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Return of Hamid key factor in United’s 1-0 win in Montreal

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.

10-man United give up late goal in 1-0 loss in Seattle

Seattle, Washington, July 3, 2015 – Tyrone Mears’ goal through traffic late in the game was the difference maker as Seattle Sounders FC down shorthanded D.C. United by a 1-0 score at Century Link Field.

United not only had to deal with this being the fourth game in ten days on the road, but they also had to deal with the expulsion of their top player in Fabian Espindola when he was shown a straight red card in the 27th minute. Easily the games biggest talking point, Espindola appeared to throw a forearm into the throat of defender Zack Scott, who just minutes before received a yellow card of his own for a nasty head-to-head challenge on Espindola. It seems that the lesson of a six-game suspension at the beginning of the season for losing his cool and shoving a referee’s assistant in the playoff loss to Red Bull hasn’t exactly sunk in properly. United is a limited team offensively to begin with and going down to ten men for a foolish retaliation play only served to do United no justice whatsoever.

Despite the man disadvantage and being completely out possessed for the entire game, United and their typical staunch defense made things very difficult for the Sounders as they also were shorthanded of sorts with missing their top two goal scorers in Clint Dempsey (Gold Cup duty) and Obefemi Martins (injury) as well as Guatemalan midfielder Marco Pappa (Gold Cup). The Sounders were left with essentially long-range attempts on Andrew Dykstra’s goal (Bill Hamid was a late scratch) that were saved rather comfortably. The closest the home side got to scoring was a free kick attempt by Lamar Neagle that beat the wall but just flashed outside the near post of the goal midway through the second half.

Even with the tempo going the Sounders way, United did manage to carve out more than their share of chances to take the lead. Taylor Kemp’s angled free kick late in the game skipped off the top of the crossbar and then substitute Jairo Arrieta spun defender Chad Marshall around at the top of the penalty area only to see his right-footed effort fly over the crossbar.

Just when it seemed that United would get out of the NorthWest with a valiant hard-earned 0-0 draw, Mears ended that notion with a well-struck blast in the 88th minute. United were fully in all-hands-on-deck defense mode when a cross from the left flank came into the penalty area. The ball flew over all challengers and bounced into the path of Mears heading into the penalty area from his right-back position. The Englishman didn’t hesitate and unleashed a classy angled shot that easily flew into the far side netting and breaking the spirit of a well-fought effort from United.

United however had one more chance to even things up in stoppage time when Nick DeLeon took down former United goalkeeper Troy Perkins’ punch attempt from a Kemp free kick. DeLeon pulled the ball down and slid inside of two Sounders defenders and unleashed a left-footed blast that beat everyone except the crossbar as it bounded out for a Sounders goal kick.

Although United came out of this game with a brutal loss and a suspension for their next match from Espindola, the team will finally get an extended rest as they don’t play another match until two weeks from now on July 18th in Dallas. United has played the most games (21) in the league this season to date and now have only 13 league matches to play over the next four months. Rest should not be an issue moving forward through the end of the season. Even with the loss, United maintains their 11-point lead in the East but now teams with multiple games in hand (some have 5 or 6 games in hand on United) will have an opportunity to cut into United’s wide gap over the next two weekends.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DC United second half substitute Chris Rolfe beats Orlando City's second half sub Tyler Turner to the ball. The shot would give United the in over Orlando City to extend the Black-and-Red's unbeaten streak to 8 games. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

Substitutes key comeback as United down Orlando City 2-1

Washington, D.C., May 13, 2015 – “Better late then never” was the phrase bandied about in the Press Box tonight as D.C. United came from behind to defeat expansion side Orlando City SC 2-1 before 12,532 fans at RFK Stadium tonight.

Kofi Opare and Chris Rolfe scored nine minutes apart late in the second half to turn around an 11th minute deficit to extend the Black-and-Red’s unbeaten run to 8 matches in league play and an astounding 18 games unbeaten in all competitions going back to June of 2014. With the win United (6-1-3, 21 points) vaulted to the top of the Eastern Conference and all of MLS with the win. Orlando City (2-5-3, 9 points) remain in a three-way tie for fifth place with Toronto FC and the Chicago Fire.

It was the visitors however that would take a surprising lead in the 11th minute. On essentially their first foray into United territory, the Lions took advantage of multiple failed clearances by United’s defense from a free kick as the ball eventually made it to the foot of rookie striker Cyle Larin. The #1 overall pick in the 2015 MLS Superdraft immediately struck the loose ball into the far side netting past a helpless Bill Hamid for the the unexpected 1-0 lead.

United seemed stunned by the goal and continued to play as if in a fog throughout the remainder of the first half. United were easily controlling the tempo but could not put together that final ball to even threaten Orlando City’s goal as United ended up with no shots on goal through the first half.

