Weary United looks for breakthrough on the road

Weary United looks for breakthrough on the road

The Major League Soccers schedule makers must have a sense or humor. To be sure it must be a twisted sense of humor. The busiest stretch of Uniteds season, five games in 14 days, ends in a place where the Black and Red has only one win in seven tries.

To add to the challenge of Saturday's match in Salt Lake City, United is just not a good road team right now. For all its success at R.F.K. Stadium, only one loss, United has lost five consecutive road games. During that road slide United has been shut out three times and outscored 13-3.

Uniteds last win away from home was an unconvincing 1-0 victory in June at Philadelphia. To add to the concern, Uniteds last two matches at home have been ties that ended up stinging as much as losses. Wednesdays 2-2 draw with New York included Dwayne De Rosarios 100th career goal, but then the Red Bulls equalized in the 88th minute.

A point is okay. We continue to do okay at home, said United head coach Ben Olsen. Im upset we couldnt get a win on the day he (De Rosario) gets his 100th, but he lead by example and I thought it was a good performance from him.

De Rosario is reasserting his leadership role with United. After alternating for most of the season between withdrawn forward and attacking midfielder, De Rosario seems to have settled into a role closer to goal. In 25 games De Rosario has been a forward 12 times and a midfielder 13 times.

Now for United it is in part about finding a true strike partnership up top. Leading scorer Chris Pontius, who has appeared in ten games at forward, has been on the flanks in midfield for six of his last seven starts. Maicon Santos had a stretch of six goals in six games early in the season, but has been saddled with injuries and has only one goal since April 28.

The need for help at forward triggered United to trade Danny Cruz to Philadelphia for Lionard Pajoy. In four games with United Pajoy has one goal, but he has been active and also demonstrated a strength to be able to hold the ball in the final third. The final element for Pajoy, who had five goals in 20 games with the Union, is to develop chemistry with United.

Were very lucky we have him, De Rosario said of Pajoy. The amount of ground he covers is pretty impressive. Hes played more minutes this week than anybody and he just keeps going. He holds the ball up well and hes a handful for defenders.

It is also encouraging for United that rookie Nick DeLeon is healthy and seems to have emerged from a freshman slump. After scoring three goals in the first month of his career, DeLeon did not ignite again until August and now has two goals in the last four matches. In addition his assist on De Rosarios 100th career goal is of the highest quality.

In Real Salt Lake, United will have to deal with a high caliber team. Real is two wins away from becoming the first team since D.C. from 2005-2007 to win 15 games in three consecutive seasons.

Like United, Real had a fairly busy August with four league matches and one CONCACAF Champions League encounter. It was not the best of months for Real with a three game losing streak, including a 2-1 loss at home to Dallas, that was finally ended with a 0-0 draw last Friday in Philadelphia.

Getting a clean sheet and a point in Philadelphia provided a lift for Real. The 0-0 tie came at the end of a grueling stretch of three games in seven days, but also highlighted Reals offensive woes. In their last five games Real has only scored four goals with three coming from forward Alvaro Saborio.

Dealing with Reals midfield will be a high priority for United. U.S. Mens National Team star Kyle Beckerman provides support and wins balls to allow Javier Morales to be a creative force. It has not been an easy summer for Morales who has not scored since June 23rd and only has two assists since then.

For United as much as talent and skill against Real Salt Lake, they will need old fashioned grit and determination to break their road slide. Often in road matches United has unraveled at critical moments and needs to maintain focus.

I think the last five or six games weve been giving up goals on set pieces, De Rosario said. We really have to limit that. Someone has to commit himself, dive in front of the ball, jump in front of the ball, whatever the case is."

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.