What's next for D.C. United?

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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.

 

Leicester City clinches EPL title, greatest underdog season in sports history

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AP Photo/Rui Vieira

Leicester City clinches EPL title, greatest underdog season in sports history

On Monday afternoon, Chelsea and Tottenham F.C. played to a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge, meaning Leicester City clinched the Barclays Premier League championship. 

While Leicester City still has a few games left, they have already clinched an outright title thanks to 77 points and a 22-11-3 record and the mantle of greatest underdog season in sports history.

Yes, sports history. All of it.

 The Foxes were promoted to the Premier League after winning the Football League Championship in 2014. Imagine a baseball team being called up to join the AL East and in just the second season, they clinched the pennant after leading the entire season.

Leicester City's estimated payroll for the 2015-16 season is 48.2 million pounds, which is good enough for 17th place, with Chelsea (215.6 million), Manchester United (203 million), Manchester City (193.8 million), Arsenal (192 million) and Liverpool (152 million) firmly cemented at the top.

Unlike a majority of American sports, there are no salary caps in international club football. A player can be bought by another team at any time during the transfer window. The teams at the top of the league, the traditional powers, are typically able to buy the best players because they have more money at their disposal. Since the formation of the English premier League in 1992, only one team outside the traditional powers has claimed the championship — the Blackburn Rovers in 1993.

Leicester City is now the second.

Leicester City had  5000-to-1 odds to win the championship at the beginning of the season. Think about this: Indiana, Illinois, and Colorado have 2000-to-1 odds to win the College Football Playoff championship this season. 

The Foxes were led by Jamie Vardy, who set an EPL record for consecutive games with a goal scored in with 11. Vardy has scored 22 goals in 34 appearances this season and is behind just Tottenham's Harry Kane (24) and Manchester City's Sergio Aguero (23) in the league's scoring table. Aguero's salary calls for nearly 220-thousand pounds a week. Vardy makes roughly 45-thousand a week.

In clinching the championship, Leicester City has clinched a spot in the UEFA Champion's league, the top club competition in Europe., the first time in club history. The club was founded in 1884, 24 years before the Chicago Cubs last won a World Series. Not only has Leicester City never qualified for the UEFA Champion's League, but they have never qualified for the UEFA Europa League, the international competition for the teams that just miss out on the Champion's League.

Leicester City winning the Barclays Premier League makes what George Mason did in the 2006 NCAA Tournament look like a regular season MLB series in May.

Simply put, this is the most unthinkable and unexpected championship season in sports history.

 

D.C. United's late goals secure 3-0 win over Revolution

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USA TODAY Sports

D.C. United's late goals secure 3-0 win over Revolution

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Lamar Neagle scored on a penalty kick in the first half and D.C. United added two late goals to beat the New England Revolution 3-0 on Saturday.

Neagle converted from the penalty spot in the 33rd minute with a low shot into the left corner. Marcelo Sarvas drew the penalty on a run up the right side where Je-Vaughn Watson's foul occurred just inside the area.

Luciano Acosta scored his first MLS goal in the 86th minute on 20-yard chip shot that glanced in underneath the crossbar. Alvaro Saborio capped the scoring for D.C. United (2-3-3) with a breakaway goal in the 90th.

Revolution (1-2-5) defender Chris Tierney and United forward Fabian Espindola left the game before halftime with leg injuries.

United coach Ben Olsen served a one-game suspension for stepping on the field last Saturday. Assistant coach Chad Ashton oversaw the team in Olsen's absence.

Toronto ends winless-streak against United

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Toronto ends winless-streak against United

Sebastian Giovinco's goal in the first minute stood up in Toronto FC's 1-0 victory over DC United on Saturday.

Jozy Altidore got to the ball inside the box to the right of goalkeeper Travis Worra and rolled a cross that a sliding Marco Delgado reached and redirected a bit to his left and Giovinco was on the spot to tap it in for his fourth goal of the season.

That was enough for Toronto (2-2-2) to end a three-match winless streak as goalkeeper Clint Irwin made three saves. The toughest save came in the 30th minute when he got a hand on a tight shot by Patrick Nyarko out of traffic in front of the net.

DC (1-3-3) had 18 attempts but 10 were off target.

Toronto playing its sixth straight game on the road to open the season, had 10 shots, three on Worra.

[RELATED: Espindola, Saborio score twice as United tops Whitecaps 4-0]