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Chris Pontius

United rout Fire and jump back into 2nd place in the Eastern Conference

Washington, D.C., October 18, 2015 – Just in the nick of time. Better now than never. Saving the best for last. D.C. United have regained their form and any of the aforementioned cliches would be more than appropriate.

Chris Pontius’s goal late in the first half got United on their way to an eventual 4-0 win over the hapless Chicago Fire and the result pushed United from fifth place to second place in the East with only next weeks game at Columbus left in the regular season. A win in Columbus locks up the 2nd seed (New York Red Bull clinched the top spot by virtue of their 4-1 win over Philadelphia this afternoon) for the Black-and Red. A draw would also work but it also would allow Toronto FC an opportunity to squeak into the second spot if they were to win their matchup against their Eastern Canadian rivals in Montreal next weekend.

All Eastern Conference games will start at 5pm next weekend so no team will know their destiny until their matches are played to the full 90 minutes.

As for today’s critical game, it was the first time this season that United had put forth a full 90-minute performance. Part of that had to do with the apathy on display from the visiting Fire who became the sixth team in MLS history to go an entire season without a win on the road (0-12-5). Most of it however had to do with the improved confidence of United as they were coming off their stoppage-time win over NYCFC over two weeks ago.

United pushed the pace from the opening whistle and for the first time in over three months United did not concede a first half goal, a certain bugaboo that has plagued the team seemingly all season long, particularly at RFK Stadium. After an enterprising but fruitless first 20 minutes for United, the visitors started to get into the match. However it was United that got on the board first thanks in part to great hustle from Chris Rolfe and eventually Chris Pontius.

Rolfe wiggled his way through a trio of Fire defenders about 40 yards from goal and was set to unleash Pontius on goal. Fire midfielder Razvan Cocis intervened and actually pushed the ball into the path of Pontius. Pontius, who has struggle all year to get back to full fitness from nagging injuries, burst through and rounded startled Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch and finished very well from an acute angle for his third goal of the season.

United were not off the hook just yet as Bill Hamid made a save in stoppage time to keep the game at 1-0. Hamid saved brilliantly from a Jeff Larentowicz free kick and then held his breath as the ensuing corner kick was volleyed inches wide by Cocis.

After the break it was only one team on the field United finally rewarded themselves after a season of one-goal wins and matches that seemed to drag on for eternity. Rolfe nearly doubled the advantage just minutes after the restart when Busch did well to parry his free kick away. The ensuing rebound eventually found its way to Markus Halsti but his goal bound shot was blocked by teammate Kofi Opare.

United finally did get the breathing room they desired in the 67 minute. After having success early in the season on corner kicks, it had been quite a while since United had scored from one and Bobby Boswell was the beneficiary of great service from Fabian Espindola as he flicked his corner to the far post where it easily nestled into the goal for his second goal of the season.

Espindola got on the scoreboard just four minutes later when his mostly intended cross redirected off of Fire defender Lovel Palmer and caught Busch out of position at the far post to make it 3-0 to United. The goal was Fabian’s fifth of the season.

United wrapped up their scoring in the 80th minute when substitute Alvaro Saborio redirected a deflected Sean Franklin shot into the goal for his seventh goal of the season and fourth with United. Saborio has scored in back-to-back games as a substitute and may have carved out an important role for United moving forward as a late-game difference maker.

Next up for United is the season-ending match in Columbus next Sunday at 5pm. Columbus will be without their top two star players as both Kei Kamara and Federico Higuan are both yellow card suspended for the match as they both picked up senseless yellows in their surprising 2-0 win in Toronto on Saturday afternoon.

 

 

D.C. United holds off shorthanded Whitecaps for first-ever win in Vancouver

Vancouver, British Columbia, April 26, 2015 – Chris Rolfe’s second-half goal was the difference as D.C. United won their first-ever game at B.C. Place over the Vancouver Whitecaps in their 2-1 win last night.

United (4-1-2, 14 points) extended their unbeaten run to five matches and also matched their best-ever start to a season through seven matches (2006) and maintain their top of the East standing with New England. Vancouver (5-3-1, 16 points) still remains atop the Western Conference in spite of the defeat.

