Alvaro Saborio

Terrible start, Fantastic finish as D.C. United top Philadelphia at RFK

Washington, D.C., July 26, 2015 – The bad news – United has waited over a month to play a home game and they fell behind the Philadelphia Union 2-0 inside of four minutes. The good news – there were still eighty-six minutes to go and United used every one of them to their advantage in a stunning 3-2 come-from-behind win at sticky RFK Stadium this afternoon.

Alvaro Saborio, above (Phot0: Martin Fernandez), marked his debut with United with the opening goal of the comeback and Nick DeLeon ended it with his first goal in MLS in over a year as a season-high 19,125 fans were put through the emotional ringer once again. The victory for United (11-7-5, 38 points) pushed their lead in the Eastern Conference to seven points over second place Columbus. It was also the sixth time this season that the Black-and-Red had won after conceding the opening goal of the game. Even more mind blowing than that is that United has only led at halftime of 3 of 22 games this season.

While United will ultimately take a deep breath and enjoy the win, things started out in horrific fashion as defensive lapses led directly to both of the Union’s opening goals. In just the first ten seconds of the match, right back Chris Korb sent a lazy pass that was easily intercepted and eventually channeled to C.J. Sapong just inside the penalty area. Sapong easily brushed off Steve Birnbaum and surprisingly found himself at the penalty spot all alone and beat Andrew Dykstra to his right for a 1-0 lead.

With RFK still reeling from the early deficit, the Union doubled their lead to the disbelief of everyone on and off the field. Chaco Maidana sent a harmless ball to Sebastien Le Toux on United’s right flank. Korb gave the Frenchman a bit too much room as he centered a ball into the heart of the goalmouth. Somehow the ball managed to elude both Sapong and Birnbaum and sleepily tucked into the far post netting for an unthinkable 2-0 lead just four minutes into the game.

Although United were understandably rocked, they soon regained their composure enough to start threatening the Union goal. United got their best opportunity midway through the half when Saborio’s give-and-go with Davy Arnaud ended up with Arnaud being chopped down in the penalty area. Fabian Espindola stepped up to take the PK despite the fact that Chris Rolfe had converted his last two spot kicks. Almost predictably, Espindola sent his shot well over the crossbar to further deflate the crowd.

All was not lost however as Saborio cut the deficit in half in the 37th minute when his volleyed shot from a Korb cross beat Union goalkeeper Brian Slyvestre just inside the near post. Buoyed by that goal United took over the match after the break and it seemed like only a matter of time until they nabbed the equalizer. With the Union pinned down in their own end, United created a number of chances to equalize but were coming just a bit short.

That all changed in the 66th minute when a mountain-sized gorilla was finally lifted off the back of Nick DeLeon. It had been over a year since NDL scored on July 4th of last year and today’s goal couldn’t have come at a better time. Espindola, who had been wreaking havoc on the left flank all half long, made a rare foray into the center of the field and found himself on the ball outside the top of the penalty area. Espindola juked and jived his way into some space to unleash his patented left-footed blast. Slyvestre could only parry the ball away a few feet and that is all DeLeon needed as he slipped the rebound under Sylvestre to level the match at 2-2.

And as has been the case five times at RFK alone this season, United completed the comeback in the 79th minute when Espindola headed down a beautiful cross from Korb for the game-winner. Just seconds earlier, the Union were inches away from taking the lead when Sapong beat Dykstra to a loose ball in the box and his chipped attempt crashed down off the crossbar to set up the sequence that saw United to another head-scratching win.

After that emotional and physical roller coaster ride, United will welcome in Saborio’s old team Real Salt Lake into town next Saturday night at RFK Stadium.

 

United fall in stoppage-time 2-1 in Dallas

Frisco, Texas, July 18, 2015 – Fabian Castillo’s goal in the 93rd minute was the game-winner as FC Dallas defeated D.C. United 2-1 tonight at Toyota Stadium in steamy Frisco, Texas.

