United look to make dreams a reality vs. Dynamo

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United look to make dreams a reality vs. Dynamo

If D.C. United can turn belief into goals, then the Black and Red will make it through to their sixth MLS Cup appearance. The home side is confident, but the reality is United is down two goals heading into Sunday's Eastern Conference finale against Houston at R.F.K. Stadium.

It's a total-goal series and the Dynamo is in the lead in its bid to return to MLS Cup for a second consecutive year after a 3-1 win over United last Sunday. The Dynamo entered the post-season as the last seed in the Eastern Conference, but reached this point with a win over Chicago and two-goal victory in game one of its series with Sporting Kansas City.

"We cannot go out and expect to get two goals in the first ten minutes," said United midfielder Perry Kitchen. "We expect them to have a similar approach to when they played K.C. in K.C. with the same sort of scenario. They might sit back and with stand the pressure. We need to be patient; we need to move the ball, still keep the width, and hopefully get chances."

A two-goal cushion was enough to put the Dynamo through to the Eastern Conference finals after a 1-0 loss to Kansas City in the second leg. United will be trying disrupt that pattern by the Dynamo and is hoping the return of Bill Hamid from red card suspension and the availability of Dwyane De Rosario makes a difference.

De Rosario has been sidelined since mid-September with a knee injury suffered in a World Cup qualifier for Canada. Without De Rosario United surprisingly put together a nine-game unbeaten run. It is not clear if De Rosario will start, but his assistance will likely be needed for a team that is also dealing with other injuries.

"It does seem like a game that you might want to use a guy like Dwayne De Rosario, but a lot of things happen in ninety minutes of soccer," said United head coach Ben Olsen. "You prepare in certain ways and you have to be ready to adapt. Dwayne is pretty gutsy and he can find through more than your average player from my experience with him."

"We just have to get one first," added De Rosario, who sounded ready to have his number called. "We know we have to score multiple goals, but we have to get one first. If we get that first goal with the fans and playing at home everything else will follow with the momentum. We have to get that first one and of course we canít concede."

Certainly De Rosario, who won two MLS Cups with Houston, would be a welcome addition to United's team sheet. Chris Pontius, Brandon McDonald and Marcelo Saragosa all failed to finish the first game in Houston because of injuries. Olsen called the groin injury to Pontius the most severe of his ailing players, but did not rule him out for Sunday.

Despite the injuries and two-goal deficit, United remains convinced it still has enough to earn a chance to host MLS Cup 2012. Recent history probably helps United believe with players like Lewis Neal, Branko Boskovic, and Hamdi Salihi all playing a part in decisive moments in allowing United to grab points and second place in the Eastern Conference.

"We have adequate backups and we know that everyone of us will be ready to step up regardless of who is in there," said Hamid. "Throughout the season we have had to lean on every single player in this locker room. We know anyone can go out there, stay tuned in and perform and get the job done."

Houston was on its heels in the first leg after a goal from United rookie Nick De Leon. The game then slowly unraveled for United after a no-call on a now much debated challenge by the Dynamo's Andre Hainault. Regardless of the call, the Dynamo showed its quality and playoff pedigree with three second-half goals.

"We can't be silly in particular on set pieces where they have shown they are pretty darn good at," said Olsen. "Of course we have to make things happen, but that's what we do at home. We know we have to be aggressive and go after them, but we have to be patient. It is that fine balance."

While the Dynamo has the most important factor, the score line, in its favor, United is looking forward to playing at home. The Black and Red worked hard to earn the home field advantage, although Hurricane Sandy forced them to surrender it in the New York series. Now United is hoping the wider field, Houston's field was only 115x70, and passionate fan base will make a difference.

"Every home game we come out and put our stamp on the game as early as possible," Hamid said. "If we do that then maybe the game opens up and we take advantages of some chances. If we take advantage of our chances and tuck those away, then we can definitely make our mark on this game."

United fans are counting on that and there is really no other option.

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.