United look to keep rolling vs. SKC

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United look to keep rolling vs. SKC

It's been a good week for Sporting Kansas City. After snaring there points on the road against New England, SKC returned home and worked 120 minutes and won the U.S. Open Cup.

In short, D.C. United is looking to spoil the party.

"The confidence is high on this team right now," said United leading scorer Chris Pontius. "We believe we can go in there and do something special."

United goes into tonight's match at Livestrong Sporting Park on the heels of Saturday's 1-0 home result against Columbus. In that game Pontius continued his magnificent 2012 with his tenth goal, but Dwayne De Rosario suffered a sore shoulder and is now listed as doubtful to play against Kansas City.

De Rosario has played in all 21 of United's matches this season and he would be missed if he is forced to the bench. Still United has proven to be resilient with their depth and versatility. For example, both De Rosario and Pontius have succeeded in forward and midfield roles.

De Rosario and newcomer Long Tan has been the first choice tandem up top for United. Tan is likely to continue in his role. He has impressed with his runs off the ball and ability to get into scoring position. Tan's lone MLS goal was last year against United when he played for Vancouver.

De Rosario did train on Thursday and United's need for him to play is heightened by a shortage of healthy forwards. Head coach Ben Olsen's other favored forward options Maicon Santos and Hamdi Salihi are out. Salihi has a toe injury and Santos is dealing with a stomach virus.

United also knows it will have to go without Robbie Russell again at right back where Chris Korb has served as a more than a capable fill-in. Daniel Woolard, who was having his best professional season, is now also on the sideline with concussion symptoms and that presents an opening at left back.

On the plus side Andy Najar is back with the United after playing for Honduras at the Olympics where Los Catrachos reached the quarterfinals. Najar rejoins a team that has been getting inspired play from its flanks with Pontius and more recently rookie Nick De Leon. Najar will have to again compete for his spot if there is not room in the starting eleven because of injury.

"I talked to Andy to make sure he understands it's D.C. United time," Olsen said. "I have been through that and whether you do well or not it is intense being apart of the Olympics. Doing well may be even is more taxing. He didnt play the last game and he didnt have 90-minute games before that."

On Wednesday Sporting Kansas City claimed its second U.S. Open Cup title, but it took penalty kicks to decide it after the match with the Seattle Sounders finished 1-1 through 120 minutes. The match marked the return of Roger Espinoza from playing with Najar for Honduras at the Olympics.

"Kansas City not an easy place to play," said Pontius. "Hopefully we can catch them on a little bit of tired legs and then make them pay. They are very athletic, very organized and they have Espinoza back and that will be a plus for them."

Sporting head coach Peter Vermes might have to adjust his lineup given the minutes his charges have been put through. It is possible that C.J. Sapong, who is from Manassas, could factor in the game after missing the last two matches with a hip injury. Sapong has five goals and is second to Kei Kamara, who has eight goals, on the SKC scoring chart.

"Regardless of what they (SKC) put out there, it's still a philosophy that's the same," noted Olsen. "The way we want to go about them is not going to change. They have a good team speed about them, they like to pressure high and get you in bad spots."

Sporting does not give up much on defense. In the last six matches SKC has recorded four clean sheets. The 1-0 win over New England was the 10th shutout of the season for goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, keeping him in a tie for the league lead with Houston's Tally Hall.

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.