Playing in hazy and humid conditions, United struggled all night long in dealing with FC Dallas’ seemingly endless attacking and were fortunate not to suffer a heavier scoreline loss if not for some wayward shooting and good goalkeeping from Andrew Dykstra. The home side were on the front foot from the very beginning and dominated nearly every aspect of the game. This was rather disappointing for United as they were just coming off a well-needed 15 day break, but in many ways this may have been the worse team to come back to league play against as the home side were riding a three-game winning streak while United had gone scoreless in their previous two league matches before their break.

Once again head coach Ben Olsen was forced to shuffle his lineup with the suspension of Fabian Espindola and the surgery to Bill Hamid’s knee and wrist. Starting his 21st different lineup in 22 games, United had a tall task ahead of them and those who were expecting a struggle from the Black-and-Red tonight certainly got it. FC Dallas with rapid fire attack led by Fabian Castillo and Mauro Diaz had United on their heels all night long.

However, it was seldom marked defensive midfielder Kellyn Acosta who proved the biggest thorn in United’s side. Three times the midfielder unleashed shots from outside the area that nearly gave FC Dallas the lead. As the game wore on and the missed chances continued to mount for the home side, the more likely it would seem United could walk out of Dallas with a point. All that seemed to end in the 73rd minute when Acosta got on the end of a scrambling play in the penalty area and converted from two yards out right in front of Dykstra.

It was certainly deserved from FC Dallas as they had unleashed an attacking onslaught rarely seen against United this season. However, in almost typical never-say-die fashion for United this season, they equalized just four minutes later with an own-goal. Left back Taylor Kemp sent a wicked bending cross into the heart of the goalmouth in the direction of Jairo Arrieta. The Costa Rican forward lunged for the ball and missed it but it did ricochet off the knee of FC Dallas defender Matt Hedges and flew past goalkeeper Dan Kennedy to level the match at 1-1.

United thought they had escaped with a brutally hard-fought point. They were mistaken as Fabian Castillo broke their spirit with a goal in the 93rd minute. Facundo Coria, a very late substitute, unwisely tried to attach through the FC Dallas defense late in the stoppage time when a more prudent approach would have been to maintain possession. The resulting turnover sparked a counter attack for FC Dallas and put United on their heels. The ball got to the right side of the penalty area when it was centered to the awaiting Victor Ulloa. The homegrown product appeared to scuff his shot and in the process United defender Taylor Kemp, in an attempt to block the shot, redirected the ball right into the path of Castillo who blasted the shot past the helpless Dykstra for the game-winner.

On the balance of things, it was a deserved three points for Dallas, just as the previous league match (and game-winning goal in the 89th minute) in Seattle went down. The back-to-back losses for United ended their longest road trip of the season and garnered them 4 out of a possible 12 points. United still remain firmly in first place in the Eastern Conference but they’ve also played more matches than most of the teams chasing them from behind. As of now, only Toronto FC and New York Red Bull have an opportunity to catch United on points based on games played.

United now will turn their attention to next Sunday’s home game at RFK Stadium against the Philadelphia Union. The Union were 2-1 losers in Toronto earlier in the day.

 

Jairo Arrieta celebrates his first goal of the night against the visiting fire.

Missed opportunities sink United in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 loss to Philadelphia Union

Chester, Pennsylvania, June 30th, 2015 – D.C. United crashed out of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament this evening after a 2-1 defeat to the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park. The win for the Union pushes them into a quarterfinal matchup against the winner of the New York Red Bull and New York Cosmos match tomorrow night at Red Bull Arena.

United had to once again shuffle their lineup due to so many matches in so little time and this time it did not pay off as it did last week in Chicago. Philadelphia on the other hand, with no league match this weekend, sent out their best available starting X1 to go against a mainly reserve side for United. However, it was the Black-and-Red who missed on two golden opportunities to take the lead.

In the 18th minute, Miguel Aguilar worked a perfect give-and-go with Jairo Arrieta that saw Aguilar one-on-one with Union goalkeeper John McCarthy. The rookie midfielder sent his shot high and just slightly over the crossbar from an angle when a side-footed shot to the far post would have sufficed. Three minutes later McCarthy would deny United a second bite of the apple when he reached back to tip a goal-bound header from Steve Birnbaum off the post and back into his grateful arms. Facundo Coria’s free kick service met Birnbaum perfectly but United was even on the scoreboard at 0-0.

