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United busy during four-hour trade window ahead of Expansion Draft

D.C. United made three trades in MLS’ four-hour trade window this morning ahead of Wednesday afternoon’s MLS Expansion Draft.

While not as significant as the number or quality of trades made last offseason to bolster United’s roster (don’t worry folks, there are still three months to make moves before the season starts in late February 2015), three minor moves were made to help alleviate roster issues ahead of the Expansion Draft.

Up first was United trading an International Player spot to Orlando City FC for allocation money, followed by the Black-and-Red sending goalkeeper Joe Willis and Ghanaian International midfielder Samuel Inkoom to the Houston Dynamo for Scottish midfielder Andrew Driver and a fourth-round MLS SuperDraft pick in 2016 before closing the trade window with another International Player slot being sent to NYCFC for more allocation money.

The upshot of the deal with Houston is that with Driver, United gets a bona fide wing midfielder with the added bonus that he holds a green card. What is the significance of that? Well, with Inkoom moving on, United is down to only one International player on the roster (Kyle Porter) and thus United does not need to protect any International players for Wednesday’s Expansion Draft according to MLS rules. This means that United can add an additional player to protect to their list of eleven protected players.

A shrewd piece of business on United’s part for sure but it did cost them an intriguing prospect in Inkoom who did well in his limited minutes with United last season.

Additionally, the pair of trades of International Player spots to both expansion teams will rake in some allocation money that United will no doubt put to use paying down some of their expected higher salaries with Eddie Johnson, Bobby Boswell and Sean Franklin all making well above $200,000 dollars next season.

Since United made the bold move of not availing themselves of high-priced International talent last season, what is the harm of giving up two of their six allotted International Player slots when they most likely wouldn’t use them anyway? It certainly worked to help stabilize United and bring them back to prominence in 2014 but do they want to hang their collective hats on that strategy for the near future?

Given their recent history with International signings and subsequent flops, it would seem United are heading in that same direction in 2015  though they would be wary to heed their own historical advice when the club decided to stand pat at the end of 2012 (after their surprising run to the Eastern Conference final).

United is far from done dealing with their roster ahead of what hopefully will be an historic 2015 (stadium deal – fingers crossed!!), but it’s good to see the front office continue to tinker and keep up with the rest of MLS in spite of their apparent allergy to International players.

United cap perfect Champions League group play with 1-0 win in Panama

D.C. United capped off a perfect group stage in the CONCACAF Champions League stage with their 4th win in four matches, this time a narrow 1-0 win over Tauro FC in Panama City, Panama tonight. As a result, United is now booked for a top seed in the upcoming knockout stages of the tournament which will begin in early 2015.

It’s unknown at this point which of the top four seeds United could command, but they can’t do any worse than the fourth seed as there are only three other teams that could possibly match United’s perfect 4-0 record in group play. Those matches are being played tonight through Thursday to determine which teams finish where.

Armed only with thirteen reserve players and rent-a-goalie from the MLS Player Pool, United eked out a 1-0 win through some good fortune as Conor Shanosky scored the game’s only goal in the 24th minute when a routine clearance from a free kick ricocheted off the Homegrown players face and into the goal.

Not surprisingly, both squads put out complete reserve sides and the early played dictated as much. Shanosky’s goal pushed United in front in the 24th minute as United started to take control of the match. However, the home side turned the tables in the last quarter hour and pushed the tempo but rarely forced any saves from United goalkeeper Joe Willis.

After the break, it was United who was bossing the play and they have should have doubled their advantage on numerous opportunities but were lax in their approach play and couldn’t find that final pass to unlock the Tauro defense.

It appeared that United did take a 2-0 lead midway through the second half but Collin Martin’s goal was ruled out for being offside after Lewis Neal’s one-time volley was parried into the path of Martin. Replays showed the call to be the correct one, a rarity for the far side linesman who called United offside multiple times though they appeared to be onside on most of those calls.

Regardless, United kept the pressure on the hosts and finally pulled back into a defensive shell in the last ten minutes and found themselves very fortunate to keep the clean sheet when Willis pulled off a stunning one-handed save in stoppage time to preserve the match.

United will now travel back to D.C. tomorrow and rejoin the rest of the squad who were home resting for their final league match this Saturday afternoon in Montreal. With a win over the Impact and a Seattle home win over the Los Angeles Galaxy, United will move up to the #2 overall seed by virtue of their tie-breaking number of league wins over the Galaxy. Both teams currently sit on 17 wins. United will know by the second half of their match exactly what they will need as the Sounders/Galaxy tilt is kicking off an hour before their match starts at 4pm EST.

