United looking to clinch playoff spot

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United looking to clinch playoff spot

Watch D.C. United battle the Columbus Crew NOW on CSN!

D.C. United and the Columbus Crew are two of Major League Soccer’s original franchises and they have shared plenty of drama. There is more on the way Saturday at R.F.K. Stadium when the two teams meet in game with major playoff implications.

For United it is real simple. A win or tie against the Crew will secure United’s first playoff berth since the 2007 season. The current playoff drought is similar to the stretch from 2000-2002 when United also failed make the post season. United ended that drought in dramatic fashion when they went on to win MLS Cup 2004.

“We are not thinking beyond making the playoffs,” said United’ head coach Ben Olsen. “I think this team has improved from last year. I think that is pretty evident. That is enough. We still have to get in the playoffs to make that progress valid.”

That the Crew is involved in such an important match for United is nothing new. In the early years of MLS United against the Crew was one of the league’s strongest rivalries. In three seasons from 1997-1999 United eliminated the Crew in the playoffs to advance to the championship game.

More recently it was the Crew that prevented United from being a part of the 2008 MLS Cup playoffs. United was only a year removed from winning the Supporter’s Shield in 2007 and needed a win against the Crew on the final day of the 2008 season to make the playoffs. The Crew won at home 1-0.

This time it is Columbus that is facing an almost must-win situation against United. The Crew is in sixth place in the Eastern Conference and only one point behind Houston for a playoff spot. The Crew has been resilient getting late goals in its last two games to secure valuable points. A loss to United would not eliminate the Crew, but make its road to the playoffs more complicated.

The loss of Dwayne De Rosario to a knee injury in Canada’s now failed World Cup bid was expected to complicate United’s post season path. De Rosario has been missed, but United is unbeaten in five games without him. United has secured points from its last four games with just one goal in each game.

“We have put balls away when we have needed to,” United leading scorer Chris Pontius. “Our defense has been clutch. Obviously I would like to get the offense going. We have had De Ro (Dwayne De Rosario) out and we have had to shuffle guys in. But part of it has been sloppiness on offense by me and some other guys.”

In the last four games United has received its four goals from four different scorers. Lionard Pajoy saved United in a road win over Philadelphia. Branko Boskovic delivered  United a 1-0 win over Chivas USA. Chris Ponitus scored in a 1-1 draw with Portland and in it s last game Hamdi Salihi’s 88th minute goal was the difference in a1-0 win at Toronto.

For Salihi it was his first goal since the end of June and a credit to United’s team spirit. Roles have changed on both offense and defense, but as team the players have stayed together. Now for the first time since 2007 United has a chance to determine its playoff fate before the final day of the season. It would be helpful with United closing the season at Chicago.

“When I first realized we had the opportunity to do it (make playoffs) in front of our fans that added extra incentive on top of everything,” said goalkeeper Bill Hamid who grew up a United fan. “The fans deserve this opportunity as well. They have been with us through thick and thin and they deserve an opportunity to celebrate with us.”

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.