Join the guys as they welcome 2016. The boys talk about United’s off-season, Bill Hamid, the preseason, possible player choices and the current pre-season roster. The guys also weigh in on the new stadium developments and look ahead to the new season.
Washington D.C., November 1, 2015 – The semi-final round of the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs began with two of the leagues most fierce rivals clashing at RFK Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
D.C. United and New York Red Bull have met three of the past four years in the semi-final round only adding fuel to the fire between the clubs.
That bitterness played itself out on the pitch tonight as the visitors from the North scored a deserved 1-0 win before 19, 525 disappointed fans at East Capitol Street.
Dax McCarty’s diving header behind United’s defense in the 72nd minute was the difference maker as Red Bull take the 1-0 aggregate lead back up I-95 to Red Bull Arena next Sunday night. Additionally, the road goal scored by Red Bull means that United must score next weekend or their season will be over.
That goal was special for Red Bull but it came just three minutes after the games most vital talking point. United midfielder Markus Halsti was savagely taken down by substitute Red Bull defender Ronald Zubar in the 69th minute. Everyone watching was thinking straight red card except for the one man that mattered – referee Fotis Bazakos. He only produced a yellow card after a circle of Red Bull players begged and pleaded for mercy. That mercy was granted to the bemusement of United head coach Ben Olsen and the entire bench of the Black-and-Red.
Nevertheless, it was less than efficient performance for United who looked tired after their Sunday-Wednesday-Sunday journey. Olsen noted after the match that players like Chris Rolfe and Nick DeLeon just didn’t have the required energy to take on a full week rested Red Bull squad.
It definitely showed as United were fractured and inconsistent all game long and logged a paltry 55% passing completion percentage (normal MLS games range in the 70% percentile) in addition to producing 0 shots on goal through the entire match.
Obviously you can’t win MLS playoff matches with those numbers much less advance past a top team like Red Bull.
Both teams came out with energy to begin the match abut United started to dictate tempo as the first half wandered on. However, that final ball was lacking all afternoon long and Red Bull goalkeeper Luis Robles had precious little to do.
Bill Hamid came up big in the 33rd minute to deny Mike Grella from a close-in sharp angle, blocking the shot with his face to keep the game scoreless. United’s best opportunity came via a free kick when Steve Birnbaum’s redirected header across the face of goal just missed the onrushing Perry Kitchen right in front of Robles.
After the break the visitors started to gain their foothold as United started to tire. Bill Hamid stopped Grella again in the 58th minute with a diving save of Grella’s header. Seconds later Red Bull left back Kemar Lawrence lined a shot off the near post and out.
The game turned in Red Bull’s favor in the 72nd minute when Sacha Kjlestan’s curling free kick sailed over a thicket of players in United’s penalty area to Dax McCarty who was all alone inside the goal box. His diving header gave Hamid no chance and the all-important road goal for Red Bull.
Seconds after the restart from the goal, United had arguably their best chance to score when Fabian Espindola launched a left-footed rocket from 22 yards that narrowly missed the near post.
That was the best United could produce on the evening as they struggled all night long to deal with Red Bull’s three-man central midfield. United, due to an injury to Chris Pontius, were forced to shuffle the lineup and pushed Rolfe from a forward position to wide midfield with Alvaro Saborio manning his striker spot. United also had to deal with the suspension of their captain Bobby Boswell after their win midweek over the New England Revolution.
Rolfe and DeLeon spent the majority of the match in central midfield in an attempt to negate the effectiveness of the Red Bull trio of McCarty-Kjlestan and Felipe. That in turn made United way too narrow and were unable to use outside backs Taylor Kemp and Sean Franklin as outlets.
The solution is simple for United now. Because of the away goals rule, United can win the series if they win the game at Red Bull Arena by a 2-1 score or better. A 1-0 win for United is the only scoreline that would force the 30-minute extra time and ensuing penalty kick shootout, if necessary. A draw or a loss (obviously) would eliminate United from the playoffs.