United concedes late equalizer in 1-1 draw with host Charleston Battery

D.C. United gave up a corner kick goal on the last touch of the match to settle for a 1-1 draw with the home standing Charleston Battery tonight at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, South Carolina

United will need to win outright on Saturday afternoon against the Seattle Sounders to take home the Carolina Challenge Cup for the fourth time. Davy Arnaud had given United the lead in the 72nd minute when he skimmed a header to the far post off a perfect bending cross from Luis Silva’s free kick. United seemed destined to double the lead and just four minutes later Eddie Johnson’s easier-to-miss-than-make goal somehow skied over the bar from just six yards out. Fabian Espindola followed up that disappointing effort with a blast that was well saved.

United were in total control of the match at this point after head coach Ben Olsen started the match with his full reserve squad. The reserves held the ball well enough but didn’t create many chances and Olsen had had enough and brought his starting team en masse into the match in the 70th minute, the lone exception being goalkeeper Joe Willis in for the usual Bill Hamid.

Unfortunately that decision would play a big part in allowing the over matched 3rd-division USL side back into the match. With literally the last kick of the match, Charleston swung in a corner that seemed to be poorly played by Willis and the game-tying goal came as a result. That goal was the first goal the starting unit for United had given up the entire preseason.

United will take on the Sounders on Saturday night at 5pm and let’s hope the stream will work for the entire game as it was constantly going out during the watching of this match (missed the game-tying goal scorer as a result).

U.S. Open Cup Semifinal – United vs Chicago: United on their way to another Cup final with 2-0 win over Fire

D.C. United has endured a nightmare season. Can’t score goals much less create many chances and defensive blunders have reared their ugly head on more than one occasion.

Yet the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup has been an oasis for the side as United stunned the Chicago Fire 2-0 tonight at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois to reach the clubs fifth Open Cup final. United will play Real Salt Lake on October 1st after their 2-1 win over the Portland Timbers late this evening. RSL will be playing in their first ever U.S. Open Cup final.

Dwayne De Rosario scored in the 44th minute, his fifth goal in the past three Open Cup matches, and Nick DeLeon scored in the 48th to give United all they would need against a clearly lethargic Fire team that just three weeks ago had handed United an embarrassing 4-1 defeat at Toyota Park.

After a very sloppy start to the match, United started to gain control of possession, conceding a few half-chances to the Fire that were easily handled by goalkeeper Joe Willis. With the first half winding down, it was Chicago’s goalkeeper Sean Johnson who couldn’t handle a routine clearance and provided the Black-and-Red with their opportunity to open the scoring.

Nick DeLeon’s shot from 25-yards straight out from goal was deflected and looping towards Johnson. Luis Silva took advantage of Chicago’s sleepy defense and put up a challenge to Johnson who flubbed his catch attempt under the pressure of Silva. De Rosario pounced on the loose ball and took a touch to his left to avoid the scrambling goalkeeper. De Rosario easily put the ball into the far side netting to send United into the locker room with a 1-0 lead.

After the break United came out like a house on fire and doubled their lead in the 48th minute. Nick DeLeon was slipped a beautiful pass at the top of the penalty area and the second-year man from Louisville turned to fire on goal. His shot appeared to take a deflection off of midfielder Joel Lindpere and the misdirection into the near side netting easily beat Johnson who was already committed to a far post shot.

Unlike most of their MLS campaign, United saw the match out with not too much difficulty and nearly took a 3-0 lead in the 60th minute when Conor Doyle, subbed on for an injured Luis Silva, split two Fire defenders to a bouncing ball deftly chipped by De Rosario and ripped a one-time rocket that forced a wonderful diving save from Johnson.

At the other end of the pitch, Joe Willis and his defense put out a few nervy fires with Perry Kitchen and James Riley both making goal line saves to help preserve the shutout and send United to another appearance in the U.S. Open Cup Final.

In a season that has gone terribly wrong, United can hopefully draw strength from this Cup run and look to turn around what has quickly become an historic season for all the wrong reasons.

United vs Colorado: United earn tough road point in 0-0 draw in Mile High City

Once again D.C. United offered very little offensively in the final third of the field but desperate defending and solid goalkeeping from Joe Willis earned the Black-and-Red a solid road point in their 0-0 draw last night against the home side Colorado Rapids.

