United must be ready for take off against Houston

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United must be ready for take off against Houston

R.F.K Stadium is big, but on the field space will be at a premium for D.C United in Saturdays home match against the Houston Dynamo. An organized and disciplined Dynamo side has found a way to 8 points from 5 matches and will test Uniteds six-game unbeaten run.

They (Houston) know each other very well, United head coach Ben Olsen You dont get a lot of chances against Houston, you never do. You have to take advantage of those few opportunities you have.

Olsens standing desire to have his team switch the point of attack will be especially important against the Dynamo. An offense without invention or creativity will struggle against the Dynamos defense that is particularly strong in the middle with central defenders Geoff Cameron and Bobby Boswell.

Uniteds flank players, which likely again will include Danny Cruz and Nick De Leon, will be needed to help the stretch the field. In addition United could use its outside backs to help in the attack. That is not the strength of left back Daniel Woolard, but its possible for right back Robbie Russell to pick his spots and go forward.

Heading into Saturdays match Uniteds offense is showing plenty of signs of life. Now playing at forward Chris Pontius had his first career hat trick in Sundays 4-1 win over New York and is the MLS Player-of-the-Week. United is averaging nearly 15 shots per contest, and that means goals United has 12 on the season, trailing only New York (17) and San Jose (13).

On defense United worked extensively on set pieces this week. The Dynamo has only 5 goals on the season, but two have come off corner kicks. Again United should be confident with only eight goals allowed this season compared to 19 goals conceded at the same time last year.

Its been a good run but we have long way to go Olsen said. We are starting to become a group that is tough to play against and that is committed every time that we step on the field. Now the soccer part and all the intricacies need to get a little better and sharper and I think k that will come with time. We are still a group that is new.

The work rate of United forward Maicon Santos is proving to be a critical ingredient in the Black and Reds early success. Santos has 4 goals and 1 assist to lead the team, but his active play has led to other goals and scoring chances. At 61 and 186 pounds Santos gives United a different dynamic.

He (Santos) gives us that physical presence that we have been missing up there, Olsen added. Guys are doing a good job of playing off of him and thats one side of it. The other side is he is putting the ball in the back of the net. On the defensive side, he is working hard to put their back s under pressure and create turnovers.

Along with drawing attention for its six game unbeaten run, United is raising eye brows for accomplishing it without goals from reigning league MVP Dwayne De Rosario who is operating out of the midfield and not at forward. Through eight matches this season only four players in MLS have taken more shots. Still despite having 26 shots De Rosario remains goalless.

He is in a different spot, Olsen explained No doubt if you pout De Ro right around the goal for 90 minutes he is going to get his goals. Right now we need him in the midfield. We are looking for him to be our rhythm guy to get the ball and get us out of pressure and be a link guy and then came late to play in and around the goal.

Saturday is an important test for United. Next week United is In San Jose on Wednesday and Toronto on Saturday. Then on May 12 United will be in Houston when the Dynamo opens its new stadium. Three points at home are vital for United in an Eastern Conference table that is crowded below first place Sporting Kansas City.

It's official: U.S. Soccer hires Bruce Arena to replace Jurgen Klinsmann

It's official: U.S. Soccer hires Bruce Arena to replace Jurgen Klinsmann

NEW YORK – Bruce Arena is returning to coach the U.S. national soccer team, a decade after he was fired.

The winningest coach in American national team history, Arena took over Tuesday, one day after Jurgen Klinsmann was fired. The 65-year-old Arena starts work Dec. 1.

With the U.S. 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, the U.S. Soccer Federation wants to spark a turnaround when the playoffs resume March 24 with a home game against Honduras.

"His experience at the international level, understanding of the requirements needed to lead a team through World Cup qualifying, and proven ability to build a successful team were all aspects we felt were vital for the next coach," USSF President Sunil Gulati, who fired Arena in 2006, said in a statement. "I know Bruce will be fully committed to preparing the players for the next eight qualifying games and earning a berth to an eighth straight FIFA World Cup."

Arena first took over as national team coach after the 1998 World Cup and led the U.S. to a 71-30-29 record.

"I'm looking forward to working with a strong group of players that understand the challenge in front of them after the first two games," Arena said in a statement. "Working as a team, I'm confident that we'll take the right steps forward to qualify"

A wisecracking Brooklynite known for blunt talk and sarcasm, he coached the University of Virginia from 1978-95, then led D.C. United to titles in Major League Soccer's first two seasons before losing in the 1998 final. He guided the Americans to the team's best World Cup finish since 1930, a 1-0 loss to Germany in the 2002 quarterfinals.

He was let go after the team's first-round elimination by Ghana in 2006. Arena coached the New York Red Bulls of MLS from July 2006 to November 2007, then was hired the following August by the Galaxy. He led the team to MLS titles in 2011, 2012 and 2014.

Arena was inducted into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2010.

RELATED: AFTER 18-MONTH DOWNWARD SPIRAL, KLINSMANN FALLS ON HIS OWN SWORD

Marquez's late goal lifts Mexico over US 2-1 in World Cup Qualifier

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USA TODAY Sports

Marquez's late goal lifts Mexico over US 2-1 in World Cup Qualifier

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Rafa Marquez scored on a header in the 89th minute, and Mexico beat the United States 2-1 Friday night in the Americans' first home loss in World Cup qualifying since 2001.

Miguel Layun put Mexico ahead in the 20th minute, but Bobby Wood tied the score in the 49th.

The U.S. dominated the second half before the 37-year-old Marquez, unmarked and drifting across the penalty area, got the back of his head on Layun's corner kick and lifted the ball over goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

Guzan lost the goalkeeper job to Tim Howard, who started at the last two World Cups. But Howard injured his right leg on a goal kick and was replaced in the 40th minute.

The U.S. had beaten Mexico four straight times by 2-0 scores in home qualifiers -- all at Columbus -- and the Americans had been 30-0-2 at home in qualifying since a 3-2 loss to Honduras at Washington's RFK Stadium in September 2001.