Hamid Dives

United advance to Semi-finals after frenzied 2-1 win over the Revolution

Washington, D.C., October 29, 2015 – With the already rich playoff history between D.C. United and the New England Revolution at hand, was there any surprise that last night’s classic tilt would be any different?

D.C. United once again came from behind to snatch a 2-1 win over the Revs and advance to the semi-final round of the 2015 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. United will find out later this evening whether top seed Red Bull or #2 seed Columbus will come to town on Sunday afternoon to begin their home-and-home total goals series.

Chris Pontius’ header at the death in the first half and Chris Rolfe’s redemption strike in the 83rd minute cancelled out Juan Agudelo’s stunning world-class bicycle kick goal in the 15th minute at soggy RFK Stadium. This game had it all. Shots off the crossbar, the post, brilliant saves from both Bill Hamid and Bobby Shuttleworth and of course, controversy from official Mark Geiger.

Geiger awarded a penalty kick to United in the 74th minute when an Alvaro Saborio cross into the area deflected off the arm of Revs midfielder Kelyn Rowe. Unfortunately the normally reliable Rolfe (4 for 4 this season up to this point) hit his PK attempt off the inside of the post and out. Geiger again would be the center of attention in stoppage time when he waved off a hand ball claim in United’s area when Jermaine Jones attempted to cross and the ball clearly hit the arm of United defender Sean Franklin. Jones went ballistic at the no-call and chased Geiger down and made considerable contact with Geiger who immediately ejected the U.S. International. The sequence brought to mind a similar incident at the end of United’s playoffs last season when Fabian Espindola made contact with an assistant referee and was red carded. Espindola was then given a 6-game ban from MLS for those actions. One would believe that Jones’ punishment should be similar.

The game itself started out fast and furious and never let up through the final whistle. Chris Rolfe had the games first opportunity in the 4th minute when he ghosted in alone on Shuttleworth only to see his shot expertly kick-saved. Then came the moment that MLS fans will talk about for years. In the 15th minute a well worked passing sequence ended on the right foot of Kevin Alston on the wing. His one-time cross curled away from the line of players in the box. Agudelo tracked it and cracked a bicycle-kick from 16 yards out that left Hamid with no chance. Arguably the best goal ever scored in an MLS playoff game and incidentally the second bicycle kick goal scored by Agudelo at RFK. His first came when he was with Red Bull in 2011.

United can thank Bill Hamid for keeping them in the match because he was forced into back-to-back saves on Rowe within a minute of each other to keep United’s hopes alive. United responded in kind and should have equalized in the 21st minute when Espindola missed an open goal after latching onto a rebound save from a Chris Rolfe shot. Rolfe also had a near miss in the 26th minute when he skinned Revs defender Andrew Farrell only to see his left-foot shot hit the crossbar from close range.

As the half closed United were starting to take over the tempo of the match and the Black-and-Red got the precious equalizer just seconds before the halftime whistle. Espindola drew a foul along side the left side of the penalty area and his ensuing free kick found Pontius at the penalty spot. Pontius had to lean back and his header was perfectly placed into the far side netting to level the match at 1-1.

After the break the visitors regained control of the match and while Hamid didn’t have to make any critical saves, the Revs were buzzing around United’s goal. The pace had slowed considerably from the frenetic first 45 minutes as now both teams existence in the playoffs were at stake. After the ruckus in the 84th minute and the missed PK by Rolfe, it was Rolfe who would step up to nab the game-winner in the 83rd minute thanks to some enterprising play from Nick DeLeon and Espindola. DeLeon, who had struggled throughout the match, got hold of a ball outside the area and managed to hold on long enough for Espindola to overlap him. DeLeon’s clever back-heel set Espindola free and his pin-point pass between three Revs defenders found Rolfe all alone at the top of the goal box for an easy tap-in that sent the 11, 554 rain-soaked fans into delirium.

Just seconds after the Geiger/Jones confrontation, Geiger blew the final whistle and D.C. United had advanced in another playoff tilt with the Revolution.

United will now await the winner of tonight’s Montreal vs TFC match in Montreal. If the Impact win, United will face Red Bulls on Sunday. If TFC wins, the Crew, fresh off their 5-0 beatdown of United this past Sunday, will come to town.

