Join the guys in as they look back at United’s past few games, including the streak ending loss at RFK Stadium at the hands of Sebastian Giovinco and Toronto FC at RFK Stadium. The boys also discuss the recent stadium developments and look ahead to United’s next games.
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.
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.
Luis Silva’s 92nd minute free kick was the difference maker in D.C. United’s smash-and-grab 1-0 victory over Orlando City SC this evening at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida.
Six days after Chris Pontius’ 93rd minute game-winner over the Galaxy, Silva stepped up and curled a clinical shot over the wall and off the mitts of Orlando City goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts to give United (3-1-0 9 points) their first road win of the season and back-to-back stoppage-time wins, a first in team history. Conversely, the expansion Florida side (1-2-2, 5 points) dropped their second match at home in a row via a stoppage time free kick. The win for United vaults them to the top of the Eastern Conference for at least a week until their rematch with Red Bull next weekend.
While the headlines deservedly go to Silva, it must be noted that goalkeeper Bill Hamid kept United in this game with a number of spectacular saves to frustrate the Lions. Hamid made a pair of point-blank stops inside the six yard box in the first half, first on defender Rafael Ramos’ bid and then thwarting midfielder Kevin Molino’s one-v-one effort off of a nice pass from Brazilian Designated Player and resident superstar Kaka.
United were on the back foot for most of the first half and finally settled into the game after the second of Hamid’s stunning saves. The Black-and-Red nearly grabbed the lead against the run of play when Chris Rolfe’s volley went inches wide of the far post, a shot that Ricketts would have had no chance to save.
After the break United started to gain more control of the match and severely limited the Lion’s chances to take the lead. In fact, it was United who should have taken the lead in the 68th minute when a trio of shots somehow managed not to go into the goal. The play started with a beautiful diagonal ball over the top of Orlando City’s defense from defender Taylor Kemp. The ball met Sean Franklin in stride and his cut back on Aurelien Collin opened up a pass to the onrushing Conor Doyle. The substitute striker’s shot was well saved by Ricketts but right into the path of Chris Pontius who’s goal-bound bid was miraculously stabbed out of the way by retreating defender Brek Shea. The ensuing pop-up of Shea’s play was headed by Doyle but his bid was frustratingly palmed away by Ricketts for a corner kick.
United must have thought that was their golden opportunity to snatch all three points given that the team has been sporadic offensively through their first four league matches, undoubtedly due to the numerous injuries of key players and the suspension of leading scorer from last season Fabian Espindola. Fortunately for United a slight remedy was at hand as Silva was making his season debut with United when he came on for Rolfe in the 76th minute.
Silva managed to draw a foul at the edge of the area offset to the left when he was bowled over by Collin in the 91st minute. There was no question who was going to take the ensuing free kick and Silva made Orlando City pay dearly for their missed opportunities and silenced the crowd of 32, 822 with a curling effort just over the wall and out of the reach of the rangy Jamaican goalkeeper.
While United has been far from aesthetically pleasing through the first month of the season, the fact that they have banked 9 out of 12 possible points is encouraging as their injured players (and suspended ones) slowly start to make it back to the playing field. Things hopefully will get better from a soccer standpoint, but I really don’t think Ben Olsen cares at this point about the lack of flow offensively.
With that in mind, United has an opportunity to exact revenge on their bitter rivals New York Red Bull when they welcome them to RFK Stadium next Saturday night at 7pm. Red Bull easily defeated United 2-0 two weeks ago at Red Bull Arena. This match will be televised live on CSNWashington.
- Eddie Johnson, out all season with an illness not yet officially disclosed by the team, was in attendance tonight and in the locker room after the match. According to eye witnesses, Johnson proclaimed, “I’ll be back soon”.. More good news perhaps???
DC United defeated the LA Galaxy 1-0 with a stoppage time goal from Chris Pontius at RFK Stadium in Washington DC. Photos: Martin Fernandez.
Chris Pontius’ 93rd-minute header was the difference in D.C. United’s dramatic 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy tonight at frigid RFK Stadium. The win over the Galaxy was United’s first in ten league matches against their West coast rivals and first since a 4-1 win at RFK in June of 2008.