The match changed in the 25th minute when Union forward C.J. Sapong was given  a straight red for his elbow-leading foul on Kofi Opare. Replays showed while he lead with the elbow, a straight red was a bit of a harsh decision by referee Fatis Bazakos. United took advantage of the shortage and scored just three minutes later thanks to some very nice build up play. Jared Jeffrey touched a ball out to the wing to Aguilar who returned the favor to Jeffrey who streaked into the penalty area. Jeffrey deftly back heeled the ball right into the path of Arrieta who made no mistake in blasting it past McCarthy for a 1-0 lead.

However, even with the man advantage for over 60 more minutes, United failed to take advantage and allowed the Union back into the match. Philadelphia tied it up when United, again with a man advantage, somehow allowed the Union’s left back Sheanon Williams to fly past United right back Jalen Robinson who easily centered the ball to a wide-open left sided midfielder Erik Ayuk who had the entire open goal to score and leveled the match at 1-1.

Not to be outdone, the Union set Robinson up once again and worked a perfect triangle around the second-year player that allowed Fabinho to ghost in on goal and unleash an angled left-footed blast over Andrew Dysktra for the game-winning goal.

While head coach Ben Olsen is no doubt upset about losing a game being up a man for over an hour, it was United’s second team against the Union’s top choices, but that doesn’t take any anything away from the admittedly poor performance from United.

United now will hop on a plane and head to Seattle to face an extremely short-handed Sounders squad on Friday night. The Sounders will be missing both of their top players in Clint Dempsey (with the US Gold Cup squad in their match on Friday against Guatemala in Nashville, TN) and Obefemi Martins (abductor strain) as well as Guatemalan midfielder and noted United-killer Marco Pappa as well as possibly their third DP in midfielder Oswaldo Alonso who is still nursing an injury. No better time to take a result from one of the league’s most difficult places to play.

The only good news coming out of tonight’s result is that Olsen got to rest a lot of his normal starters and the schedule after United’s match in Seattle starts to settle down, thanks mostly to being eliminated from the Open Cup tonight, and Olsen can start planning for week-long practices and shaping his best X1 heading into the last third of the MLS season.

Hamid scoops the ball.

United earns valuable point after 0-0 draw in Toronto

Toronto, Ontario, June 27, 2015 – D.C. United toughed out a valuable point in difficult conditions this afternoon as they drew with Toronto FC 0-0 at BMO Field in front of a soggy partisan crowd. Heavy rains combined with a four game in ten day road journey for the Black-and-Red further complicated matters. However, United displayed their usual defensive shape and discipline and kept the home side to precious few opportunities thanks in part to a number of saves from Bill Hamid in goal.

The last time D.C. United (10-5-5, 35 points) faced Toronto FC (7-6-2, 23 points) they were undone by diminutive Italian striker Sebastian Giovinco who seemingly beat United by himself as he scored both goals in the 2-1 win at RFK earlier this month that snapped United’s 20-game unbeaten run at East Capitol Street. Today however Giovinco was not his normal MVP self as he seemed a touch off all game long, perhaps affected by the windy and rainy conditions.

Although United gave up most of the possession in the match, they created more chances to take the lead as a Luis Silva drive from 25-yards was parried away by TFC goalkeeper Chris Konopka midway through the first half. United probably should have taken the lead on the ensuing corner kick when Nick DeLeon flashed wide open from 4 yards out in front of goal but his header went inexplicably wide of the goal.

Hamid was forced into a number of saves throughout the match but none were what you would consider terribly dangerous. In fact, Hamid has become so adept in his positioning, a perfect shot is the only thing that can beat him nowadays as he posted a second consecutive shutout. With United embarked in the middle of a the aforementioned crush of matches, head coach Ben Olsen once again shifted his lineup and put out what could be considered his best lineup considering the injury situations with Sean Franklin (tendinitis) and Chris Pontius (hamstring).

Even with the almost game-by-game changes enforced by the schedule, United continued to shine defensively and played toe-to-toe with arguably the best attack in the Eastern Conference with TFC. Steve Birnbaum had a particularly outstanding match, bouncing back from a series of matches since his ankle injury in April that have been less than stellar for the second year man. Taylor Kemp and Chris Korb aslo came back into the lineup and played well as both players were instrumental in breaking up more than a few dangerous chances.