Part of that could have been the three changes head coach Ben Olsen made to the lineup as he gave starts to Luis Silva (his first of the season), Michael Farfan and Taylor Kemp. As United are in the midst of a three games in eight day stretch, the changes to the lineup made logical sense but the results were not impressive as United struggled to string together any cohesion offensively.

All that changed in the second half when Olsen quickly brought on attackers Chris Rolfe, Jairo Arrieta and Miguel Aguilar. All three players played key roles in setting up and scoring the goals for United. In the 69th minute, it was Aguilar’s fearless run straight at the ineffective Orlando City midfield that drew a foul about 40 yards from goal. Taylor Kemp’s ensuing free kick was expertly lofted to the far post where Kofi Opare out jumped an Orlando City defender and nodded the ball to the far post for his first goal with United and leveled the match at 1-1.

Just nine minutes later United would get the game-winner from arguably the team MVP to this point in the season in Chris Rolfe. Davy Arnaud, who combined with Perry Kitchen to shut down Brazilian Designated Player Kaka all night long, won a ball and pushed it down the right flank to Arrieta who’s right-footed cross bent perfectly around the Orlando City defense where it met the outstretched left leg of Rolfe who redirected the ball past Orlando City goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.

From there United easily saw out the remainder of the match easily possessing the ball and giving the visitors very few chances to threaten Hamid and United coasted to the victory.

United now embarks on a three-game road trip beginning Sunday night when they visit the City of Brotherly Love to take on the Union at 7pm EST. This match will be televised live on Fox Sports 1. United will wrap up their difficult road trip with a game against New England on May 23rd and then take on the Portland Timbers on short rest (and 3,000 miles away) on Wednesday, May 27th before returning home for a rematch against Philadelphia at RFK on May 30th.

United Notes

  • Midfielder/Defender Markus Halsti made the 18-man roster for the first time this season but did not make an appearance. Olsen stated after the match that Halsti stood a good chance of getting big minutes over the weekend against the Philadelphia Union.
  • Fabian Espindola did not make the 18-man roster for the second straight match after picking up a knock against the Columbus Crew SC ten days ago. His status is still day-to-day.
  • United pulled off their second win of the season after giving up the first goal. United only won one match all of last season after giving up the first goal

DC United Forward Jairo Arrieta celebrates his go ahead goal against visiting Sporting KC. Photo: Martin Fernandez

Unbeaten run reaches seven games as United and Sporting KC battle to a 1-1 draw

Washington, D.C., May 9, 2015 – Jairo Arrieta’s first half goal staked D.C. United to a late first-half lead against the run of play but that was not enough to hold up as Sporting Kansas City equalized just two minutes later as the teams played to a 1-1 draw tonight at RFK Stadium. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

United (5-1-3, 18 points) jumped back into a tie at the top of the Eastern Conference with the New England Revolution who briefly jumped ahead of the Black-and-Red by virtue of their 2-2 draw last night in Orlando.

Arrieta, filling in for an injured Fabian Espindola, scored his second goal of the season finishing off a nice set up from Chris Pontius in the 43rd minute. With the visitors claiming most of the possession and scoring chances up to this point, it was the hustle of Perry Kitchen that set United into the lead.

Kitchen’s high pressure forced a bad turnover that seconds later made it back to him and he sent a diagonal ball to the far side of the box where Pontius chested the ball down and cut the ball back directly into the path of Arrieta who beat Sporting defender Matt Besler to the pass and side-footed the shot inside the far post.

However, United fell asleep just two minutes later and Sporting equalized through Dom Dwyer’s cool finish just before the halftime whistle, much to the dismay of head coach Ben Olsen.

After the break United seized control of the match and created numerous chances to take the lead but could never find that final ball or final pass to put away their former Eastern Conference foes.

A big key to the match was the surprising exclusion of Fabian Espindola due to a knock received during the Columbus match last weekend. Espindola came to training through the week sporting significant bruising and just wasn’t able to go. Olsen said after the match that the team is being cautious with Espindola and other players and not rushing them back into the lineup, even though a heavy crush of games awaits the squad through the remainder of May.

United will end their three-game home stand when they entertain Orlando City SC on Wednesday night at 8pm. This match will be televised nationally on ESPN2

 

 

Arrieta Celebrates

United takes opener with 1-0 win over Montreal

Jairo Arrieta’s lone goal helped to propel D.C. United to a season-opening 1-0 win over the Montreal Impact this afternoon at snowy and cold RFK Stadium. Just two days removed from a storm that dumped eight inches of snow on the Nation’s Capital, United and the Impact met on a field strewn with pock marks and soggy patches of grass. The elements not withstanding, both teams were coming off of their respective CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal matches with the visitors in the better mood via their advancement over Mexican giants Pachuca while United were left licking their wounds after their dismissal at the hands of Alajuelense of Costa Rica.

