United prepares for clash

United prepares for clash

There should be no reason for D.C. United to panic. Despite inconsistent form United is still in a playoff position. Furthermore the Black and Red has the confidence of not having lost at home since the opening game as it prepares for a massive clash Wednesday against the New York Red Bulls.
To describe the third meeting of the season against the Red Bulls as massive is probably not an exaggeration. Beyond the built-in rivalry and the Atlantic Cup trophy that is on the line, the Red Bulls are in second place five points ahead of United and only two points behind Eastern Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City.
United has played one fewer game than the Red Bulls, but it is more the teams quality in games than quantity of games played that is the concern. It has been a disruptive summer. In June and July United only had five leagues matches and now is trying to survive a stretch of five matches in 14 days.
The heavy schedule weighed heavily on head coach Ben Olsens mind as the team went into last Saturdays game in Montreal. Chris Pontius and Dwayne De Rosario, who had a slight calf strain, were used as substitutes instead of starters. Nick De Leon was sidelined by an illness. A 3-0 loss to the Impact followed.
You cant play these guys every game, with two days rest in between three games, said Olsen said. I went out with a group that had some energy and overall they were pretty good. I didnt think we got two big calls that might get us out of here with the result.
It really could have been different. For all the possession the Impact had, they only had one shot in the first half. Still the Impact had the first goal. United is a perfect 7-0 this season when it scores first, but has struggled to a 1-7-2 mark when it concedes the first goal.
I think we just need to fight a little harder and work more for each other, De Rosario said. Every time a team scores against us, we put our heads down and think its the end. Then, we stop really pushing forward and we want to keep the ball. We are playing more reserved defensively; staying back, and then it creates a lot of space.
Whether it has been through injuries, suspensions, or fatigue, United has not been able to field a consistent lineup. The lineup changes may in part explain Uniteds unpredictability. The team no longer has the momentum that propelled it to the top of the table at mid-season. United has not won consecutive games since a four-game winning streak in late May that carried into June.
Its hard to put a finger on, said United defender Brandon McDonald. We have done well though bouncing back after a loss. We know what is at stake. We have done well at home. The fans are behind us and we feed off their energy. It is a whole different animal when we are here.
United does usually put on a show at R.F.K. Stadium. Multi-goal games are the norm. Since United lost 1-0 in the season opener to Sporting Kansas City, only twice in twelve matches has United failed to score more than one goal. In addition United has outscored opponents at home by a convincing 29-12 advantage.
Against the Red Bulls it will be interesting to see if United stays with the partnership of Marcelo Saragosa and Perry Kitchen. They have paired together in the center of the midfield in the last two games. Against Montreal Kitchen completed 34 of 42 passes and was more involved in the attack and against Chicago the formation was a resounding success in a 4-2 win.
The Red Bulls were able to earn a 1-1 draw on the road against Kansas City to stop a three-game losing streak away from home. To secure the point the Red Bulls needed an own goal, but they now possess a potentially lethal attack that produced five goals in the previous two home matches.
The Red Bulls forward combination of Kenny Cooper and Thierry Henry has combined for 25 goals. In the midfield former Everton star and Australian international Tim Cahill already has a goal and two assists in just four matches. Add to the mix Sebastian Le Toux and Joel Lindpere and Uniteds defenders will have no shortage of responsibilities.

With Heather O'Reilly set to retire, USWNT teammates honor all-time great

With Heather O'Reilly set to retire, USWNT teammates honor all-time great

As U.S. Women’s Soccer star Heather O’Reilly steps into international retirement Thursday night, her soon-to-be former teammates are jumping at the chance to honor O’Reilly one last time.

"She’s the best teammate I ever had,” said Ali Krieger, who has played alongside O’Reilly on the USWNT since 2008. “She’s such an inspiration for so many young athletes, but also for us – her current teammates and the players in the National Women’s Soccer League. She’s been a legend.”

O’Reilly will end her 15-year international career when the U.S. Women face Thailand in Columbus, Ohio on Thursday night.

“She’s motivated me and I know my teammates to want to better themselves every single day,” Krieger said of O’Reilly’s legacy on the national team. “That is something that she can leave us. I’m so happy for her, I’m really proud of her and she continued to inspire me every single day. I wish her all the best and I’m going to miss her like crazy.”

Of all O’Reilly’s teammates, few can appreciate the retiring legend quite like Krieger. The two often featured together on the right side of the U.S. formation, Krieger in defense and O’Reilly just ahead of her in midfield, resulting in a bond that will last beyond their playing days.

“We always say ‘right side – strong side’, so we’re going to hold on to that forever,” Krieger said with a smile. “She’s one of my best friends on the team and I support her decision.”

O’Reilly’s decision was likely made easier by the changing landscape of the national team. After seeing her minutes dwindle during last summer’s successful World Cup run, the 31-year-old veteran was left off the U.S. Olympic Team in August instead traveling to Brazil as an alternate.

Despite that, O’Reilly’s career compares favorably to pretty much every other U.S. international. O'Reilly made her senior international debut while still in high school, and her 230 appearances rank seventh all-time in U.S. Women’s National Team history. 

“It’s so much more than the player that she is and what she’s done for the national team,” said U.S. Women’s National Team forward Crystal Dunn. “It’s her – the person – that I’m going to miss seeing in camps and chatting it up.”

Though they didn’t overlap in Chapel Hill, both Dunn and O’Reilly played collegiately for North Carolina. Thanks to that Tar Heel connection, the duo trained together frequently even when not with the U.S. team.

“She was just one of those people that I looked up to,” Dunn added. “She would kick my butt every single day and I was so in awe that she would go out of her way to help make me better."

MORE SOCCER: STL: 'Tyrant'-like act by Spirit to stifle Rapinoe protest

Spirit players speak out against owner shutting down Rapinoe's protest

Spirit players speak out against owner shutting down Rapinoe's protest

Two days after the Washington Spirit organization changed the timing of their pregame routine in order to preempt Megan Rapinoe’s national anthem protest, Spirit players are speaking out against the team’s decision.

"We respect our owner’s freedom to share his views and we understand his intentions,” read a statement posted on the Spirit website. “But as a team we don’t necessarily agree with those opinions or the actions taken Wednesday evening.” 

The statement - signed ‘all of the players of the Washington Spirit’ - was also posted to Spirit captain, and longtime U.S. Women’s National Team star, Ali Krieger’s personal website. 

“As a team, we were disappointed we were not informed of the plans for the national anthem or given an opportunity to weigh in on the decision,” the statement continued.

The Washington Spirit and Rapinoe’s Seattle Reign FC were still in the locker rooms when the national anthem was played ahead of schedule at Wednesday’s National Women’s Soccer League match between the two teams. 

In an exclusive interview Tuesday afternoon, Rapinoe told CSN that she planned to kneel during the national anthem prior to Wednesday's game - as she did before Sunday's NWSL contest between Seattle and the Chicago Red Stars.