United came into the match with a 10-point lead over the New England Revolution and a 12-point lead over TFC, though the hosts do have five games in hand. TFC’s job got a bit more difficult after today’s draw still leaving them 12 points clear. TFC will now have to play their next month’s worth of matches minus U.S. stars Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore and they will also be without Canadian players Ashtone Morgan and Jonathan Osorio.

As for United, they will move on to their fifth-round U.S. Open Cup tie with the Philadelphia Union on Tuesday night and then jetting off to Seattle to take on the Sounders on Friday night. Olsen will undoubtedly shift the lineup heavily once more for the Open Cup match with a more-than-decent chance of taking a rare win in Seattle as the hosts will be missing a slew of players including their two most dangerous ones in Clint Dempsey (Gold Cup) and Obefemi Martins (abductor strain).

 

Ben Olsen, Chad Ashton. Photo: Tony Quinn

United extend lead in the East courtesy of Doyle wonder goal

Bridgeview, Illinois, June 24, 2015 – Conor Doyle’s sure to be goal-of-the-week blast in the 73rd minute was all D.C. United needed in their 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire tonight at Toyota Park. The win extend United’s lead in the Eastern Conference to ten points after the New England Revolution fell to Columbus in Columbus earlier in the evening. The shutout for United (10-5-4, 34 points) was the first for the Black-and-Red in 12 league games.

Head coach Ben Olsen once again made numerous changes to his lineup after Sunday’s 2-1 win at home against the Revolution in the face of four matches in ten days. Facundo Coria made his first start in MLS for United and got the first chance to score when his dipping bid from 22 yards was saved by Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson early in the first half. Johnson was called up again just a few minutes later when he parried away a goal-bound effort from Jairo Arietta, making his first start in two weeks.

On the other end of the field Bill Hamid had precious little to do aside from a few slight scares but was not called upon for any save opportunities. United clearly came out of the game with a purpose and even though the squad was almost completely rotated out, the formation change put forth by Olsen put the team in a different mindset and although they didn’t score in the first half, the effort put forth was different from what has been seen lately when United had fallen behind in 8 of their last 9 league matches.

Olsen employed a three-man midfield tucked in behind the front runner Arietta with Luis Silva and Coria playing side-by-side with Markus Halsti protecting underneath. Doyle and Miguel Aguilar manned the flanks and Luke Mishu got a start at his preferred left-back with Steve Birnbaum playing on the right with Bobby Boswell and Kofi Opare patrolling central defense.

The change worked as the home side had no clue how to penetrate United’s disciplined defense. As the game wore on United got even stronger in the back as the Fire were forced to try and dump the ball over the United defense to no avail. Either United cleaned up nicely or the Fire were caught offside as United played their trap to perfection all night long.

United’s hard work paid off in the 73rd minute when Conor Doyle came up a with a goal that will not be forgotten any time soon in D.C. Fabian Espindola floated a free kick from the left flank into the penalty area where Birnbaum kept the ball alive at the back post. The ball ricocheted around the area for a second before landing at the feet of Boswell who’s toe-poked effort rebounded back outside the penalty area and into the path of Doyle who unleashed a 25-yard blast that flashed past Sean Johnson before he could even raise his hands to attempt to deflect the shot.

The goal sucked all the air out of Toyota Park and United easily saw out the remainder of the match in true first-place fashion. With another match just three days away in Toronto, United is already playing with house money thanks to the three points collected this evening when a draw would have been more than satisfactory for Olsen. With key starters getting rested tonight, United will most likely be at full-strength heading into their match in Canada save for the nagging injuries for Chris Pontius and Sean Franklin.

United’s match against TFC will be shown live on Comcast SportsNet at 5pm on Saturday afternoon. TFC easily put away their rivals the Montreal Impact at BMO Field 3-1 earlier this evening and United will definitely have revenge on their minds as it was TFC who snapped United’s 20-game unbeaten run at RFK two weekends ago.