Undeterred, the Black-and-Red took it to their Canadian counterparts and controlled large portions of the run of play. United had the first opportunity of the match 19 minutes in thanks in part to the determination of Arrieta. A poor first touch from Belgian defender Laurent Ciman allowed the speedy Costa Rican to steal the ball away 30 yards from goal. While being tackled Arrieta managed to nudge the ball to fellow striker Chris Pontius and his angled left-footed bid rolled agonizingly past the far post.

DSC_0172United continued to boss the play but it was Montreal that would strike at the next golden opportunity in the 35th minute and to no one’s surprise United goalkeeper Bill Hamid easily parried away Montreal left back Donny Toia’s rasping 25-yard drive. After the break both teams took turns wrestling the tempo away from each other but it was United who would finally break through in the 58th minute. After a routine save by Hamid, Nick DeLeon played a ball to Davy Arnaud who immediately one-timed it upfield to Chris Rolfe, Rolfe, easily the best player on the day, sent a ball over the defense to a streaking Arrieta. Arrieta, playing in place of suspended striker Fabian Espindola, easily outpaced the Impact defense and beat goalkeeper Evan Bush to the ball just inside the top right corner of the penalty area. The slippery Arrieta then pushed the ball with the outside of his right foot (left) just beneath Bush and it rolled easily into the vacated net to give United the 1-0 lead.

United should have doubled the score just two minutes later when Pontius and Arrieta combined for a beautiful chance at goal. Pontius was a bit quicker to a bouncing ball and beat Ciman and headed the ball over the Belgian to Arrieta. Arrieta, sensing the run to goal from Pontius, put the ball over his head and into Pontius’ stride where he chested the ball down and toe-poked a shot past Bush but off the crossbar and down just a few inches from going over the goal line.

After that point it was all Montreal as the visitors pushed numbers into the attack. Montreal felt hard done by when in the 76th minute Hassoun Camara’s shot from five yards out was goal bound only to see it hit off the upper arm of Conor Doyle who was positioned on the goal line. The Impact were screaming for a penalty as the ball was finally cleared out of danger. Minutes later the game would take a sullen turn as Impact midfielder Justin Mapp suffered what seemed to be a serious injury. The speedy winger had gotten in behind the United defense and was just about to pull the trigger on a shot when defender Chris Korb managed to poke the ball away. At the same time Hamid had come out to narrow the angle and as all three players converged (below), it was Mapp who came out injured when he apparently dislocated an appendage when cushioning his blow to the ground. Hamid and Korb both called immediately to the training staff as they both realized the severity of the collision.

DSC_0273

After Mapp was carted off United continued to defend in numbers and held the Impact without any real game-tying chances. In addition to their defensive effort, substitute Miguel Aguilar did a fantastic job of killing of time with a number of great challenges to win balls including one 30-second sequence in which he skinned every Impact defender in sight as they struggled to take the ball off the precocious rookie who was making his MLS debut.

United easily saw out the extended injury time, due to Mapp’s gruesome injury, and got themselves their first opening day win since beating Columbus in 2011.

1st Leg deficit too much to overcome as United are bounced from Champions League despite 2-1 win over Alajuelense

Hoping to overturn a 5-2 deficit from the first leg of D.C. United’s quarterfinal matchup with Alajuelense proved too difficult as United dropped the aggregate score series 6-4, despite United’s 2-1 victory at soggy RFK Stadium.

Eerily similar to the situation that saw United eliminated from the MLS Cup playoffs last November (United trailed New York Red Bull by 2-0 heading into the second leg at RFK), United did have an outside chance of pulling off a miracle by virtue of picking up two goals in last weeks defeat in Alajula, Costa Rica. United would have needed a 3-0 or 4-1 victory to win the series outright by the away goals rule.

However that hopeful scenario never materialized for the Black-and-Red. United did take the lead when Jairo Arrieta tallied his first goal for United in the 36th minute when he picked up a botched clearance and slotted his shot home past Alajuelense goalkeeper Dexter Lewis. Buoyed by the goal, United pushed forward in the physical affair which saw multiple yellow cards handed out just in the first half alone.

After the break United’s hopes for advancement were effectively dashed when the visitors leveled the match in the 71st minute. A poor clearance from defender Chris Korb, a last-minute substitution for Taylor Kemp who picked up a slight groin strain in warm-ups, allowed a sliver of a chance and midfielder Johan Veneges took advantage and ricochet his shot off of Korb and past a helpless Bill Hamid in goal.

