of chances against Houston, you never do. You have to take advantage of those few opportunities you have."

Olsen's standing desire to have his team switch the point of attack will be especially important against the Dynamo. An offense without invention or creativity will struggle against the Dynamo's defense that is particularly strong in the middle with central defenders Geoff Cameron and Bobby Boswell.

United's flank players, which likely again will include Danny Cruz and Nick De Leon, will be needed to help the stretch the field. In addition United could use its outside backs to help in the attack. That is not the strength of left back Daniel Woolard, but it's possible for right back Robbie Russell to pick his spots and go forward.

Heading into Saturday's match United's offense is showing plenty of signs of life. Now playing at forward, Chris Pontius had his first career hat trick in Sunday's 4-1 win over New York and was named the MLS Player-of-the-Week. United is averaging nearly 15 shots per contest, and that means goals -- United has 12 on the season, trailing only New York (17) and San Jose (13).

On defense, United worked extensively on set pieces this week. The Dynamo has only 5 goals on the season, but two have come off corner kicks. However United should be confident with only eight goals allowed this season compared to 19 goals conceded at the same time last year.

"It's been a good run but we have long way to go," Olsen said. "We are starting to become a group that is tough to play against and that is committed every time that we step on the field. Now the soccer part and all the intricacies need to get a little better and sharper and I think k that will come with time. We are still a group that is new."

The work rate of United forward Maicon Santos is proving to be a critical ingredient in the Black and Red's early success. Santos has 4 goals and 1 assist to lead the team, but his active play has led to other goals and scoring chances. At 6'1'' and 186 pounds Santos gives United a different dynamic.

"He (Santos) gives us that physical presence that we have been missing up there," Olsen added. "Guys are doing a good job of playing off of him and that's one side of it. The other side is he is putting the ball in the back of the net. On the defensive side, he is working hard to put their backs under pressure and create turnovers."

Along with drawing attention for their six game unbeaten run, United is raising eyebrows for accomplishing it without goals from reigning league MVP Dwayne De Rosario, who is operating out of the midfield and not at forward. Through eight matches this season only four players in MLS have taken more shots. Still despite having 26 shots De Rosario remains goalless.

"He is in a different spot," Olsen explained. "No doubt if you pout De Ro right around the goal for 90 minutes he is going to get his goals. Right now we need him in the midfield. We are looking for him to be our rhythm guy to get the ball and get us out of pressure and be a link guy and then came late to play in and around the goal."

Saturday is an important test for United. Next week United travels to San Jose on Wednesday and Toronto on Saturday. Then on May 12 United will be in Houston when the Dynamo opens its new stadium. Three points at home are vital for United in an Eastern Conference table that is crowded below first place Sporting Kansas City.

NWSL Highlights: Spirit catch Thorns atop standings in Week 13

NWSL Highlights: Spirit catch Thorns atop standings in Week 13

Week 13 in the National Women’s Soccer League saw the Washington Spirit finally catch the Portland Thorns atop the table, while the Houston Dash snapped a six-game losing streak.

Orlando and Chicago squared off in a game with huge playoff implications, and Sky Blue FC and Boston met for Northeast bragging rights.

NWSL Week 10 highlights include final games by USWNT members

NWSL Week 10 highlights include final games by USWNT members

Another week of NWSL action is in the books, but Week 10 was far from just another slate of games. We saw the Western New York Flash make league history in Rochester plus late drama in Orlando and Washington.

This was also the final weekend of NWSL play before members of the U.S. Women's National Team report for camp ahead of the Rio Olympics. 

With 1-0 loss to Colombia, US finishes 4th in Copa America

With 1-0 loss to Colombia, US finishes 4th in Copa America

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Carlos Bacca beat goalkeeper Tim Howard by sliding to poke in a headed cross in the 31st minute, and the United States finished fourth in the Copa America with a 1-0 defeat against Colombia on Saturday night.

After losing to Argentina 4-0 in the semifinals, the 31st-ranked U.S. was beaten by No. 3 Colombia for the second time in the 16-nation tournament.

Bobby Wood came closest to scoring for the U.S. when he hit a post in the 62nd, one minute after Colombia's Juan Cuadrado hit the underside of the crossbar.

The U.S. matched its previous best finish in the tournament, when it lost to Colombia in the 1995 fourth-place game at Uruguay.

After the Americans lost to Jamaica in the semifinals of last year's CONCACAF Gold Cup and struggled in the semifinal round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann was hoping his team would rebound in the Copa, when right back DeAndre Yedlin, central defender John Brooks, midfielder Gyasi Zardes and forward Bobby Wood solidified their positions as regular starters.

Darlington Nagbe and 17-year-old Christian Pulisic again entered as second-half subs, two more players who could break through and replace veterans during the remaining 16 months of World Cup qualifying.

Colombia, which never has won the Copa America, finished third for fourth time but first since 1995. Argentina plays Chile for the title on Sunday night in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Both teams finished a man short, when American defender Michael Orozco and Colombian defender Santiago Arias were ejected for a confrontation in the third minute of second-half stoppage time. Orozco is suspended the U.S.'s World Cup qualifier at St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Sept. 2, and Arias for Colombia's qualifier against Venezuela.

Klinsmann inserted the 37-year-old Howard into his lineup in place of Brad Guzan, who had started the previous nine games. Matt Besler was in central defense instead of Brooks, who was bothered by knee inflammation, and Orozco was at left back because Fabian Johnson has a sore groin.

Midfielders Jermaine Jones and Alejandro Bedoya returned to the lineup along with Wood after the three served one-game suspensions.

Colombia scored after Juan Cuadrado, from along a flank, cut the ball back to James Rodriguez, just outside the penalty area. Arias made a run to get by Bedoya, and Rodriguez lofted a pass to Arias, who jumped at the edge of the 6-yard box and headed the ball across Howard's goal to Bacca. The forward slid ahead of Yedlin to nudge the ball in for his 13th international goal, his second of the tournament.

Clint Dempsey, who led the U.S. with three goals in the tournament, nearly scored on a free kick in the 51st minute. Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina dived left and lifted his right arm to tip Dempsey's effort wide.