Montreal, Quebec, Canada, September 26, 2015 – D.C. United entered their match in Montreal on Saturday desperately needing a result to turn around their winless September in league play.
Two Didier Drogba highlight reel goals inside the first 11 minutes put rest to that wish as the Montreal Impact strolled to a comfortable 2-0 victory yesterday afternoon at Stade Sapudo. Once again United were the creators of their own demise when two critical defensive errors paved the path for both of Drogba’s sensational goals. The 37-year old striker has scored 7 goals in 6 league matches since signing with Montreal during the summer transfer window and an argument could be made that both goals on display were his best.
Montreal got on the score sheet in just the 4th minute after Taylor Kemp was whistled for a handball about 30 yards outside the area in front of goal. There was initial confusion on the play after Kemp badly misplayed a seemingly harmless clearance when it hit his left arm. Montreal striker Dominic Oduro picked up the loose ball and tried to round United goalkeeper Bill Hamid who successfully made the save and then cleared the ball out of play. However, referee Jair Maruffo called for the play to come back to the initial hand ball spot from Kemp. United felt undone as it seemed advantaged was played then taken back. After the match however it was confirmed that Maruffo had indeed blown the play dead at the time of the handball and was not going to allow the goal to stand had Oduro scored.
Drogba stepped up on the ensuing free kick and hit a masterful upper 90 shot that Hamid could only get his fingertips to as the ball ricocheted off the post and in for the early 1-0 lead. Perhaps the biggest sign of United’s continual problems during this season is the fact that the team has now given up an astonishing 10 goals this season inside the first five minutes of a game. No one in MLS is even close to United in that regard.
So, United is once again forced to play from behind and chase the match. Things got doubly worse just seven minutes later when Markus Halsti attempted a foolish back pass under heavy pressure from Montreal midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker. With teammates available in multiple directions to unload a simple pass, Halsti inexplicably tried to push the ball all the way back to Hamid in goal. The pass was criminally under hit and fell into the path of Drogba who only had United defender Steve Birnbaum to beat. Drogba easily juked Birnbaum out of his shorts just inside the penalty area and calmly lifted a shot over the onrushing Hamid for the 2-0 lead.
United should have cut the deficit in half just sixty seconds later but Chris Rolfe couldn’t control the rebound of a Fabian Espindola angled shot that was saved by Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush right into the path of Rolfe who was just four yards out in front of goal. The ball it Rolfe in the chest and was smothered by Bush before Rolfe could get a foot on it to poke it home. That was pretty much the extent of United’s danger on the evening as the Impact saw the remainder of the match out without much difficulty.
The loss for United keeps United in fourth place in the Eastern Conference but the only good news for the Black-and-Red on the weekend was that all three teams above United did not win either. However, United is in danger of dropping to fifth place as Toronto FC are now just two points adrift of United and they have a game in hand.
Up next for United is a critical home match on Friday night against NYCFC. If United can win that match it would clinch a playoff berth as well as eliminate NYCFC from the playoffs. United lost their only match with NYCFC so far 3-1 in New York City in August.
Montreal, Canada – August 8 2015- Bill Hamid’s return to the nets couldn’t have come at a better time as his timely saves powered D.C. United to a 1-0 win in Montreal tonight at Stade Saputo.
Hamid, making his first appearance since June 27th, made two one-v-one saves on either side of halftime to help preserve the win for United, their third in a row. After setting an MLS record with back-to-back wins after a two-goal deficit in the previous two weeks, United came back down to Earth and set another league record in recording a win with only one shot attempted for the entire 90 minutes. One shot..
Chris Rolfe got that game-winning shot in the 13th minute thanks in part to the high pressure he and Jairo Arrieta put on the Impact defense. Arrieta poked the ball away from defender Victor Cabrera and beat Wandrille Lefevre to the loose ball and Arrieta, subbing in for the injured Fabian Espindola, tapped the ball into the path of Rolfe who easily dispatched his shot to the left of Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush for his team-leading 9th goal of the season and the early 1-0 lead.