The match couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start for the Black-and-Red when the home side scored in just the second minute of play. Midfielder Pedro Morales coolly finished off a cross from Steven Beitashour to stake the Whitecaps to the early lead. However, United responded just seven minutes later when Bobby Boswell finished off a nice cross from Michael Farfan to level the match at 1-1.

United nearly took the lead in the 39th minute when Fabian Espindola, making his season-debut from his six-match ban to start the season, slipped a pass to Farfan and his cheeky chip attempt floated over helpless Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted and just over the crossbar. Three minutes after that narrow miss, the match would change in United’s favor. Midfieler Matias Laba, already on a yellow card, hauled down Espindola just as he was crossing midfield and was given a second yellow card and subsequent red card that sent Vancouver down to ten men.

With the advantage United almost doubled the lead just minutes into the second half. Ousted made a pair of saves on Espindola and Rolfe in quick succession that should have given United the lead. Seconds after the save on Rolfe, the Whitecaps nearly took the lead themselves when Mario Rosales managed to carve out some space and sent his curling shot off the far post. In the scramble for the rebound, United defender Sean Franklin appeared to collide into goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra as the rebound was cleared away. Dykstra, starting for the second straight game in place of starter Bill Hamid, came up limping and had to be replaced by third-string goalkeeper Travis Worra.

After that amazing flurry of play it was United who would regain control of the match in the 64th minute when Chris Rolfe fired home a rebound shot in the 64th minute. Rolfe began the play with a long run through the heart of the Vancouver midfield and laid a ball off the Chris Pontius making a diagonal run just inside the penalty area. Whitecaps defender Steven Beitashour did well to tackle the ball off of Pontius but it fell right into the path of Rolfe who used the outside of his right foot to fire the ball past Ousted for his second goal of the season.

Even though the Whitecaps were down a man, you wouldn’t know it with the way they carried themselves and they nearly grabbed the equalizer on numerous occasions only to see poor finishing and poor execution of plays down the stretch, which included a lengthy six minutes of stoppage time. United dug in and came out with their second road win of the season and now will head home for a season-long three game home stand which begins on Saturday night when they welcome Columbus Crew SC into town.

 

United Notes

  • Taylor Kemp and Davy Arnaud were both left out of the squad for illness and a slight groin injury respectively. Chris Korb and Michael Farfan started in their place.
  • With Espindola back in the lineup, it was Jairo Arrieta that went to the bench and Rolfe started up top with Pontius moving to the left flank.
  • United midfielder Miguel Aguilar was left back in Washington, D.C. because of travel visa issues with Canada. Aguilar played 90 minutes midweek with the Richmond Kickers and helped them to a victory over Red Bulls II in USL action.

United crush league-leaders FC Dallas 4-1

Fabian Espindola scored twice and set up another goal in D.C. United’s 4-1 dismantling of league-leading FC Dallas tonight at RFK Stadium. Photo: Tony Quinn.

Bobby Boswell and Sean Franklin also scored for United as they put their collective foot on the pedal and rolled past the visitors from Texas. The win helps United jump into a temporary tie at the top of the Eastern Conference with Toronto FC and Sporting Kansas City. Toronto FC has the weekend off while Sporting is on the road in New England. United is also on a five-game unbeaten run since losing their first two matches of the season.

FC Dallas opened the scoring against the run of play in the 13th minute with a beautiful combination play that left the Black-and-Red helpless. Striker Fabian Castillo cut in from the left flank and found Blas Perez just inside the area. The big Panamanian one-timed his pass to the onrushing Mauro Diaz and his fake at the top of the area cleared his path towards goal and left Bill Hamid with no chance and FC Dallas was ahead 1-0.

However, the tone of the match completely changed when FC Dallas defender Zach Loyd was shown a second yellow card and subsequent red card after his studs up challenge on Davy Arnaud in the 39th minute. Unlike last week when United went up a man in the 81st minute with the lead against Columbus, United made the opposition pay with a beautiful equalizer in first-half stoppage time. Nick DeLeon (team-leading 3 assists so far this season) slipped a pass to Eddie Johnson on the right wing and his inch-perfect whipped cross met Espindola at the back post and his header leveled the match at 1-1 just as the half came to a close.