DC United defeated the visiting New England Revolution 2-1 behind two second half goals from Chris Role. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

United ends two-game slide with 2-1 win over the Revolution

Washington, D.C, June 21, 2015 – Chris Rolfe (18) scored a pair of goals in the second half to lead D.C. United to an important 2-1 win over the New England Revolution at steamy RFK Stadium and extend their lead in the Eastern Conference to seven points. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

The win also pushed United (9-5-4, 31 points) to the top of the Supporters Shield race above the Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps who both sit two points behind the Black-and-Red.

Both teams had midweek U.S. Open Cup matches to deal with but both sides held out the majority of their starting players for this match up on East Capitol Street. With the Revolution (6-5-6, 24 points) only four points behind United with a game in hand at the start of the match, it was of major importance for the visitors to set the tone and let United know they have a challenge for the top spot in the East.

The Revolution took advantage of a sleepy beginning for United and gained the early lead in the 10th minute. United midfielder Perry Kitchen was inattentive in his marking and allowed Revs midfielder Lee Ngyuen to slip behind him and the U.S. International fed a beautiful pass behind United’s defense where former United forward Charlie Davies smoothly side-footed a left-footed shot into the far corner past Bill Hamid for the 1-0 lead.

United very much were feeling the muggy conditions through the first half and struggled to maintain possession against the Revolution and were fortunate not to go down 2-0 in the 23rd minute when Hamid came up huge and smothered a goal-bound effort from Chris Tierney after he was sent in alone by another defense-splitting pass from Nguyen.

That save from Hamid seemed to wake United up and they upped the tempo through the remainder of the first half but as has been the case for long stretches of time in recent weeks, United just couldn’t find that final pass or final ball to set up a scoring chance. Chris Rolfe’s individual effort late in the first half was the sum total of United’s chances through the first 45 minutes.

After the break not much changed and the Revs quickly had another dangerous opportunity to double the lead when Nguyen’s screaming drive from 22 yards narrowly flashed over the crossbar. After that let off, United started to slowly turn the tempo of the match to their favor and started gaining more possession and with that came more opportunities to level the match. In the 56th minute United nearly tied the match when Fabian Espindola somehow worked his way to the end line under heavy pressure and floated a cross to the back post where Rolfe’s one-timer eluded the Revolution’s charging goalkeeper Bobby Shuttlesworth but couldn’t get past defender Chris Tierney who cleared the shot out of danger.

The Revolution were made to pay for their conservative approach in settling for the 1-0 lead and United equalized in the 70th minute. The same combination of Espindola to Rolfe this time was successful when Espindola’s right-footed cross floated over the entire Revolution defense and right onto the foot of Rolfe who easily tucked in the volley to level the match at 1-1.

United, despite not playing very well in the heat and humidity for most of the match, had a golden opportunity to go for the win when substitute Miguel Aguilar came up with the games biggest play. Aguilar was a breath of fresh air as he instantly pumped life into United’s attack and when he made a run towards the upper corner of the penalty area in the 80th minute, he was clumsily clattered into by former Georgetown midfielder Steve Neumann right on the edge of the penalty area. Referee Ismail Elfath didn’t hesitate to point to the penalty spot and Chris Rolfe calmly pushed the ball to Shuttleworth’s left and into the goal for second goal of the game and team-leading sixth goal of the season.

The victory for United was the fifth this season after allowing the opening goal of the game. United had won one total match the past two seasons combined when going behind by a goal. Up next for United is a midweek match up in Chicago to take on the Fire on Wednesday night at 8:30 pm EST. The match will be televised locally on Comcast SportsNet.

United Notes

  • Chris Pontius was slated to start the match at left midfield but was pulled during pregame warm ups with a slight calf issue. The move was precautionary according to Ben Olsen after the match
  • Davy Arnaud picked up a yellow card and will be suspended for the game in Chicago on Wednesday. Arnaud will be eligible to return next Saturday night in Toronto

 

Nick DeLeon

U.S. Open Cup: Late goals push United past Pittsburgh in extra time

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, June 17th, 2015 – D.C. United left it late but eventually overcame the Pittsburgh Riverhounds 3-1 this evening at jam-packed Highmark Stadium behind  goals from Kofi Opare and Nick DeLeon in the first extra time period.

