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.”

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.