Who will be the hero of Game 2?

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Who will be the hero of Game 2?

For D.C. United to advance to the MLS Cup Championship, they're going to need someone -or likely a committee- to step up and play hero.

It won't be enough for DCU to simply win on Sunday. In order to fend off elimination, the Black and Red must beat Houston by two or more goals through 90. It's a feat they've accomplished seven times this season, and they'll have the advantage of making a go at eight on their home turf: a place where they haven't lost since Mar. 10.

But unfortunately for D.C., the usual suspects aren't 100 percent, and may not even be in the lineup on Sunday.  Chris Pontius (groin) and Dwayne De Rosario (knee) have contributed 66 percent of United's offense this season. De Rosario has not played a match since Sept. 11 and Pontius was forced to pull himself out of Sunday's match in Houston after just 12 minutes of play.

The jury is still out on either captain's return. De Rosario, listed as probable in the MLS Injury Report, has practiced regularly with the team for over a week now and teammates and coaches are hopeful about what they've seen.  Pontius returned to the pitch Thursday to participate in some drills but is listed as questionable in the latest injury report.

Houston, however, isn't taking any chances.

"We know they're going to play everybody that they can," said Dynamo forward Will Bruin. "They're trying to get guys back from injury as soon as possible, so we're expecting everybody to play. We're going to prepare as that [Pontius and De Rosario] are going to be in the lineup."

Bruin also said that his club is expecting an offensive onslaught from a hungry and desperate United.

But who will lead the charge?

Nick DeLeon has come up huge in each of United's three playoff games thus far.  You can credit the rookie midfielder with each of D.C.'s three postseason goals, all of them a result of some great, and somewhat lucky, positioning. In order to generate enough offense on Sunday, the Black and Red will not only need DeLeon to maintain his hot streak, they'll need some of that luck to rub off on forward Leonard Pajoy as well.

Pajoy, DCU's designated man up top, has yet to score in the postseason and did so just three times through 12 matches after joining the club in August. The forward's ability to put his strikes on target has increased almost 100 percent in the playoffs, but that still leaves Pajoy with just one shot on goal in each of the last three games.  He'll need a faster and more accurate trigger for United to survive the first 90 on Sunday.

"All year people have stepped up when we've needed them to," said DeLeon. "Someone who hasn't done anything special in one game, the next they're scoring the game-winning goal."

DeLeon falls into that category, as does Lewis Neal whose two goals this season were both game-winners scored just moments after being subbed on late in a game. In an ideal situation, Olsen would have full access to his arsenal on Sunday, but the team has shown that it is deep enough to get production from both the starters and backups. After De Rosario's injury, the club went unbeaten in the remaining seven games of the regular season. Their first, and only loss since losing the 2011 MLS MVP was last Sunday.

As Perry Kitchen knows, however, Game 2 won't just be about offense.

"We're going to be patient,"  the DCU defender explained. "The last thing we want to do is be sloppy and give up a goal, which is kind of the knife to the chest. We just have to be smart and execute the plan that we have."

In other words, heros won't just be needed up front, D.C. will also need one in net, where things look significantly better for the Black and Red. Bill Hamid will return from his mandatory one-game suspension. The keeper has a perfect save percentage this postseason, albeit he did commit an own goal and red card penalty in the New York series.

Though Bruin insisted that his club will look at Sunday's match as a must-win, Hamid won't likely be tested too much. Given the dire straights on the offensive side of the ball, however, and injuries forcing reshuffling in the backline, when shots are fired, Hamid must be heroic in order to keep United's hopes alive.

The odds are certainly against them, but United has already shown their ability to overcome adversity this season.

Hope Solo criticizes 'cowardly' Swedish team following Olympic loss

Hope Solo criticizes 'cowardly' Swedish team following Olympic loss

The U.S. Women's Soccer Team was bounced from the Olympic Tournament on Friday following a shocking 1-1 shootout loss to Sweden.

The USWNT had to once again rally back from 1-0 — as they did against Colombia — with Alex Morgan scoring an equalizer in the 78th minute.

After 30 minutes fo scoreless extra time, the game went to penalty kicks. Morgan and Christen Press missed their attempts, and Hope Solo was unable to stop Lisa Dahlkvist's attempt, snapping the USWNT's 14-game Olympic win streak. It was also the first time the USWNT did not advance to the Olympic gold medal games.

Solo, who has been the focal point of the USWNT's time in Rio due to the chants of "Zika" lobbed her way in the tournament opener, along with her subpar performance in the 2-2 draw against Colombia, once again made headlines following the shocking loss.

While Solo was lauded for the poise she showed following the major gaffe in the Colombia game, she had some choice words for the Swedish team following the loss on Friday.

Solo has never been one to mince words.  

While it was not particularly clear that the Swedish side was playing dirty, Sweden did have 15 penalties to the United States too. The United States outshot Sweden 27-6 and had six shots on goal to Sweden's two. But despite the stat discrepancy, Sweden packed their defense in, forcing the United States to take an increased number of shots from outside. Sweden also did a tremendous job of counter-attacking with deep balls, which the side — coached by former USWNT coach Pia Sundhage — a bevy of uneven scoring chances.

When asked about her "coward" comment, Solo provided clearer detail.

