United ready to make friendly count

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United ready to make friendly count

The friendly with Paris St. Germain was fun, but D.C. United is hoping the 1-1 tie with the French league giant was also productive. The answer will play out in Saturday's home game against revitalized Eastern Conference rival Columbus Crew.

"I think by the way we played this is a boost of confidence," Dwayne De Rosario said after last Saturday's match. "If we can play with teams like PSG, then we can play with any team. We just have to show up and play with that same confidence."

United's play on the field has matched the uneven summer schedule. In five games over the last two months United managed only an uninspired 1-0 win against Philadelphia and a 3-0 win over Montreal. In July a ten-man United lost to Houston 4-0 and most recently in MLS play a 1-0 road loss to the Crew.

On the heels of the losses to the Dynamo and Crew, United's head coach Ben Olsen wanted the approach to PSG to be like a league match. United had lost its swagger. The rhythm and possession that led the Black and Red to the top of the Eastern Conference were missing. The game against PSG allowed United to play without the pressure of failure.

"I thought our possession was as good as it has been all year," Olsen noted. "It was because of the fact that we just played simple. We didn't complicate, we just got the ball to the next guy and gave the next guy more time on the ball. Everybody wanted the ball and we were confident."

The match against PSG comes with all kinds of qualifiers. It was only a friendly and PSG had only played a couple of pre-season games. Still PSG offered a side worth several hundred million dollars and after conceding an early goal to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, United not only responded but dictated much of the possession.

Against PSG United used the now familiar set up of Dwayne De Rosario playing below the striker and Branko Boskovic in the center of the midfield. Their ability to link together is a driving force in United's way of playing, but it is also critical for outside backs Danel Woolard and Chris Korb to be involved.

"The coaches want to play attacking, quality soccer," Korb said. "I think that comes into play with outside backs getting forward and I think that is why they like me in some games and some spots. That doesn't hurt me at all. I just want to get better going forward and get more assists and help the team win."

In his second year in MLS, Korb is starting at right back in place of Robbie Russell who is out with plantar fasciitis. Over the last season and a half Korb has found himself in the starting eleven twenty times and is growing in confidence. On the left side, with Marc Burch now in Seattle, Woolard has seized the opportunity and become a valuable and versatile defender.

On Saturday United will be looking to avenge its loss in Columbus two weeks ago. On the season the Crew's offense has been anemic with only 20 goals from 19 matches. There is hope for the Crew with the arrival of Jairo Arrieta from Saprissa in Costa Rica. In his third match with the Crew, Arrieta netted two goals in a 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City.

The Crew has played one fewer game, but is only five points behind United in the Eastern Conference standings. Like United, the Crew is also energized by success in a friendly, a 2-1 win over Stoke City. Both teams believe they are ready for the finals three months of the MLS season.

"It is our responsibility to win games at home," said Olsen. "Yes we have lost three of four games, but they are away games. You have to take care of home games and you will be okay in this league."

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.