United looks to strike back

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United looks to strike back

Defensive midfielder is not one of soccers glamour positions. Traditional jersey numbers are not assigned to it like number 9 for striker and number 10 for playmaking midfielder. The importance of a defensive midfielder goes beyond the numbers and is a focus for D.C. United.

United is hoping to have Perry Kitchen still in the starting eleven when it begins a three-game home stretch Wednesday against the Colorado Rapids at R.F.K. Stadium. Kitchen was forced to leave the first half of Saturdays 1-0 loss in Houston with a hyper extended left knee. An MRI revealed no structural damage to Kitchens knee.

We had about four or five guys taking MRIs today, said United head coach Ben Olsen after Mondays training. We are trying to get through and we will see who can walk and who can run. But this year I do have options.

It is no slight to Stephen King, who replaced Kitchen on Saturday, but after the switch in defensive midfield United was not as fluid. Going all the way back to Richie Williams United fans have appreciated the role of the defensive midfielder. From allowing the attacking midfielder to create to helping with possession, the defensive midfielder is an important role that Kitchen has been growing into.

In addition to concern for Kitchen, his first choice replacement Marcelo Saragosa has been battling a calf strain that prevented him from being on the substitutes bench. Also in the defensive third Dejan Jakovic, Emilliano Dudar, and Ethan White continue to recover from injuries.

Up front is where Olsens options come into play and he will need them. Chris Pontius is slowed by tightness in his gluteal muscle and leading scorer Maicon Santos is feeling some wear and tear with a calf injury. The fitness of Pontius and Santos could determine where Dwayne De Rosario plays. De Rosario might be forced to move up to forward.

If De Rosario leaves the midfield then that will create an opening for Branko Boskovic to get his third start of the year. The health questions around Pontius and Santos could also lead to a start for Hamdi Salihi at forward. After a rocky start to his MLS career Salihi has scored two goals in the last three games.

On the outside of midfield Olsen has a choice of Danny Cruz, Andy Najar, and Lewis Neal. Najar seems to be set to stay in midfield after starting one game at right back. Neal was in the first eleven against Toronto FC and with over ten years of experience in the English leagues is an intriguing option on the left side.

He (Neal) is sharp on the ball, Olsen said. I would like to see him be more of a threat offensively. He can keep the ball for days. He is technically sound. He just needs to relax a little bit and get more crosses in.

Like United, the Colorado Rapids have found a way to play through early season injuries and still get results. On 15 points from 10 matches, the Rapids lost their defensive midfielder Pablo Mastroeni to a concussion in the second game of the season. At forward Omar Cummings suffered a sprained left ankle in their 2-0 win over FC Dallas and is out four weeks.

The Rapids have been able to spread the wealth. The teams 15 goals have been scored by eight different players and nine of the goals have been finished by newcomers. Leading the Rapids debutantes is Kamani Hill who has three goals and is back in the United States after playing in Germany and Portugal following his career at UCLA.

The Rapids are also hoping to get more minutes out of Conor Casey at forward. Casey ruptured his left Achilles tendon at Seattle lasts season and just returned two games ago after a ten-month absence. He has been used off the bench, but his return to full fitness will help a Rapids attack that is now being engineered from the center of midfield by Argentine Martin Rivero.

Rivero has a little Christian Gomez in him according to Olsen and sealed the win over Dallas with his first MLS goal. Riveros goal came off a Brian Mullan cross and he and left-sided midfielder Jamie Castrillon should keep Uniteds outside backs Robbie Russell and Chris Korb busy.

On defense the Rapids have recorded four shutouts. Their back five starts with defensive midfielder Jeff Laurentowicz who is one of the better players at the position in MLS. The back four has plenty of experience with Tyrone Marshall and Drew Moor anchoring the middle and Colombian Luis Zapata and Kosuke Kimura able to jump into the attack.

Yes I am concerned we have lost two of three games, Olsen added. I am confident we will respond. After giving up five goals in San Jose, we came back and shutout Toronto. We have a break coming up to heal up, but we need to take care of business in these next three home games.