With an important Eastern Conference match against New England on Sunday night, United head coach Ben Olsen decided to play every eligible (and non-injured) reserve player tonight and a few first-team regulars and it seemed to work initially as United pounced early for a 1-0 lead.

Luis Silva’s corner kick in the 8th minute was flicked on at the near post by Conor Doyle to the back post where Facundo Coria had the easiest of tap-ins to stake United to a 1-0 lead.

However the lead did not last long and it was a mistake from Kofi Opare in the 24th minute that gifted the third-division USL side a penalty kick. Opare badly misplayed a routine clearance and allowed Kevin Kerr to cut in front of him just inside the penalty area and took him down.

Rob Vincent, the USL’s leading goal scorer, easily beat Andrew Dykstra to level the match at 1-1 from the spot. Although United were dangerous on set pieces their run of play was fractured and unbalanced. Having particularly bad evenings were Luis Silva and Jared Jeffrey as they both coughed the ball up routinely while not even under heavy pressure.

Their mistakes essentially fueled the Riverhounds and all of their close chances at goal but Dykstra was up to the task.

After the break it was the Black-and-Red who started to stamp their authority on the match but could not come up with the key pass or shot to push them past their pesky counterparts.

All that changed however once the teams got to the first of two 15-minute extra time periods. Desperately wanting to avoid penalty kicks, United wasted no time jumping back into the lead as they scored two minutes after the restart. Jared Jeffrey’s corner kick was powered home by Opare and then United pushed it to a two-goal lead when Jairo Arietta’s floated cross met Nick DeLeon’s head for a perfect finish into the corner of the goal and a finish to the match.

United will now wait until tomorrow afternoon to learn their 5th Round opponent in the Round-of-16 and where the game will be played.

United will return to action this Sunday afternoon when the welcome the New England Revolution to town at 5pm. The match will be shown on ESPN2.

Hamid points

United drop second straight match with 1-0 loss in Orlando

Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2015 – D.C. United has reached the midway point of the 2015 MLS season in first place, but tonight’s 1-0 loss to Orlando City SC at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida suggests something other than tangible progress as the Black-and-Red dropped their second game in a row.

Armed with a four-point lead in the Eastern Conference over the New England Revolution, United (8-5-5, 28 points) still has played at least two more games than most of their conference opponents to this point in the season. With a seemingly rare full week of training and rest for United, it didn’t seem to make much of a difference as they wilted in the heat and humidity in Central Florida.

Orlando City (5-5-5, 20 points) jumped into third place in the East by virtue of their win tonight and are on a 5-game unbeaten run. Kaka, the man who runs the show in Orlando for the Lions was the difference maker this evening though in controversial fashion. In the 28th minute United defender Taylor Kemp was adjudged to have fouled Orlando City forward Pedro Ribeiro who was chasing down a failed clearance from Steve Birnbaum after Bill Hamid had just pulled off a stunning save on Ribeiro.

The controversy doesn’t lie in the penalty call from referee Jose Carlos Rivero as much as a clear non-call on a high foot right in the face of Davy Arnaud from Ribeiro just seconds before he took his shot on Hamid. That non-call began the fateful sequence of events that ultimately ended up with Kaka heading in his own penalty-saved shot off of a save from Hamid to give the home side a 1-0 lead before a sweaty and raucous crowd of 30,054 fans.

United had plenty of time to turn the deficit around as United are MLS’ best team in doing so (4-4-1 when giving up the first goal this season) and felt they should have had the opportunity to do so in the final minute of the first half. On a rare United corner kick, midfielder Perry Kitchen was essentially rugby tackled from behind by Orlando City fullback Luke Boden at the penalty spot but Rivero either didn’t notice the play or simply refused to give United a penalty claim.

After the break it was United who took it to the Lions by pushing numbers up into attack but as has been the case for a great deal of the season, United couldn’t get any quality looks on goal or the necessary service to level the match. The best of United’s chances was a Conor Doyle drive that he sliced just past the far post late in the match after being set up beautifully by Fabian Espindola. United only had two shots on goal for the match and both of them came from long distance and never really threatened Orlando City goalkeeper Tally Hall.

