For D.C. United opportunity lost

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For D.C. United opportunity lost

After dominating the first half of their first playoff match in five years, D.C. United had nothing to show for it despite numerous first-half scoring chances, including a penalty kick awarded to captain Chris Pontius.  

Their persistence was finally rewarded in the 61st minute when Roy Miller’s attempt to clear a cross from Chris Korb to Nick DeLeon ended up in the back of his own net.  

“It was a great ball by Korb and Nick [DeLeon] put pressure on their defender to clear the ball,” said Pontius.  “We had so many great chances, something was bound to happen.”

Moments later D.C. United would even things up with their own own goal.  As Bill Hamid attempted to knock down a rebound from Thierry Henry’s corner kick, the netminder fell back into his own net.   Believing he had been fouled by New York’s Marcus Holgersson, Hamid chased the referee out to midfield in a moment of lost composure that would set the tone for DCU’s second half.

“I got bumped,” said Hamid.  “Watch the replay.  I got bumped.”

United’s frustration with the Red Bulls’ physical play and lack of referee calls finally boiled over in the 70th minute when Andy Najar was tagged with a yellow card for a slide tackle.  Clearly unhappy with the call, the defender threw the ball back at the referee, earning a second yellow card and automatic dejection from the game.  

“I’ve never seen that and for a fact I don’t think it was intentional,” said Dejan Jakovic of Najar’s outburst.  “He turned around and threw the ball --he didn’t see where he was throwing it-- and unfortunately it ended up hitting the ref.”

“It’s a playoff game and there are high emotions,” said Pontius.  “We gotta keep our heads a little bit better but this team has a lot of character and a lot of passion and I think you saw that tonight.”

DCU would be forced to play out the remainder of the match with a side of 10.   Despite their man advantage, the Red Bulls were unable to capitalize and failed to put a shot on goal.  

In 94 minutes of play, United’s defense held the Red Bulls, who boast two of the league’s top scorers, to just two shots on goal.  United put five shots on target, narrowly missed on a pair of goal mouth attemps from Branko Boskovic and DeLeon and still managed four strikes to New York's one after losing Najar, yet both teams exited the field in an unsatisfying 1-1 draw.  

“I think we played a great game.  Even when we went down a man we still had some chances,” said Jakovic.  “I don’t think a lot of calls went our way and obviously some frustration came into play but that’s part of the game.  We held our shape and kept them in front of us and the whole game I don’t think they were really dangerous at all.”

Najar will have to sit as the two-game series heads to New York on Wednesday, November 7 to determine who will advance to the Eastern Conference Championship.  

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.

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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.