Leicester City clinches EPL title, greatest underdog season in sports history

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AP Photo/Rui Vieira

Leicester City clinches EPL title, greatest underdog season in sports history

On Monday afternoon, Chelsea and Tottenham F.C. played to a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge, meaning Leicester City clinched the Barclays Premier League championship. 

While Leicester City still has a few games left, they have already clinched an outright title thanks to 77 points and a 22-11-3 record and the mantle of greatest underdog season in sports history.

Yes, sports history. All of it.

 The Foxes were promoted to the Premier League after winning the Football League Championship in 2014. Imagine a baseball team being called up to join the AL East and in just the second season, they clinched the pennant after leading the entire season.

Leicester City's estimated payroll for the 2015-16 season is 48.2 million pounds, which is good enough for 17th place, with Chelsea (215.6 million), Manchester United (203 million), Manchester City (193.8 million), Arsenal (192 million) and Liverpool (152 million) firmly cemented at the top.

Unlike a majority of American sports, there are no salary caps in international club football. A player can be bought by another team at any time during the transfer window. The teams at the top of the league, the traditional powers, are typically able to buy the best players because they have more money at their disposal. Since the formation of the English premier League in 1992, only one team outside the traditional powers has claimed the championship — the Blackburn Rovers in 1993.

Leicester City is now the second.

Leicester City had  5000-to-1 odds to win the championship at the beginning of the season. Think about this: Indiana, Illinois, and Colorado have 2000-to-1 odds to win the College Football Playoff championship this season. 

The Foxes were led by Jamie Vardy, who set an EPL record for consecutive games with a goal scored in with 11. Vardy has scored 22 goals in 34 appearances this season and is behind just Tottenham's Harry Kane (24) and Manchester City's Sergio Aguero (23) in the league's scoring table. Aguero's salary calls for nearly 220-thousand pounds a week. Vardy makes roughly 45-thousand a week.

In clinching the championship, Leicester City has clinched a spot in the UEFA Champion's league, the top club competition in Europe., the first time in club history. The club was founded in 1884, 24 years before the Chicago Cubs last won a World Series. Not only has Leicester City never qualified for the UEFA Champion's League, but they have never qualified for the UEFA Europa League, the international competition for the teams that just miss out on the Champion's League.

Leicester City winning the Barclays Premier League makes what George Mason did in the 2006 NCAA Tournament look like a regular season MLB series in May.

Simply put, this is the most unthinkable and unexpected championship season in sports history.

 

D.C. United's late goals secure 3-0 win over Revolution

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USA TODAY Sports

D.C. United's late goals secure 3-0 win over Revolution

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Lamar Neagle scored on a penalty kick in the first half and D.C. United added two late goals to beat the New England Revolution 3-0 on Saturday.

Neagle converted from the penalty spot in the 33rd minute with a low shot into the left corner. Marcelo Sarvas drew the penalty on a run up the right side where Je-Vaughn Watson's foul occurred just inside the area.

Luciano Acosta scored his first MLS goal in the 86th minute on 20-yard chip shot that glanced in underneath the crossbar. Alvaro Saborio capped the scoring for D.C. United (2-3-3) with a breakaway goal in the 90th.

Revolution (1-2-5) defender Chris Tierney and United forward Fabian Espindola left the game before halftime with leg injuries.

United coach Ben Olsen served a one-game suspension for stepping on the field last Saturday. Assistant coach Chad Ashton oversaw the team in Olsen's absence.

Toronto ends winless-streak against United

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Toronto ends winless-streak against United

Sebastian Giovinco's goal in the first minute stood up in Toronto FC's 1-0 victory over DC United on Saturday.

Jozy Altidore got to the ball inside the box to the right of goalkeeper Travis Worra and rolled a cross that a sliding Marco Delgado reached and redirected a bit to his left and Giovinco was on the spot to tap it in for his fourth goal of the season.

That was enough for Toronto (2-2-2) to end a three-match winless streak as goalkeeper Clint Irwin made three saves. The toughest save came in the 30th minute when he got a hand on a tight shot by Patrick Nyarko out of traffic in front of the net.

DC (1-3-3) had 18 attempts but 10 were off target.

Toronto playing its sixth straight game on the road to open the season, had 10 shots, three on Worra.

[RELATED: Espindola, Saborio score twice as United tops Whitecaps 4-0]