What's next for D.C. United?

JoeWillisCelebrate.jpg

What's next for D.C. United?

What’s next? That has to be the question D.C. United and it supporters or asking after the Black and Red navigated through two games, two red cards, one hurricane, and one snow storm to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Houston Dynamo.

“This has been a long week and a half, this series seems like it was such a grueling time period,” said United’ head coach Ben Olsen. “There was just so much going on, but I believe in these guys. They gelled and they believed and sometimes belief is enough.”

United will be forced to make adjustments when it starts the series on Sunday in Houston. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid was red-carded in the decisive game two semi-final victory over the New York Red Bulls and Andy Najar, who was red-carded in game one of the series, has been hit with an additional two-game suspension.

Najar’s extra penalty was issued by MLS because it said, “Najar’s conduct put the league in disrepute.” Najar had thrown the ball at referee Jair Marrufo after being issued a yellow card.  To be sure United could use Najar’s solid defending and clever runs on the right flank, but the team’s depth has prevailed to this point.

Robbie Russell’s season was sidetracked by injury in mid-July, but he looked fully fit as Najar’s replacement on Thursday night. For United it made for a nice finishing touch to the script against the Red Bulls that Russell played the ball to Nick DeLeon for the game-winning goal in the 88th minute.

“I said I didn’t know he (Russell) had an assist in him,” said United midfielder Chris Pontius. “It was a beautiful ball and what a finish by Nick [DeLeon], especially in the 88th minute.”

It all goes back to January when head coach Ben Olsen expressed confidence in the depth his team. Olsen continues to be proven right especially in dealing with his back line. Starting left back Chris Korb missed Wednesday’s game with a hamstring injury, but natural midfielder Lewis Neal filled in at that position.

With Hamid out, Joe Willis will start in goal for United. On Thursday Willis stepped in after Hamid’s red card and saved Kenny Cooper’s penalty kick. Confidence in Willis has been high since his United debut in August of last season when he recorded a 4-0 shutout against Vancouver.

Willis went on to record two more shutouts in 2011 and emerged as the clear second-choice goalkeeper ahead of veteran Steve Cronin. Early this season Willis was called on when Bill Hamid was away for U.S. Olympic team duty. In nine starts Willis only lost twice and helped United launch into the season.

It is still hoped that maybe midfielder Dwayne De Rosario could factor for United in this series. United‘s unbeaten run is now nine games since De Rosario was forced to the sideline with a knee injury. For De Rosario it is more likely he could be a possible option for game two of the series against his old team.

De Rosario helped the Dynamo capture two MLS Cups including the 2007 final at R.F.K. Stadium. The Dynamo under head coach Dominic Kinnear has been an amazing franchise.  Players like De Rosario, Geoff Cameron, and Stuart Holden have come and gone, but Sunday will mark the fifth time in the Dynamo’s seven year history that it will play in the Eastern Conference final.

Under Kinnear’s direction, the Dynamo is a disciplined team that has also had a knack for developing talent. Will Bruin is having a career year with 12 goals in the regular season and now three goals and one assist in the post-season. On defense the Dynamo are particularly difficult to break down in the tight confines of BBVA Compass Stadium.

Even though it is the Dynamo’s own soccer specific stadium, Houston has kept the dimensions of its field similar to its old home Robertson Stadium.  The field at BBVA Compass is only 115 yards long and 70 yards wide. United has never won in Houston and the Dynamo has yet to lose at BBVA Compass in MLS play with a record of 12-0-6.

Maybe the Dynamo’s home record sets up well for United. The Black and Red is getting use to beating the odds.

 

NWSL Highlights: Spirit catch Thorns atop standings in Week 13

NWSL Highlights: Spirit catch Thorns atop standings in Week 13

Week 13 in the National Women’s Soccer League saw the Washington Spirit finally catch the Portland Thorns atop the table, while the Houston Dash snapped a six-game losing streak.

Orlando and Chicago squared off in a game with huge playoff implications, and Sky Blue FC and Boston met for Northeast bragging rights.

NWSL Week 10 highlights include final games by USWNT members

NWSL Week 10 highlights include final games by USWNT members

Another week of NWSL action is in the books, but Week 10 was far from just another slate of games. We saw the Western New York Flash make league history in Rochester plus late drama in Orlando and Washington.

This was also the final weekend of NWSL play before members of the U.S. Women's National Team report for camp ahead of the Rio Olympics. 

With 1-0 loss to Colombia, US finishes 4th in Copa America

With 1-0 loss to Colombia, US finishes 4th in Copa America

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Carlos Bacca beat goalkeeper Tim Howard by sliding to poke in a headed cross in the 31st minute, and the United States finished fourth in the Copa America with a 1-0 defeat against Colombia on Saturday night.

After losing to Argentina 4-0 in the semifinals, the 31st-ranked U.S. was beaten by No. 3 Colombia for the second time in the 16-nation tournament.

Bobby Wood came closest to scoring for the U.S. when he hit a post in the 62nd, one minute after Colombia's Juan Cuadrado hit the underside of the crossbar.

The U.S. matched its previous best finish in the tournament, when it lost to Colombia in the 1995 fourth-place game at Uruguay.

After the Americans lost to Jamaica in the semifinals of last year's CONCACAF Gold Cup and struggled in the semifinal round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann was hoping his team would rebound in the Copa, when right back DeAndre Yedlin, central defender John Brooks, midfielder Gyasi Zardes and forward Bobby Wood solidified their positions as regular starters.

Darlington Nagbe and 17-year-old Christian Pulisic again entered as second-half subs, two more players who could break through and replace veterans during the remaining 16 months of World Cup qualifying.

Colombia, which never has won the Copa America, finished third for fourth time but first since 1995. Argentina plays Chile for the title on Sunday night in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Both teams finished a man short, when American defender Michael Orozco and Colombian defender Santiago Arias were ejected for a confrontation in the third minute of second-half stoppage time. Orozco is suspended the U.S.'s World Cup qualifier at St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Sept. 2, and Arias for Colombia's qualifier against Venezuela.

Klinsmann inserted the 37-year-old Howard into his lineup in place of Brad Guzan, who had started the previous nine games. Matt Besler was in central defense instead of Brooks, who was bothered by knee inflammation, and Orozco was at left back because Fabian Johnson has a sore groin.

Midfielders Jermaine Jones and Alejandro Bedoya returned to the lineup along with Wood after the three served one-game suspensions.

Colombia scored after Juan Cuadrado, from along a flank, cut the ball back to James Rodriguez, just outside the penalty area. Arias made a run to get by Bedoya, and Rodriguez lofted a pass to Arias, who jumped at the edge of the 6-yard box and headed the ball across Howard's goal to Bacca. The forward slid ahead of Yedlin to nudge the ball in for his 13th international goal, his second of the tournament.

Clint Dempsey, who led the U.S. with three goals in the tournament, nearly scored on a free kick in the 51st minute. Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina dived left and lifted his right arm to tip Dempsey's effort wide.