With the life of the series drained out of United they did press on and if not for some rather pedestrian refereeing from Guatemalan head man Walter Lopez, United could have made a real go at pulling off the upset. There were at least three to four good penalty claims for United inside the last 20 minutes of the match with only the last claim being called by Lopez as Chris Rolfe was dragged down right in front of goal when he was in prime position to finish a Conor Doyle cross.

Fabian Espindola stepped up and easily scored the penalty to give United the final margin of victory. United won the battle on the day but lost the War to their Costa Rican opponents.

United now will turn their attention towards their MLS season-opening match just three days away when they host the Montreal Impact on Saturday afternoon at 3pm. Ironically, had United pulled off this miracle comeback, they would be facing the very same Impact in the semi-final round. The Impact produced their own miracle with a 94th minute goal in their 1-1 draw with Pachuca last night to eliminate the Mexican side.

The match on Saturday was in serious jeopardy of not being played at all as the Collective Bargaining Agreement talks between the Owners and the MLS Players Union were in overtime in Washington, D.C. However, a deal in prinicipal was struck just minutes before tonight’s match kicked off and the 2015 MLS season will begin as scheduled on Friday night when the Chicago Fire take on the Los Angeles Galaxy in Carson, California.

United will have to now make do without their talisman leader Espindola as he begins a six-game suspension for his shoving incident of an assistant referee when United were eliminated by Red Bull at RFK last November.

Mistakes, missed opportunities abound as United drop final preseason match in Dallas by 3-1 score

Not exactly the way Ben Olsen wanted this one to go.

With the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League beckoning just a week away, Olsen was looking for a solid effort to take down to Costa Rica. Well, that didn’t exactly pan out as D.C. United dropped a 3-1 decision to FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas tonight. United made numerous defensive blunders to help the home side to the rather flattering lopsided scoreline. United actually played up a man for 65 minutes after FC Dallas midfielder Michel was sent off for a two-footed challenge on Sean Franklin in the 24th minute. Franklin would be subbed out at halftime of the match, no doubt for precautionary reasons. Olsen begged the referee and the FC Dallas staff to allow another player onto the field so it wouldn’t be 11-v-10. It hardly mattered at the end of the day.

Even so, with the man advantage it was FC Dallas that took the lead in the 27th minute thanks to some slack marking from United. Franklin applied very little pressure to left-back Moses Hernandez who was allowed to float a ball to the far post inside the area. Taylor Kemp was equally lax in the marking of Blas Perez who easily leaped to meet the cross and send it back towards the goal where Ryan Hollingshead tapped in his 3rd goal of the preseason.

United continued to seem flustered by the man-up situation but settled in towards the end of the half but did not generate any meaningful chances to close out the first stanza. After the break United continued their pressure and finally broke through in the 62nd minute. Jairo Arrieta, subbing in for the ineffective Chris Pontius just before the hour mark, hit the far post with a header just seconds into his appearance but would find the net just a few minutes later when he volleyed in a cross from Fabian Espindola from the right flank.

United seemed poised to take control of the match and should have doubled or even tripled their lead but not for two missed chances by Nick DeLeon and Perry Kitchen. DeLeon stumbled as he came into the area in the 70th minute allowing the defense and goalkeeper Dan Kennedy to snuff out his chance. Perhaps an even more glaring miss was Kitchen’s attempt in the 75th minute. After United’s most attractive buildup of one-touch passes and clever movement of the preseason, Taylor Kemp found himself alone deep in the penalty area. His cross to the far post was headed back across the face of goal, not unlike the sequence that led to FC Dallas’ first goal of the game, where Kitchen simply whiffed on an easy tap-in.

United would rue that missed opportunity as FC Dallas caught United pushing players too far upfield in the 79th minute. A seemingly harmless through ball was shielded by defender Bobby Boswell who seemed to expect goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra to clear out of danger. Dykstra hesitated and that was all it took for the league’s quickest player in Fabian Castillo to ghost in and easily round the goalkeeper for the game-winning tally.

United’s misery was compounded further when FC Dallas substitute Tesho Akindele was brought down in the area by Steve Birnbaum in the 88th minute. United again were caught with too many people moving forward and the quick FC Dallas counter caught them out of position. Akindele, last season’s Rookie of the Year winner over Birnbaum ironically, easily beat Dykstra to his right for the final goal of the game.

Olsen can not be happy with the number of critical mistakes and more so the lengthy man-advantage they had for the majority of the game. For a team that prides itself on their defending, to give up three goals with a man advantage can not bode well heading into their match on Thursday night against Alajuelense in Costa Rica.

Let’s hope this performance was just a mirage and United can learn from this harsh lesson.