After the restart, it was all United as they held a 68-32% possession advantage. Already down a man, FC Dallas was forced to bunker in and try to keep United at bay. Defending is not exactly the forte of FC Dallas and United made them pay in a big way. Eddie Johnson came off with a slight hamstring twinge but it did not slow down the Black-and-Red. United took the lead in the 60th minute after some good work along the end line by Espindola. His cross was met by a wicked side volley from substitute Conor Doyle but former University of Maryland goalkeeper Chris Seitz did well to save the blast but it landed right into the path of Boswell and his left-footed shot ripped the net to give United the 2-1 lead.

Not done just yet with their barrage United increased the lead to 3-1 in the 64th minute on one of the prettiest plays by United at RFK in a long long time. Espindola managed to somehow juke his way through two FC Dallas defenders and made his way towards goal along the end line. His chipped cross into the goal mouth was met with a perfectly timed left-footed side foot finish by Franklin and the game for all intents and purposes was over.

United were not done however and added a fourth goal in the 69th minute. Chris Rolfe’s hard work along the left flank opened up a sliver of space in the penalty area for Espindola. The Argentine received the pass with his favored left foot and popped it forward in the air. Without hesitation Espindola laced the ball before it hit the ground and past the diving Seitz for the last goal of the game.

United, incidentally enough, beat FC Dallas 4-1 two years ago at RFK to help jump start their season. United will now have to take their new found confidence on the road to Portland next weekend when they face the desperate yet struggling Timbers. That match will be at 10:30 EST on Comcast SportsNet

Congratulating Davy

Early goal just enough as United hang on for 1-0 win over Red Bull

Davy Arnaud’s (8) 4th-minute goal stood up to give DC United their second consecutive win of the year over bitter rivals Red Bull New York. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

Just one week after snapping a club-record 15-game winless streak, D.C. United won back-to-back matches for the first time in league play since October 2012 thanks to their 1-0 victory over rivals New York Red Bulls tonight at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. The win was also the second of the season over an Eastern Conference rival. United only won one match (Montreal) against the East for the entirety of the 2013 MLS season.

Davy Arnaud’s 4th-minute goal stood up as United endured an onslaught from the visiting Red Bulls in an attempt to equalize the match. Andrew Dykstra, in for regular starter Bill Hamid who was again out with lingering issues from his toe injury suffered with the National Team ten days ago, was strong in goal and garnered his second shutout in as many starts with the Black-and-Red. Red Bull held most of the possession in a tense second-half which saw the home side give up the ball too easily to fuel the visiting attack. Red Bull had a number of near misses but it was actually Dykstra’s save off of a deflection from his own team mate Sean Franklin that proved to be his most difficult save of the evening.

While the visitors were carrying most of the play on the night, it was United who struck early in the 4th minute. United received a corner kick opportunity in part because of a poor misplay defensively from Red Bull center back Jamison Olave who’s heavy first touch took the ball over the end line. Fabian Espindola whipped in his customary left-footed screamer onto the head of Bobby Boswell who flicked the ball to the back post where Davy Arnaud was waiting and his diving header made it through three Red Bull players before settling in the far side netting for the early 1-0 lead.

United and Red Bull traded spells of possession through the remainder of a lively first forty-five minutes before Red Bull turned up the heat after the break. United was complicit in Red Bulls wave of attacks by giving the ball away too quickly and too easily to help aid the visitors in their attempt to equalize. United however were not without their opportunities to extend the lead, the best of which came when Eddie Johnson beat an offside trap and strode in on goal only to see his shot fly way over the crossbar. Although Johnson remains frustrated without a goal, he did all the little things tonight that received praise from head coach Ben Olsen after the match.

Somehow, United managed to hold up despite the surge from Red Bull and took the first leg lead in the Atlantic Cup over their fiercest rivals. United will now turn their attention to next Saturday’s match in Columbus as they hope to inflict some payback from their 3-0 season opening loss to the Crew at RFK in March..

Perry Kitchen Congratualtes Fabian Espindola

United secures first point of the season in 2-2 draw with Chicago

D.C United took the field at soggy RFK Stadium on Saturday afternoon looking to excise the demons of back-to-back shutout losses to start the 2014 MLS campaign. The Chicago Fire however had other plans as their late goal ruined United’s chance at their first win of the season and first win in nearly seven months.