To say United then sat back and decided to defend could be the understatement of the year. After giving up late goals in stoppage time in losses to Philadelphia, Seattle and FC Dallas on the road earlier this season due to their bunker mentality, this game was very much traveling the same path. At halftime the Impact had a 9-1 shots advantage with Hamid coming up big one-v-one on Andres Romero to keep United out in front.
After the break not much changed, in fact it got a little more worrisome for United as their deep bunker could not afford themselves the opportunity to hold possession and relieve pressure. Hamid stoned Dominic Oduro on a one-v-one challenge midway through the second half and also kept Montreal at bay with stellar positioning and solid command of his penalty area. If not for some wayward shooting inside the penalty area, most specifically from defender Eric Miller (two misses) and Dilly Duka (big miss from 6 yards out in stoppage time), United could have suffered the similar fate that took them down in games earlier this season employing a deep bunker.
As it happens, United (13-7-5, 44 points) extends their Eastern Conference lead to 11 points over Red Bull who host NYCFC tomorrow night at Red Bull Arena. Red Bull has four games in hand and could theoretically catch United should they win all four of those matches. One non-win however drops them below the winnable threshold. Needless to say, despite the very poor offensive showing tonight, it was a huge road win, their fourth of the season.
Speaking of NYCFC, they will be United’s next opponent when they meet next Thursday night at Yankee Stadium. Due to both the Redskins and Ravens playing NFL Preseason games at the same time, this match will only be available via www.dcunited.com.
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).
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.
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.
- 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
Washington, D.C, May 30, 2015 – Chris Rolfe’s 85th minute penalty kick conversion pushed D.C. United to a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over the Philadelphia Union in front of 16,284 sweaty fans tonight at RFK Stadium.
After giving up a 5th minute goal for the second game running, it was looking like D.C. United was heading for a fourth consecutive match without a victory. However, Chris Pontius’ stoppage-time goal in the first half leveled the match and Rolfe’s spot kick conversion turned the match around for the Black-and-Red.
Sebastian Le Toux’s goal just five minutes into the match gave the visitors the shock lead. United defender Steve Birnbaum was a bit casual in clearing a ball deep in the penalty area and he coughed the ball up to Andrew Wenger. Wenger quickly slipped the ball to his right where a wide-open Le Toux hammered his shot past an onrushing Bill Hamid for the 1-0 lead.
The Union should have doubled their lead midway through the first half but Wenger’s left-footed drive from 15 yards beat Hamid but crashed off the crossbar before being cleared out by United’s scrambling defense.
The Union were made to pay for that miss in stoppage time when Taylor Kemp’s pinpoint cross met Chris Pontius who’s powerful header snapped past Union goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre to level the match. For Kemp it was his team-leading 4th assist of the season but he would limp off with a suspected groin injury late in the match. Pontius’ goal was his second of the season.
After the break, both teams traded patches of possession with neither team really coming close to scoring until the final fifteen minutes of the match.
Just a minute before Rolfe was sent to the penalty spot, Nick DeLeon hit a thunderbolt that was ticketed for the near side upper netting that was well saved by Silvestre to keep the teams at 1-1. This was DeLeon’s first appearance since injuring his hamstring against Columbus at the begging of May.
Chris Korb, on for the injured Kemp, sent a diagonal ball to the far side of the penalty area when Philadelphia substitute Zach Pfeffer seemed to inadvertently handle the cross. The linesman immediately signaled the infraction and Rolfe stepped up and sent his penalty kick to the right of Sylvestre and send United to their first win since a 2-1 win over Orlando City SC on May 13th.
From there United easily kept the visitors at bay save for a close call when C.J. Sapong’s header in the 90th minute looped just over the crossbar.
With United in the midst of a 5 game in 14 day stretch of games, head coach Ben Olsen once again moved his lineup around.
Rolfe, Pontius, Davy Arnaud and Sean Franklin were all left in D.C. this past week as the team took a lighter roster out for their eventual 1-0 loss in Portland on Wednesday night.