Both teams were playing shorthanded but for very different reasons. United (2-1-0, 6 points) was once again without their top player Fabian Espindola who is in the midst of his six-game suspension to start the season as well as Eddie Johnson, Luis Silva and Markus Halsti. Silva was deemed fit enough to play by head coach Ben Olsen after the match but felt holding him back in the brutally cold conditions was more sensible. To make matters worse for United, defender Steve Birnbaum injured his ankle just 90 seconds into the match and was forced off. Former Galaxy defender Kofi Opare replaced Birnbaum.
The Galaxy (1-1-2, 5 points) were without three of their top players in Robbie Keane, Gyasi Zardes and Jaime Penedo, all of whom were missing for international duty.
None the less a very scrappy match unfolded between the two most successful teams in MLS history as they share 9 of the 19 MLS Cup titles between them. United were closest to drawing first blood midway through the first half when Davy Arnaud’s diagonal ball over the weak side of the Galaxy defense hit Nick DeLeon in stride. DeLeon beat onrushing Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Perk to the ball but his first touch took him too far away from the open net and and the ensuing cross from DeLeon found teamate Jairo Arrieta but the Galaxy did well to scramble back into position to deny United a solid chance on goal.
As the first half wound down, the visitors started carving out some chances. The best of which was an Alan Gordon header from about eight yards out that would have beaten United goalkeeper Bill Hamid had it been either side of him. A few other half chances were easily dealt with by Hamid but it was the Galaxy who had the momentum heading into halftime.
After the break it was essentially more of what was on display in the first forty-five minutes with both sides taking turns attempting to wrestle the flow of the game from each other. United’s best chance up to this point in the match came off the head of Chris Pontius midway through the stanza as his point-blank chance was well saved by Perk to keep the game at 0-0.
As the match seemed destined for a final score of 0-0, a bit of magic happened late in stoppage time. In the last minute of stoppage time, Davy Arnaud chipped a ball deep into the Galaxy’s defensive half and DeLeon did well to out-hustle Galaxy defender Robbie Rogers and beat him to the ball. Once he got there DeLeon used a deft touch to elude Rogers and turned towards goal. DeLeon then lofted a ball to the far post where Pontius met the pass with a diving header with Galaxy defender Dan Gargan draped all over him. The ball settled into the near post and sent RFK Stadium into delirium as teammates mobbed DeLeon and Pontius and turned a draw into a win.
With the win United vaulted from 7th place into the top spot in the East (at least temporarily until all games are completed tonight) and now have six points from three matches. With the win, United now will turn their attention to the expansion Orlando City SC this Friday night in Orlando, Florida. Orlando City SC (1-1-2, 5 points) are coming off a 2-2 draw in Montreal earlier in the day.
- Midfielder Miguel Aguilar was cleared by the U.S. Government this week and received a renewal of his work permit and was available to play but did not make it off the bench
- Steve Birnbaum suffered a left-ankle sprain in the 2nd minute and was carted off the field. The severity of the injury is unknown at the moment. Don’t expect him back in the lineup anytime soon
- Silva is expected to be in the 18-man squad for the trip to Florida later this week
- No timetable has been given for the extended injuries to Eddie Johnson (heart ailment) and Markus Halsti (knee). Halsti was interviewed before the match on CSN Washington’s D.C. United pregame show and said his knee was getting better and hopes to be available soon
The narrative going through the first month or so of D.C. United’s 2015 MLS campaign was who was going to score goals with the extended absences of Fabian Espindola (11 goals in 2014), Luis Silva (11 goals) and Eddie Johnson (7 goals).
This afternoon in their road opener at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, goals certainly were absent in their 2-0 loss to New York Red Bulls but it was the defensive mistakes that brought about both goals as well as being second-best all afternoon to their bitter rivals. Red Bull were sporting a team minus iconic players Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill but that seemed to matter very little as the rebuilt side took it to DC from the opening kickoff.
Red Bulls constant pressure paid off in the 25th minute when a seemingly harmless long ball from Dax McCarty was horribly misplayed by United’s central defensive tandem of Steve Birnbaum and Bobby Boswell. Too much space was allowed between United’s defensive pillars and Bradley Wright-Phillips exploited Birnbaum and Boswell. Wright-Phillips first touch allowed both United defenders to recover in time but both were unable to prevent MLS’ reigning goal scoring King to fire the ball low past Bill Hamid for the 1-0 lead.