"Sweden dropped off," she said to reporters after the game. "They didn't want to play. They didn't want to pass the ball. They didn't want to play great soccer. It was a combative game, a physical game. Exactly what their game plan was. They dropped into a 50. They didn't try and press. They didn't want to open the game. We had that style of play when Pia was our coach. i don't think they're going to make it far in the tournament. I think it was very cowardly.

"But they won. They're moving on, and we're going home."

Solo then took to Twitter to clarify her comments.

But the outcome remains the same: A stunning loss before the medal round, and to make matters worse, the result will be overshadowed by critical comments.

RELATED: WOULD THIS TEAM OF MARYLAND NATIVES WIN OLYMPIC GOLD?

U.S. women suffer shocking Olympic elimination in shootout loss to Sweden

U.S. women suffer shocking Olympic elimination in shootout loss to Sweden

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — The three-time defending champion U.S. women's national team will miss the Olympic final for the first time after being ousted by Sweden on penalties following a 1-1 draw in the quarterfinals on Friday.

Tied after three rounds in the shootout, Sweden captain Caroline Seger beat Hope Solo and Christen Press' attempt against Hedvig Lindhal went over the net. With the next kick, Lisa Dahlkvist beat an outstretched Solo for the win.

RELATED: HOPE SOLO CRITICIZES "COWARDLY" SWEDISH TEAM AFTER LOSS

As Sweden celebrated, U.S. captain Carli Lloyd crouched on the field at Mane Garrincha Stadium. It was the first time that an Olympic women's match had gone to penalties.

It was the earliest the United States had ever been eliminated from the Olympics since women's soccer became a sport in 1996.

After a scoreless first half, Stina Blackstenius scored in the 61st minute to give Sweden a 1-0 lead.

Alex Morgan scored the equalizer in the 78th and the match went to extra time. Lloyd had a header called back for offside in the 115th minute, and Lotta Schelin was offside on her attempt against Solo a minute later -- although replays appeared to show otherwise.

The reigning World Cup champions, who are also four-time Olympic champions, had not dropped a match this year. But it Sweden that will play either Australia or host Brazil in the semifinals.

Blackstenius, who came in as a substitute in the first half, broke away and shook off defender Julie Johnston to beat Solo and give Sweden the lead. It was just her second international goal.

Sweden's coach, Pia Sundhage, high-fived her assistants on the bench. Sundhage coached the U.S. team for five years and led the squad to gold medals in both Beijing and London.

The United States got the equalizer with Morgan's shot that bounced off a Sweden defender. It was Morgan's team-leading 13th goal of the year. Lloyd nearly put the United States ahead in the 85th but her kick to the far corner went just wide.

The Americans won their first two matches in Brazil before a surprising 2-2 draw in Manaus against Colombia, which had already been eliminated.

Johnston returned to the starting lineup after missing the last two games with a groin injury and coach Jill Ellis played all her regular starters after rotating and resting many against Colombia in the heat and humidity of the Amazon. Megan Rapinoe, who started against Colombia after missing more than eight months after right knee surgery, was on the bench but came on as a substitute in the second half.

Press replaced Rapinoe in the extra period.

Sweden had won only five matches against the United States. The two teams played to a scoreless draw at last year's World Cup. The last time the two teams met in the Olympics was at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Sundhage was a player on the Sweden team that fell 2-1 to the Americans.

Ranked sixth in the world, Sweden had struggled in its Olympic group with a 5-1 loss to host Brazil and finished 1-1-1.

Lloyd buried her head in her hands early in the second half after her free kick was off the mark. Just moments later, she had another that was off-target, too. The United States struggled to finish throughout the match.

The crowd at Mane Garrincha Stadium in was sparse at the start of the match and never extended much past the lower bowl of the massive 72,000-seat stadium that was reconstructed and expanded for the men's 2014 World Cup.

The fans that were there continued to jeer Solo with shouts of "Zika!" everytime she touched the ball. The fans have taunted her since the opening match in Brazil because of her posts on social media about the virus.

Field condition concerning ahead of USWNT quarterfinal match with Sweden

Field condition concerning ahead of USWNT quarterfinal match with Sweden

The United States is set to play Sweden on Friday in the quarterfinal round of the women’s soccer tournament at the Rio Olympics. The U.S. – fresh off winning their group – is one victory away from advancing to the medal round.

The match will be played at noon ET on NBCSN and while both teams hope to be prepared for Friday’s win-or-go-home affair, the field at Brasilia’s Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha does not appear to be ready for the rigors of elimination soccer.

Friday’s game will be the ninth Olympic match played at Brasilia’s primary stadium. The stadium, named after Brazilian soccer legend Garrincha, hosted a men’s soccer doubleheader (Mexico-South Korea and Argentina-Honduras) on Wednesday night. 

According to a report in the Brazilian publication oLiberal, ‘emergency’ work was done on the field in the three weeks leading up to the Olympics. The Brazilian men’s team opener their Olympic campaign in Brasilia with a scoreless draw against South Africa. 

A men’s quarterfinal between Portugal and Germany is scheduled for Saturday at the Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha, less than 24 hours after the conclusion of the U.S. vs. Sweden women’s game.