With the loss, United now has fallen on their worst patch of play of the season. Not surprising considering the amount of games the team has had to play in the past six weeks. United is 2-4-1 in their last seven matches and are in danger of being caught by the rest of the Eastern Conference. The task of turning around their league form begins next Sunday afternoon when they welcome the Revolution to RFK Stadium for a nationally televised (ESPN2) match on Fathers Day at 5pm.

Before that however United will play the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in U.S. Open Cup play on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. It is expected that Ben Olsen will send his reserves to this match in order to rest up his players for the league match on Sunday.

 

United Notes

  • Chris Pontius (hip), Sean Franklin (ankle), Michael Farfan (hamstring) and Facundo Coria (unknown ailment) all remained back in DC and did not make the trip to Florida
  • Markus Halsti was with Finland over the weekend as they lost 1-0 to Hungary in a Euro 2016 qualifier. Halsti is expected to be back in D.C. by Tuesday. It’s unknown whether he will be included on the bus that will travel to Pittsburgh on Wednesday night for their 4th Round match up with the Riverhounds in the U.S. Open Cup
Sebastian Giovinco (right) scored a pair of highlight-reel goals to lead Toronto FC to a 2-1 win over D.C. United tonight at RFK Stadium before a season-high 17, 105 disappointed fans. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

United’s 20-game unbeaten run at RFK ends with 2-1 loss to Toronto FC

Washington D.C., June 6, 2015 – Sebastian Giovinco (right) scored a pair of highlight-reel goals to lead Toronto FC to a 2-1 win over D.C. United tonight at RFK Stadium before a season-high 17, 105 disappointed fans. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

The loss for United (8-4-4, 28 points) was their first at RFK since dropping a 1-0 decision to the Seattle Sounders on June 28th of last season, nearly a full calendar year. Toronto (6-5-1, 19 points) came into the match missing two of it’s high-priced Designated Players in Michael Bradley (away on International duty with U.S.) and Jozy Altidore (injured but made a late game appearance) but it was the third and arguably most talented of the trio that did the damage tonight.

United turned the tables on their recent form of starting matches slow out of the gate and should have been up 2-0 inside the first six minutes of the match. Fabian Espindola’s 22-yard angled chip to the far post easily eluded TFC goalkeeper Chris Konopka but hit the post and bounded away. However, just a minute later United were ahead thanks once again to Espindola. His corner kick was volleyed into the net from six yards by defender Steve Birngbaum for his first-ever MLS goal and the early 1-0 lead.

That was pretty much the extent of United’s danger on the night. Toronto quickly regained the tempo and took it to the Black-and-Red and if not for a number of good saves from Andrew Dykstra (filling in for a hobbled Bill Hamid for a second straight match) the match could have gotten quickly out of hand. It was the “Atomic Ant” Giovinco who ultimately would be the difference. Right from the start United didn’t seem to have anyone capable of shutting down the diminutive Italian forward.

Giovinco leveled the match in the 34th minute when he received a pass deep inside United’s penalty area. Sean Franklin quickly got in position to defend him, or so we were lead to believe, but he was easily spun out of position and Giovinco fired just past the head of Dykstra from a tough angle for his sixth goal of the season.

After the break United regained control of the match but as has been the case for most of the season, United struggled to break down TFC’s compact defense. The final ball was severely lacking all game long as United didn’t even register a shot on goal for the second half of play despite dominating possession. TFC took a page from United’s recent playbook in coming from behind and winning when Giovinco scored a stunning game-winning goal in the 83rd minute. A very lazy turnover from substitute Luis Silva just inside United’s half of the field powered the counter attack for the winning strike. Midfielder Benoit Cheyrou easily dispossessed Silva and spotted Giovinco who turned and ran directly at United’s goal. With Bobby Boswell in retreat Giovinco unleashed a 30-yard blast the easily beat Dykstra to give the visitors the shock 2-1 lead.