United, snapped to attention by the goal, finally started to play more effectively and nearly tied the match just a few minutes later. Chris Rolfe’s angled shot was well saved by Red Bull goalkeeper Luis Robles and was United’s best opportunity at the time. Red Bull stayed solid in defense limiting United to very few chances offensively as Ben Olsen’s squad seemed slow to react and were second-best to every loose ball. Throw in the fact that United simply couldn’t hold extended possession under Red Bulls pressure and it wasn’t exactly what Olsen had in mind going into the match.
After the break, United started to compose themselves much better and had the run of play. However, against the run of play Red Bull doubled their lead in the 71st minute through another inattentive defensive mistake. Davy Arnaud got caught in possession and was stripped of the ball that set off a Red Bull 4v2 advantage towards United’s goal. Wright-Phillips slotted the ball to his right where Lloyd Sam took an angled run at Hamid. The Englishman blasted a shot that beat Hamid at the near post and for all intents and purposes put the match out of reach as poorly as United were playing.
To United’s credit they did not pack up and with better finishing could have made a match of it. Chris Rolfe was once again denied by Robles, this time in the 77th minute with a quick point-blank reaction save from a well-placed Taylor Kemp cross. United’s best chance to score on the night came in stoppage time when Davy Arnaud was taken down in the area and Chris Pontius managed to balloon his shot well over the crossbar, summing the team performance and lack of confidence with Pontius at the moment.
Things don’t get any easier folks as the Los Angeles Galaxy come to town next weekend. Espindola and Silva can’t come back quick enough..
DC United’s “worst to first” story is over. After 34 games, it’s time for second season. That’s right, playoffs.
During the dog days of the season, the major question for the Black and Red heading into playoff time was the striker position. Would it be an in-form Luis Silva, or the designated player Eddie Johnson starting alongside Fabian Espindola? Due to an ill-timed injury in Houston, it is Eddie Johnson that will lead the line on Sunday next to Fabi. Photo: Martin Fernandez.
Now, the major question in DC’s lineup comes from a position that has been locked down for the majority of the season: out wide on the wings. For most of the 2014 season, Chris Rolfe on the left and Nick Deleon on the right was the go-to pairing for DCU. However, Rolfe’s broken arm and the emergence of several other contenders for the wide position raise an interesting selection dilemma for Ben Olsen.
Heading into Sunday’s game against either Sporting Kansas City or the New York Red Bulls, Olsen can choose between Chris Pontius, Chris Rolfe, Nick Deleon, Sean Franklin, or Samuel Inkoom to provide width in DC’s attack. This depth could be key to a long postseason run, especially if they continue to deal with nagging injuries. Let’s narrow down the field to the two players that give DC the best option of winning over a two game series.
Rolfe has been a lynchpin of DC’s chance creation this season, a revelation that arrived three games into the regular season. From his favored position on the left, Rolfe has 6 goals and 6 assists in 21 appearances. His linkup play and decision making, especially on the counter attack, has been crucial for DCU.
However, the selection of the Magic Headband is not guaranteed. Coming back off of a broken arm, it is unclear whether Rolfe is ready to jump back into the starting lineup, and a playoff matchup may not be the best time to test the waters.
The return of CP13 from a series of devastating injuries feels like a new late season signing for DC. Since his return to fitness, Pontius continues to impress, especially as he continues to regain match form, fitness, and confidence- crucial for a goal-scoring player. Pontius looked shades of his old 2012 form at home against Chicago, heading home an inch perfect cross from Eddie Johnson for his first league goal of the season.
Should Rolfe not be 100% ready to go out on the left, it is very possible that Pontius will get the nod. However, should Rolfe be ready to play, it is hard to ignore his form in the 2014 campaign. Rolfe and Pontius have yet to see the field together in 2014, or ever, so it is hard to say which player would play on the left, and which on the right.
In 2014, Deleon has at times looked similar to his outstanding rookie form, and at others has been a bit frustrating. The right midfield spot belonged to DeLeon pretty much all season, and it may be harsh to drop him heading into the playoffs. So far this season, DeLeon has 2 goals and 5 assists playing out on the right.
Compared to Rolfe and Pontius, DeLeon looks a far less menacing player to opposing defenses. However, NLD also has a history of crucial postseason goals, as everyone will remember from his 2012 strike at Red Bull Arena that propelled the Black and Red past their biggest rivals and into the conference finals.