United was shut out for the 8th time in 9 road matches so far this season and the 12th time overall through 19 matches this season.

Most of Colorado’s chances on the evening had a lot to do with United’s shaky performance in trying to pass out of trouble in the defense third of the field. Countless errors led to many chances, most coming from the fleet feet of Jamaican forward DaShorn Brown. The speedy rookie had an early chance tipped over the bar by Willis inside the first ten minutes of the match. Brown was easily the most dangerous player on the field and United struggled to keep up with him. United midfielder Sainey Nyassi, no slouch in the speed department himself, struggled most of the night just to keep up with Brown.

United continued theirs season-long struggle in front of goal with only a 50-yard attempted chip of the goalkeeper by Carlos Ruiz and a Drew Moor headed clearance off the goal line being United’s only threats during the first half. While the tempo of the game overall improved in the second half for both sides, the chances were mainly coming from the home side. Chris Pontius dragged a left-footed shot well wide of the goal in the 48th minute and Ruiz’ effort midway through the second half was easily handled by Colorado keeper Clint Irwin. That was the extent of United’s offense on the evening and they were left defending for the remainder of the match.

Late in the match Joe Willis made a number of key saves from close range as many of the Rapids’ chances were created either through mistakes by United’s young back line or just plain old bad bounces that seemed to land on the feet of most Rapid attackers. Be that as it may, Willis stoned all of the chances and earned his first shutout of the season for United.

United’s next league game won’t be for another 13 days when they travel to Chicago to face the Fire on Saturday, July 20th. In the meantime, United will host Mexican icons Chivas De Guadalajara in an international friendly on Friday night at RFK Stadium. The match will be televised on ESPN2 starting at 8pm EST

United Notes

  • Taylor Kemp made his first start for United at left back in league play and was most impressive. In particular were the handful of crosses that just missed forwards Ruiz and Chris Pontius in the box
  • Dwayne De Rosario and Nick DeLeon both stayed in Washington as expected considering the two-week layoff ahead of their next league match

 

United vs Seattle: Depleted United fall to Sounders 2-0

Obafemi Martins scored both goals tonight as the Seattle Sounders took care of business in their 2-0 win over D.C. United at Century Link Field in Seattle, Washington.

Once again United were powerless on offense getting shut out for the 11th time in 18th matches this season and the 7th time in 8 road matches. Chris Pontius seemed to be the only player capable of generating any offense by forcing a pair of saves from Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning late in the second half but the damage was already done for the Black-and-Red. With four starters out of the lineup due to injury, fatigue and International call ups, United were forced to put out a watered down version of their already timid lineup and Seattle wasted no time taking advantage

In the 20th minute, Sounders midfielder Brad Evans collected a ball at midfield and spotted a run straight at goal by Martins. United were playing a very high line defensively and the speedy Designated Player made United pay with his team-leading fifth goal of the season. United seemed to equalize just three minutes later but a very close offside call on Lionard Pajoy negated his classy finish and United were down 1-0 at the half once again.

In the second half United seemed the side more likely to score as they were pushing the attack to the Sounders. However, an endless string of poor decisions from United’s frustrated attackers killed nearly every possible opportunity to equalize. The reasons were many and varied tonight for United’s futility in attack. Numerous offside calls, poor crosses and bad decisions on simple passes out of pressure were once again the death knell for United.

Just when it seemed that United might squeak out a deserved equalizer, that pesky defensive blunder that has been omnipresent all season long cropped up in stoppage time. James Riley did his duty and helped out Ethan White in closing down a pass for Martins heading towards goal. However, instead of clearing the ball out of danger on his first touch, Riley inexplicably tried to push the ball past Martins but only managed to push the ball right into his path and the Nigerian striker easily beat Joe Willis from eight yards out for the final nail in United’s coffin.

A very tired and broken United will now travel to Colorado to play the Rapids on Sunday night ending a stretch of matches that has seen United play 5 matches in 16 days. After that match, United will be off for nearly two weeks before resuming league play in Chicago on July 20th.

U.S. Open Cup: United roll to semi-finals with 3-1 win over New England

D.C. United captain Dwayne De Rosario hasn’t had the best of seasons so far in 2013, at least in Major League Soccer. Get him in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament and we’re talking something completely different.

De Rosario scored the game-winning goal in United’s 3-1 win this evening over the visiting New England Revolution in the quarterfinal round of the U.S. Open Cup at the SoccerPlex in Germantown, Maryland. De Rosario (four goals in his past two Open Cup appearances) and Chris Pontius (goal and assist tonight), teamed on the front line for the first time this season, both were instrumental in leading the suddenly resurgent Black-and-Red to an impressive victory over one of MLS’ better squads in the past six weeks.