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.



Alvaro Saborio

Stoppage-time winner ends losing streak and sends D.C. United back to the playoffs

Washington, D.C., October 2, 2015 – Alvaro Saborio scored a 92nd minute game-winner to push D.C. United past visiting NYCFC 2-1 and into the playoffs for the second consecutive season in front of a gobsmacked season-high of over 21,ooo drenched fans at RFK Stadium.

Saborio had just missed an opportunity to put United ahead a few minutes earlier but more than made up for it with the game-winner, his third goal for the Black-and-Red since being acquired in July at the trade deadline. The win for United (14-12-6, 48 points) clinched their playoff spot and pushed the squad back into a tie with New York Red Bulls at the top of the Eastern Conference.  The much needed win also stopped a horrid six-game unbeaten run which saw United plummet down the Eastern Conference standings. Incredibly, it was the 8th win this season for United after giving up the opening goal.

As this was the first game of the weekend, United could fall back to fourth place if both New England (at Chicago) and Columbus (at Red Bull) manage to win their games. A tie or a loss from either side will see them stay below United with only two league games to play.

As has been the case over the past two months at RFK, things once again got off to a horrible start. Frank Lampard slotted home a rebound from a Bill Hamid save just 48 seconds into the game to stun the soaked crowd at RFK. In United’s last five league home matches, they have given up goals in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 27th and 1st minute in each of those games. Even more amazing is that United has come back to win three of those games, including tonight’s match.

With the conditions getting steadily worse through the match, both teams managed to slog through the impediments of Mother Nature and it remained 1-0 heading into the break with neither team really taking the upper hand.

After the break however it was a different story and a different D.C. United. The Black-and-Red pushed the tempo from the jump and pushed NYCFC back into their own half for most of the second stanza. United thought it had scored the game-tying goal midway through the half when Fabian Espindola’s looping header met Chris Pontius at the back post. The UCSB product finished beautifully only to see the offside flag rule the goal out.

A few minutes later that same combination worked its magic again and this time the equalizer stood. Chris Pontius received a ball among a throng of NYCFC players but managed to weave his way around them for a blistering left-footed shot from 23 yards away. NYCFC goalkeeper Josh Saunders dove to his left and could only parry the ball right in front of goal. Espindola was quicker than the NYCFC defense and pushed the rebound into the goal for his fourth goal of the year.

Pontius very nearly gave United the lead just a few minutes later when his right-footed blast from 40 yards was well saved by Saunders and cleared out of danger before Saborio could pounce on the rebound.

Saborio should have given United the lead in the 90th minute when he was beautifully led to the penalty spot by Espindola only to see his weak left-footed shot saved by Saunders. However, just over a minute later Saborio would not miss his second opportunity. After a dazzling run through the rain-soaked pitch and most of NYCFC’s defense by Pontius, he was hauled down by defender Chris Wingert forty yards from goal. Wingert received a yellow card for his efforts and then up stepped Espindola to deliver the dagger blow.

The Argentine’s free kick floated over the wall and was miscleared by former United midfielder Andrew Jacobsen at the back post and fell gratefully to the foot of Saborio who poked the ball underneath Saunders for yet another come-from-behind win for United.

Up next for United is their last home match of the season against the Chicago Fire on Sunday October 18th at 2pm.

DC United's Chris Rolfe (18) keeps the ball away from Philadelphia's Vincent Nogueira during the second half of their team's match at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. United defeated the Union 2-1 with a Penalty Kick goal from Chris Rolfe. Photo Martin Fernandez.

Rolfe’s late PK is game-winner in 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union

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.

Hamid points

Hamid early, Silva late in United’s stoppage-time 1-0 win over Orlando City SC

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.


United Notes

  • 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's Chris Pontius battles for possession with LA's Omar Gonzales during their team's match at RFK Stadium in Washington DC on March 28, 2015. United would go on to defeat the Galaxy 1-0 with a stoppage time from Chris Pontius. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

Pontius nets dramatic late game-winner in 1-0 victory over the Galaxy

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.


United Notes

  • 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

Defensive miscues fuels Red Bull 2-0 win at home over United

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..