United look to continue home dominance

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United look to continue home dominance

Goal-difference allowed D.C. United to maintain possession of first place after Sundays loss to the New York Red Bulls. Keeping possession of the ball is now of more concern for United as it looks to extends its home unbeaten string Saturday against Montreal.

United is 6-0-2 at RFK Stadium since losing its season opener to Sporting Kansas City on March 10. What has transpired over the last three months is the development of United into a legitimate MLS Cup contender, but one that as head coach Ben Olsen always stresses, has plenty of work to do.

In the last two games on the road United struggled to seize control against both Philadelphia and New York. In fact the Union were the better team, but United found a way to a 1-0 win. Against the Red Bulls, United was overwhelmed in the first half and its chase of the game ended up short in a 3-2 loss.

We didnt figure out how to deal with some of the numbers they (Red Bulls) were throwing forward after we scored an early goal, Olsen noted. And, you know much like Philly we adjusted at halftime and I thought things went well from there. It was almost the opposite of the first half, and it was a little unlucky that we didnt finish a couple of pretty good chances there down the stretch.

It's been clear that Branko Boskovic has helped steady the midfield when he was brought on as a second half substitute in the last two games. Beyond his ability to deliver razor sharp set pieces, he has helped United wrestle back control of the matches against the Union and Red Bulls.

I thought overall I saw some really good attacking stuff, and Branko was a part of a lot of them," Olsen said after the loss to the Red Bulls. He came in and slowed the game down for us and gave us some real possession. Dwayne (De Rosario) going up a little bit I thought helped give us a little something.

Boskovic, who has three assists in the last four matches, was rewarded with a new contract this week. Back in 2010 Boskovic was signed as a designated player, but has spent much of his United career struggling with health and fitness. When healthy, Boskovic has displayed the quality that has made him the central figure on Montenegros national team.

Going into Saturdays game against the expansion Impact, Olsen has the luxury of managing a Black and Red side that is essentially at full fitness. Among Olsens options would be to do what he did in the second half of the Red Bulls game, and start Boskovic in the middle and push De Rosario higher below the striker.

If that happens then Olsen must figure out how to play forwards Maicon Santos, Chris Pontius and Hamdi Salihi. The three attackers are playing at a high level and since returning from an injured glut muscle Pontius has netted three goals in two games. With his 8 goals, Pontius is now one ahead of Santos for the teams goal scoring lead.

If Boskovic does get the nod in midfield, Olsen could return Pontius to a familiar position on the left side of midfield. If that happens, Olsen will then have to decide whether to open the game with Santos or Salihi up top with De Rosario. Regardless of whom starts it is clear United has the depth in midfield they will need with Andy Najar set to depart for Olympic duty with Honduras on Monday.

United is all too aware of the dangers of facing the expansion Impact. In their last meeting at RFK Stadium, the Impact earned a 1-1 draw. In fact the Impact opened the season 1-5-2, but since their match against United, they have gone 4-3-1. Like expansion teams often are, the Impact have been wildly inconsistent.

The Impact scored four goals each in two straight home games, before falling to Toronto FC 3-0 on Wednesday night at Stade Saputo. The Impact hardly looked like the side that enjoyed a 4-1 win over Seattle and a 4-2 win over Houston. The match ended with midfielder Patrice Bernier earning a league suspension for a reckless challenge, and he will not play against United.

The Impact have been getting it done it on offense by committee. Eight players have scored at least two goals. That could change with the addition of former Italian international Marco Di Vaio, who made his club debut against Toronto. Di Vaio is one of the greatest goal scorers in Serie A history with 142 goals in 342 games.

It's official: U.S. Soccer hires Bruce Arena to replace Jurgen Klinsmann

It's official: U.S. Soccer hires Bruce Arena to replace Jurgen Klinsmann

NEW YORK – Bruce Arena is returning to coach the U.S. national soccer team, a decade after he was fired.

The winningest coach in American national team history, Arena took over Tuesday, one day after Jurgen Klinsmann was fired. The 65-year-old Arena starts work Dec. 1.

With the U.S. 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, the U.S. Soccer Federation wants to spark a turnaround when the playoffs resume March 24 with a home game against Honduras.

"His experience at the international level, understanding of the requirements needed to lead a team through World Cup qualifying, and proven ability to build a successful team were all aspects we felt were vital for the next coach," USSF President Sunil Gulati, who fired Arena in 2006, said in a statement. "I know Bruce will be fully committed to preparing the players for the next eight qualifying games and earning a berth to an eighth straight FIFA World Cup."

Arena first took over as national team coach after the 1998 World Cup and led the U.S. to a 71-30-29 record.

"I'm looking forward to working with a strong group of players that understand the challenge in front of them after the first two games," Arena said in a statement. "Working as a team, I'm confident that we'll take the right steps forward to qualify"

A wisecracking Brooklynite known for blunt talk and sarcasm, he coached the University of Virginia from 1978-95, then led D.C. United to titles in Major League Soccer's first two seasons before losing in the 1998 final. He guided the Americans to the team's best World Cup finish since 1930, a 1-0 loss to Germany in the 2002 quarterfinals.

He was let go after the team's first-round elimination by Ghana in 2006. Arena coached the New York Red Bulls of MLS from July 2006 to November 2007, then was hired the following August by the Galaxy. He led the team to MLS titles in 2011, 2012 and 2014.

Arena was inducted into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2010.

RELATED: AFTER 18-MONTH DOWNWARD SPIRAL, KLINSMANN FALLS ON HIS OWN SWORD

Marquez's late goal lifts Mexico over US 2-1 in World Cup Qualifier

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USA TODAY Sports

Marquez's late goal lifts Mexico over US 2-1 in World Cup Qualifier

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Rafa Marquez scored on a header in the 89th minute, and Mexico beat the United States 2-1 Friday night in the Americans' first home loss in World Cup qualifying since 2001.

Miguel Layun put Mexico ahead in the 20th minute, but Bobby Wood tied the score in the 49th.

The U.S. dominated the second half before the 37-year-old Marquez, unmarked and drifting across the penalty area, got the back of his head on Layun's corner kick and lifted the ball over goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

Guzan lost the goalkeeper job to Tim Howard, who started at the last two World Cups. But Howard injured his right leg on a goal kick and was replaced in the 40th minute.

The U.S. had beaten Mexico four straight times by 2-0 scores in home qualifiers -- all at Columbus -- and the Americans had been 30-0-2 at home in qualifying since a 3-2 loss to Honduras at Washington's RFK Stadium in September 2001.