United, coming off their first league win this past weekend over San Jose, carried that confidence into the first half of play and dominated their rivals to the Northeast by putting 5 shots on goalkeeper Matt Reis to New England’s one on United keeper Joe Willis. Chris Pontius breached the 0-0 deadlock in the 41st minute with a well-taken shot off a failed Revolution clearance just minutes after scuffing a breakaway attempt on Reis.

The Revolution came out in the second half with a bit more purpose and leveled the match in the 52nd minute with a little help from Joe Willis. Juan Toja’s free-kick from 25 yards was tipped off the crossbar by Willis and the rebound hit off the back of Willis and rolled helplessly into the net. Toja got credit for the goal but by strict soccer laws, it should have been an own-goal against Willis.

United was rocked momentarily by the equalizer but Pontius and DeRo paired up for the game-winner in the 69th minute. Pontius whipped in a corner kick to the back post and De Rosario leaped high above a Revolution defender and sent his header looping over Reis and off the underside of the crossbar into the far side of the goal.

Revolution substitute Juan Agudelo nearly evened the match in the 85th minute when his run across the top of the penalty area and resulting left-footed drive pinged off the inside of the far post before United’s scrambling defense cleared the ball to safety. With the Revolution pushing players forward, United substitute Lionard Pajoy got behind the Revolution defense deep along the right sideline and was heading square towards the goal when Revolution defender Goncalves dragged him down. Pajoy took the resulting penalty kick and shot right down the middle as Reis seemingly dove out of the way of the shot.

With the win, United will now travel to the Windy City on August 7th to take on the Chicago Fire, 5-1 winners over Orlando City FC tonight in Orlando, Florida.

Next up for United is a home match against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night at 7pm before heading out on a three-game road trip through Seattle, Colorado and then Chicago.

United vs Chicago: Winless streak reaches 11 in dour 2-0 loss to Fire

Ben Olsen promised changes to his lineup due to ineffective play from some of the players whom he counted on this season. Usual central defense partners Brandon McDonald and Dejan Jakovic were left on the bench in favor of Daniel Woolard and Conor Shanosky who was making his MLS debut.

Well, it really doesn’t seem to matter what combination of players Olsen puts out on the field these days, all efforts are simply not good enough and D.C. United lost for the 9th time in 10 matches this afternoon 2-0 to fellow strugglers Chicago Fire.

United once again fell behind early thanks to an own goal on a set piece in just the 9th minute. United has not held a lead in a league match for the entirety of their 11-game winless streak and the weight that they carry on their shoulders from match to match gets heavier and heavier each game that they fall behind.

United offered very little offensively and not for the first time this season finished the match without a shot on goal. Dwayne De Rosario’s 28-yard shot off the crossbar was United’s only relevant threat all afternoon. With United pushing forward in an attempt to get the game-tying goal, Chicago countered and finished off the game late thanks to a Mike Magee goal in his debut with his hometown team just a week after being traded from the Los Angeles Galaxy for the rights to Robbie Rogers.

United will now face a confident New England Revolution next weekend at Foxborough. The Revs thrashed the Galaxy 5-0 this afternoon.

United vs FC Dallas: Losing streak reaches record seven games as United fall 2-1 in Dallas

While the effort was better for D.C. United the result was the same. Another loss, this time to 2-1 to FC Dallas at FC Dallas Stadium tonight in Frisco, Texas.

The loss for United, their seventh straight, has now established a new team record in a season that is now quickly evaporating. Je-Vaughn Watsons chested ball in the 77th minute was the game-winner for FC Dallas as United once again gives up a goal on a set piece. United (1-8-1) has given up a set piece goal in seven of their ten matches played so far. In a season that has seen everything go wrong, the set piece defending is probably the #1 culprit to United’s current malaise.

After United’s abysmal effort on Wednesday night in their 4-0 home loss to Houston, Ben Olsen made five changes to the lineup including Joe Willis in goal for Bill Hamid and a first ever start up top for Casey Townsend. While the energy and effort was there, the familiar scene of falling behind happened yet again. In just the 11th minute, just two minutes after Townsend rang the post for United, FC Dallas took the lead after carving apart United’s defense. Defender Ethan White, making his first start since the 2011 season, was caught in no mans land and let Jackson slip by him and his left-footed rocket easily beat Willis from eight yards out.