With another match on Wednesday at home against the Chicago Fire and another match next Saturday night against Toronto FC, Olsen did confirm that more roster rotation will happen to help alleviate the crush of matches.
Wednesday night’s match will be televised live on CSN at 7pm.
Portland, Oregon, May 27, 2015 – The script was almost written before kickoff of D.C. United’s match last night against Portland Timbers FC.
3 road games in 8 days, the last two on Field Turf – check
5,000 mile mid-week round trip to Portland – check
4 injured regulars (Fabian Espindola, Nick DeLeon, Michael Farfan, Luis Silva) – check
4 regular starters (Chris Pontius, Chris Rolfe, Davy Arnaud, Sean Franklin) left back in D.C. – check
2 more starters (Bobby Boswell, Perry Kitchen) on the bench to start the match – check
That United almost came out of Cascadia with a valuable point in their 1-0 loss last night was about as much as one could reasonably expect given the list of excuses referenced above.
United fell behind in the 5th minute when Taylor Kemp’s giveaway led directly to a quick strike from Max Urruti, the man who also had the game-winner in stoppage time last year against United at Providence Park.
United (6-3-4, 22 points) remains in first place in the Eastern Conference and the Supporters Shield standings despite the loss (their third consecutive game without a win) and the Timbers (4-5-4, 16 points) extend their winning streak to two matches, lifting themselves off the bottom of the Western Conference.
Head coach Ben Olsen made seven changes to the lineup coming off of last Saturday’s 1-1 draw in New England and with the crush of matches and travel bearing down on the team, the moves were necessitated and saw a patchwork lineup that gave season debuts to Luke Mishu and Jarred Jeffrey in midfield. The match also saw the return of Steve Birnbaum to the lineup after a two-month injury layoff.
Markus Halsti, Miguel Aguilar and Conor Doyle also saw their second starts of the season and to no one’s surprise the Black-and-Red struggled out of the gate with their fractured lineup. The Timbers took full advantage of that in the 5th minute when Kemp failed to deal with an initial defense of a pass to the corner and he got stripped of the ball. Gaston Fernandez quickly scooped up the loose ball and sent it square across the goal mouth just behind United’s defense where Urriti was waiting all alone at the back post. The Argentine striker easily pushed it past Bill Hamid for the quick 1-0 lead.
It took United about 20-25 more minutes to finally grab a foot-hold in the match and should have equalized in the 31st minute but Birnbaum’s header from six yards away on a corner kick somehow eluded the open goal after Timbers keeper Adam Kwarasey was caught out of position.
United created two other half-chances before the halftime whistle when Jairo Arrieta’s bid was blocked inside the penalty area and Conor Doyle’s shot from 18 yards straight out flew just over the crossbar.
After the break however it was United who would begin to grab hold of the match but failed to put together any meaningful chances to test Kwarasey. On the other end of the field though Bill Hamid was putting on a goalkeeping clinic in keeping the Timbers from extending their lead. With United pushing numbers forward to find an equalizer, it was the Timbers who were counter attacking with relish and nearly got their insurance goal if not for Hamid.
Hamid made consecutive stops on former United midfielder Rodney Wallace and Dairon Asprilla within a minute and then followed up minutes later with a sensational kick save on Asprilla late in the match.
It was not to be though as United just didn’t have enough cohesion and experience on the field to gain a valuable equalizer. The narrative coming out of this match is that despite the huge number of first-team players not involved in the match, Ben Olsen can take a few performances from individual players and use that moving forward as United will now have a trio of home matches in short order (yet another 3 games in 3 games in 8 day stretch) when they host Philadelphia (Saturday, May 30- 7pm), Chicago (Wednesday, June 3 – 7 pm) and Toronto FC (Saturday, June 6 – 7pm) in the upcoming week.
Wow, someone at United must have really cheesed off the league scheduler.
DC United came from behind to defeat visiting Kaká and Orlando City 2-1 to extend their unbeaten streak to 8. The win propelled United to the lead in the Supporter’s shield race. Photos: Martin Fernandez.