All-star right back Sean Franklin shut down Bayern Munich (along with Bill Hamid and Bobby Boswell) in this year’s MLS All Star Game. Franklin has been outstanding at the right back position this season, but Ben Olsen has been pushing him up to right midfield and slotting Chris Korb or Samuel Inkoom into the right back slot on several occasions.
The switch to right back has mostly occurred when either Perry Kitchen or Davy Arnaud is unavailable in the middle of the field and Nick Deleon is pushed into the center. While Franklin has filled in fine out wide, he has yet to look particularly menacing in the final third. With both Kitchen and Arnaud healthy and ready to go for Sunday, we should see Franklin return to his preferred spot at right back.
DC United’s late summer acquisition is a curious case. A young right back and right mid that saw action in two World Cups for the Black Stars of Ghana, as well as Champions League experience with Swiss powerhouse FC Basel. Olsen appears intent on playing Inkoom out on the right, and he has looked dangerous with his speed and crossing abilities. These crosses could come in handy with Eddie Johnson lurking in the box.
Despite Inkoom’s impressive CV, he hasn’t appeared to feature regularly as of yet in Olsen’s plans. As many a player will tell you, adjusting to the MLS can be difficult, and Inkoom is probably not ready to be thrown into a playoff matchup as a starting player.
It’s Down to Olsen
Ben Olsen is one of the clear frontrunners for the Coach of the Year award, and has hardly put a wrong foot forward this season with his decision-making. In the end, whoever we see on Sunday in the wide positions will come down to the man who just recently signed a new long term contract.
The enticing option would be to throw Rolfe and Pontius out for the first time and see if they can both hit a run of form at the right time. However, as previously mentioned, Rolfe and Pontius have yet to play together for DC. On top of that, they have both been used out on the left. In order to play together, one of these attacking players would have to shift over to the right, where Nick Deleon has seen the majority of the action this season.
On Sunday, I expect to see either Rolfe or Pontius in their usual left midfield position. Due to recent form, I would give Pontius the nod on Sunday- with Rolfe likely to be used as an impact substitute. On the right, expect to see Franklin back at the right back position with Nick Deleon playing in front of him.
This is a good problem to have, and none of these players are bad options. But this is playoff time, and Olsen has to go with what is currently working. There is very little time to experiment in this phase of the season. Should a new experiment go wrong, DC could find their worst to first run ending in an early playoff exit.
Needing only one point to take home an improbable worst-to-first Eastern Conference title run, D.C. United did what they have been doing all season long – producing wins – this one of course being the most important as the Black-and-Red defeated the Chicago Fire 2-1 tonight at chilly RFK Stadium.
One season after producing the single-worst record in MLS history, United turned the tables completely around and now will be the top seed in the Eastern Conference when the playoffs begin the weekend of November 1st. In a season that will not be forgotten anytime soon, this time for all the right reasons, perhaps United’s most impressive feat was to set the league-record with a turnaround of 42 points from last season to this year (United had 16 points all of 2013 and currently stand at 58 points with one match remaining). In addition to the amazing turnaround, United also has qualified for the 2015-2016 CONCACAF Champions League group stages which begin late next summer. United has already advanced to the knockout stage of the 2014-2015 competition which will begin in February of next year.
Chris Pontius’ first goal of the season and Eddie Johnson’s game-winner in the second half powered United to a frantic victory over the Fire. Chicago, long out of the playoff chase, fell behind by two goals but had the intestinal fortitude to not give up and gave United quite a battle and when Harrison Shipp scored between Bill Hamid’s legs in the 67th minute to make things interesting.
Hamid was called on to make another couple of saves and even got some good fortune when a redirected shot from Shipp bounced off the goalpost and into the grateful arms of Hamid just a few minutes after the visitors had cut the deficit in half.
United, as they have done most of the season, withstood the challenge and now have won the Eastern Conference title for the first time since the 2007 season.
From the jump both teams played a bit cautious and the match began to beg for a singular moment to jump start the action. That moment came in the 28th minute when Quincy Amerikwa beat United’s defense to the end line and rolled a pass to the penalty spot where former Liverpool striker Florent Sinama-Pongolle was waiting at the penalty spot. His one-time shot was somehow saved by a Hamid leg kick, a type of save that is now becoming routine in Hamid’s play.