United did put forth a decent effort to try and get the equalizer and they should have had it in the 90th minute but could not come up with the final touch to get it done. Goalkeeper Chris Konopka came out to challenge Birnbaum on a free kick and whiffed on the clearance. The loose ball fell right to Silva who’s rushed angled attempt failed badly. The ball fell into the path of Davy Arnaud who took a settling touch but his left-footed attempt to strike also whiffed and United was out of chances after that as the visitors easily killed off the remainder of stoppage time.

United has now ended their most brutal string of games they had to play this season in a 7-games in 25-day stretch. With constant shuffling of the lineups due to injury, short rest and suspensions, United actually managed to increase their lead at the top of the Eastern Conference but will look at tonight’s match against a weakened TFC as an opportunity lost to increase their lead.

United now will finally have a full week of training ahead of their match a week from Sunday in Orlando against the Lions. This match will be televised live on FoxSports1 at 7pm EST.

 

Conor Doyle celebrates his goal against the visiting fire with DC United mid fielder Fabian Espindola

Espindola return sparks United to 3-1 win over Chicago

Washington, D.C., June 4 – Jairo Arreita bagged two goals and Fabian Espindola dished out two assists as D.C. United stormed back from a 1-0 halftime deficit to race past the Chicago Fire in last night’s 3-1 victory at RFK Stadium. Conor Doyle added his first goal of the season to complete United’s fourth win of the season after giving up the opening goal. United (8-3-4, 28 points) only won one match last season after giving up the first goal and have extended their lead in the Eastern Conference to seven points over the New England Revolution.

For what seems to be an alarming trend recently, United started out slowly once again and were in trouble in the 26th minute when Steve Birnbaum inexplicably reached out and handled a ball in the penalty area as United were under pressure. Birnbaum got the start at an unfamiliar left-back as Taylor Kemp and Chris Korb were both unavailable due to injury. Bill Hamid and Chris Pontius also did not suit up for United who were already missing Chris Rolfe due to a suspension.

Jeff Larentowicz stepped up to take the penalty but Andrew Dykstra made an incredible diving save to his right to keep out the goal-bound shot. Bobby Boswell and Markus Halsti both snapped to attention and swept the ball out of play before any Fire player could pounce on the rebound. United thought they were off the hook but just 60 seconds later the Fire would take the lead when Quincy Amarikwa’s pass from the left flank found speedy striker David Accam and the Ghanaian’s one-touch redirect flashed past Dykstra for a 1-0 lead.

United once again failed to create much of anything through the first half and most of it had to do with yet another batch of changes to the lineup as United are at the tail end of a 5-game in 15-day stretch of play. Head coach Ben Olsen though had a few tricks up his sleeve and the biggest and best one was named Fabian Espindola who was making his return back to the team after sitting out a month with a deep bruise to his knee.

Espindola came on after the break the tone of the match changed completely as United seemed more focused and picked up their pace of play. That urgency paid off in the 61st minute when Espindola’s perfectly whipped in cross from a corner kick met the head of Arrieta who snapped a header inside the far post to level match at 1-1. Just eight minutes later United would take the lead for good with a bit a good fortune. Arrieta was attempting a give-and-go with Nick DeLeon deep in the Fire’s penalty area when defender Lovel Palmer seemed to have thwarted the dangerous combination. However, the Jamiacan’s sliding challenge redirected the ball right back to Arrieta who’s one-time right footed blast easily beat Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch. The goal was the fifth of the season for Arrieta who has taken the team lead over Chris Rolfe in scoring.

Not to be undone, Espindola performed one more piece of magic to wrap up the night for United. In the 75th minute Espindola found himself deep in Fire territory hugging the left sideline. The crafty Argentine spotted a far post run from Conor Doyle and unleashed a worm-burner pass that hit Doyle just as he flashed in front of his defensive challenger and right in front of goal. Busch could only get a slight touch on the fall before the shot hit the roof of the net.

With United firmly in control, they saw out the remainder of the match with little difficulty as United cruised to back-to-back wins for the first time since beating Vancouver and Columbus a month ago.

Next up for United is a home match against Toronto FC this Saturday night at 7pm. This will be the end of United’s most grueling stretch of games of the season to date. United will most likely have most of their squad available as the injuries that forced Olsen’s changes tonight were a mixture of precaution and knowledge of another Eastern Conference game just three days away.