Quincy Amerikwa’s redirect from the six-yard box in the 82nd minute leveled the match at 2-2 and spoiled the party for the announced crowd of 9,445 fans, the smallest league crowd at RFK in over five years.

Chicago opened the scoring in the 27th minute against the run of play when Jhon Kennedy Hurtado headed in a Harrison Shipp corner kick. Hurtado easily shook the mark of United defender Sean Franklin and overpowered Cristian Fernandez to fire into the top corner of the net. Prior to the goal United were completely bossing the match when they forced Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson into four saves. In the games opening twenty-five minutes United had essentially tripled it’s offensive output in terms of creating chances from their first two league games.

After the gut shot of falling behind against the run of play, United did not shirk their responsibilities and quickly regained the momentum of the match in the 35th minute. Eddie Johnson was pulled down from behind at the right edge of the penalty area after being sent through by Perry Kitchen. While most of RFK howled in derision at Jair Maruffo for not pointing to the penalty spot, replays showed he made the right call. Up stepped Fabian Espindola and Nick DeLeon to combine for United’s first goal of the season. DeLeon rolled the free kick behind and to the left for the onrushing Argentine to blast a shot through the wall and skip past Johnson on the greasy surface and level the match at 1-1.

Both teams struggled with the sloppy conditions by trading half-chances through the subsequent next forty minutes before United took the lead in the 73rd minute. Espindola’s corner kick found the head of Bobby Boswell who forced a diving save from Johnson on the line. The rebound found it’s way back to Boswell who then slammed a shot off the goalpost only to see the rebound finally land at the feet of Kitched who shoveled the ball into the net for the go-ahead goal.

United from there retreated into a defensive stance trying to capture their first win of the season. However, they got burned badly in the 82nd minute and paid the price with the game-tying goal from Amerikwa. Substitute Patrick Nyarko collected a ball along the right end line and nutmegged United defender Cristian Fernandez. His centering pass found Amerikwa in stride and his blast easily bested Bill Hamid.

The draw with Chicago means that United have now gone 15 matches without a win over the course of two seasons. United will next take aim at the New England Revolution who come to town next Saturday night at 7pm.

United big movers in Stage One of Re-Entry Draft

D.C. United selected Sean Franklin with their top pick in Stage One of the Re-Entry Draft and also welcomed back defender Bobby Boswell to RFK after he was acquired in the second round this afternoon . United will be up first again for Stage Two of the Re-Entry Draft next Thursday.

As a result of these selections, United must pay Franklin and Boswell their previous season’s salary plus a modest increase. Reports say that Boswell is just about signed to his deal. No word just yet on Franklin’s contract situation.

Combined Franklin and Boswell’s cap hit will be for approximately $500,000 next season. However, with United acquiring a substantial amount of allocation money in the offseason, they can choose to pay down some of their salaries if they wish. I think it’s too soon to make that call as United still has a lot of work to do to acquire some International talent to add to the roster before the season begins on March 8th at home against the Columbus Crew.

It seems for the time being that Franklin and Boswell w0uld be slotted directly into defense for United at right back and central defense respectively. So what does this mean for United’s longest standing defender in Dejan Jakovic? I think Ben Olsen still has faith in Jakovic and he will remain a big part of United’s rebuilding in the offseason. This doesn’t mean that United is done shopping for defenders as United is very much in need of more quality all along the back line. While Franklin and Boswell don’t light the league on fire, they are dependable players and certain upgrades from what we saw from United in 2013.

Boswell comes back to United after being traded to Houston before the 2008 MLS season. Boswell was the MLS Defender of the Year in his sophomore season for the Black-and-Red in 2006 but quickly fell out of favor in 2007 as it seemed that off the field activities were more important than improving his on-field form. Boswell was traded for Zach Wells which became one of the more lopsided trades in recent MLS history. Boswell went on to become a mainstay in Houston’s central defense while United has struggled to fill his void since the trade.

As for Franklin, he was the MLS Rookie of the Year in 2008 for the Los Angeles Galaxy and was a consistent figure along the right side of the field in midfield and defense for the Galaxy as he helped them to secure back-to-back MLS Cups in 2011 and 2012.