That save sparked the match to life and United took the lead just three minutes later. Nick DeLeon took down a ball in midfield and played Eddie Johnson on his overlapping run down the right sideline. The much-maligned striker didn’t hesitate and hit a one-time curling cross that found Pontius on the back post in stride and the UCSB product placed his header perfectly between goalkeeper Kyle Reynish and the near post for his first league goal since September of last year.
After the break United would double their lead thanks to lapse in concentration from the Fire defense. Patrick Ianni’s attempted back pass in the 57th minuted caught the back heel of fellow midfielder Chris Ritter and the deflected ball fell right into the path of Johnson. Johnson, starting for United’s injured leading scorer Luis Silva, pounced on the mistake and only had defender Jeff Larentowicz between him and the goal. Johnson’s pace was no match for Larentowicz as he pushed the ball to his right and slipped a shot easily past Reynish for the 2-0 lead.
United now turn their attention towards their final CONCACAF Champions League Group 4 match when they travel to Panama to take on Tauro FC on Tuesday night. With qualification already assured, head coach Ben Olsen already has stated that he plans to take his reserves on the road to give a rest to his starters ahead of their final league match next Saturday in Montreal.
United still has an outside chance of taking over MLS #2 seed overall heading into the playoffs. United will need both a victory in Montreal coupled with either Los Angeles or Seattle sweeping their two-game head-to-head series that begins tomorrow night in Los Angeles. Additionally, if the Galaxy and Seattle draw tomorrow and Seattle wins their return leg, United will tie the Galaxy on 61 points (provided they win in Montreal) but win the first MLS tie-breaker in total wins. Los Angeles and United are currently tied with 17 wins apiece.
Gaining the #2 overall seed is important because whichever of the two teams in the West loses in the playoffs and United makes it to MLS Cup, then MLS Cup will be right here at RFK Stadium on November 7th.
D.C. United’s Davy Arnaud and Sporting Kansas City’s Graham Zusi played to a scoreless draw in their team’s match last night at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C in front of 19,308 soggy but boisterous fans. Photo: Tony Quinn.
The draw was enough to send United to the playoffs and still maintain at least a six-point lead atop the Eastern Conference with just three matches to play. United garnered their 12th shutout of the season (their third against Sporting this season) and the 10th for Bill Hamid who was called upon to make three saves.
United completed a comeback from the single worst MLS season in history last year when they only won three matches all season long. United still has work to do to complete their “worst to first” effort but that doesn’t diminish the accomplishment any further.
The visitors came out on the front foot and bossed the early portions of the game before United started to grab a hold of proceedings about twenty minutes in. United however had the best opportunities to score and should have taken an early lead but not for a nice save by Sporting goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum in the 28th minute on a rasping drive from Fabian Espindola after some nice set up play by Taylor Kemp and Luis Silva. Kemp stripped Sporting midfielder Antonio Dovale at midfield and raced past Igor Juliao before slipping a pass to Silva in the penalty area. With defenders quickly closing on Silva, he spotted Espindola free at the top of the box and the Argentine’s one-time blast through a thicket of defenders cannoned off Gruenebaum and out of play for a corner kick.
After the break the intensity and the tackling ramped up a few notches and United probably should have been awarded a penalty when Sporting defender Igor Juliao chopped down Chris Pontius in the 53rd minute. Pontius, making his first league start since September of 2013, had the inside edge on Juliao and was trying to bring down an Espindola cross when he caught Pontius in the thigh in midair. Referee Hilario Grajeda chose to make no call to the dismay of United’s lively crowd.
Both teams traded barbs back and forth but it seemed more and more likely heading to a goalless draw as the game drew to a close. United though had to tough it out after ceding a few semi-dangerous free kicks to Sporting only to see United’s defense come through as it has for most of the season, particularly at RFK.
Taking away the season-opening 3-0 loss to Columbus, United has allowed only 6 goals in the subsequent 14 league matches since then. United will close out their home portion of the season when they host the Chicago Fire on October 18th. Before that however is another trip to their House of Horrors – Houston next weekend. Houston is five points from the last playoff spot currently occupied by New York Red Bull. The two teams meet later today and a Red Bull win will push Houston to the brink of elimination. Houston also has a midweek trip to Toronto before facing the Black-and-Red next Saturday at BBVA Compass Stadium.
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