United didn’t wilt and leveled the match in the 44th minute from a Dwayne De Rosario free kick. The goal was the first scored for United on the road this season and gave the Black-and-Red some much needed confidence heading into the break.

After the intermission however, it was the home side that was creating all the chances and the damn finally broke in the 77th minute. Under pressure for at least ten minutes by this point, you could feel the goal coming and fittingly it came on a set piece. Joe Willis was blocked from coming out to punch out Michel’s in swinging corner and it bounced off the chest of Watson at the far post and bundled into the empty net.

United tried to push the pace for the equalizer but never really threatened the FC Dallas goal and United was resigned to their club-record fate of a seventh consecutive loss.

United will now attempt to avoid an eight straight loss and fifth straight home loss when they entertain Sporting Kansas City on Sunday evening May 19th at RFK Stadium.

United vs Red Bull: United does it to New York again…..

Epic..

Unbelievable…

I think it’s safe to assume that D.C. United’s 1-0 win and 2-1 aggregate goal win over New York Red Bull this evening in the semi-final round of the Major League Soccer playoffs will go down in league and team lore. Nick DeLeon’s 88th minute strike was enough to send United to the Eastern Conference Finals where they will take on the #5 seed Houston Dynamo in a two-legged series starting this Sunday afternoon in Houston. The return leg will be at RFK next Wednesday or Thursday evening.

Stunning would be an understatement not only to United’s result tonight, but the series in general which had so many talking points off the field of play which included a venue switch and subsequent loss of home field advantage for United due to Hurricane Sandy as well as a very late and not well received postponement of this second leg last night due to a 6-inch snowfall. Throw in the two own goals, three red cards, two saved/missed penalties and of course the obligatory Marc Geiger penalty kick retake (see Kharma in the dictionary – Red Bull got the business end of that cruel mistress).

Throw all that in the wash and out comes a playoff series that won’t be forgotten any time soon by any fan of MLS.

With the series tied 1-1 heading into the match this evening, both teams were playing it safe from the beginning. United had a chance in the 3rd minute but Lionard Pajoy’s impatience produced a fine save from Red Bull goalkeeper Luis Robles. That was pretty much it for United’s attacking forays in the first half. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid wasn’t too busy in the first half either but did produce two solid saves to send the match to halftime still tied at 0-0 on the night.

After the break Red Bull starting amping up the pressure. Bill Hamid made a sensational one-v-one save versus former United midfielder Dax McCarty deep in the penalty area to preserve the 0-0 scoreline.

Then all Hell broke loose.

Bill Hamid was given a straight red card for a take down of Kenny Cooper just inside the penalty area in the 69th minute. After the dust settled, Joe Willis came in for Hamid and promptly saw Cooper go right down the middle to give Red Bull a 1-0 lead. However, in a situation seemingly straight from Hollywood, referee Marc Geiger called for a retake of the penalty as Thierry Henry and two team mates encroached into the area. Geiger was the same official who made the same call at RFK a few months ago when Dwayne De Rosario’s apparent game-winning penalty kick against the Philadelphia Union was called back.

Just like in that match, the goalkeeper made the subsequent penalty retake and gave life to United. Less than five minutes later Red Bull defender Rafa Marquez was given his marching orders after a vicious tackle on Chris Pontius to even up the sides at 10 each. With the sides now even, United simply was looking to take the match to extra-time when out of nowhere they fashioned the game-winner.

In the 88th minute, Pajoy made a crucial cross-field switch of the attack that hit Robbie Russell, in for the suspended Andy Najar, right in stride. The defender took a deft touch towards the middle of the field and slotted a ball into the penalty area. Red Bull defender Conor Lade easily kept Nick DeLeon onside and DeLeon’s right-footed blast whizzed past Robles for the 1-0 lead and 2-1 aggregate series lead.

With no time to spare Red Bull sent everyone forward and had a golden opportunity to tie the game in the 90th minute. Perry Kitchen was called for a foul just at the top of the penalty area just outside the arc. With everyone in the stadium knowing that World Cup winner and excellent free-kick taker Thierry Henry was pegged for the spotlight, substitute defender Roy Miller flummoxed everyone by ghosting in and sending his left-footed shot well over the bar.

That pretty much sums up the playoff history between D.C. United and New York Red Bull/Metrostars. United now has won all four lifetime playoff series against New York and has a total record of 6-1-2 in nine playoff matches.

Epic…

Unbelievable…