Posts

Ben Olsen. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

D.C. United acquires Boca Juniors midfielder Luciano Acosta

Washington, D.C., February 9, 2016 – D.C. United has acquired Argentine midfielder Luciano Acosta on loan from legendary club Boca Juniors for the 2016 season. The 21-year-old playmaker is scheduled to arrive in Washington on Wednesday night to undergo a physical and to sign his loan deal. It’s reported that United has an option to buy Acosta after the loan expires at the end of the season.

The diminutive (5’2″) midfielder will add much-needed pace and playmaking ability to a United midfield that has been missing that element since Christian Gomez was traded to the Colorado Rapids in February of 2008. It is expected that Acosta will clear all international hurdles and be ready for selection when they start the knockout round of the CONCACAF Champions League against Querataro of Mexico two weeks from tonight.

United has depended on the gritty play of both Perry Kitchen and Davy Arnaud mainly for the past two seasons. And while that combination put United in good position in the league during that time, it was clear that that particular well had gone dry by the end of the 2015 MLS Season. Kitchen is no longer with United as his contract expired as he is expected to sign with a European team soon. Arnaud is rumored to be retiring after his attempt to come back was scuttled during the first week of preseason training due to his lingering concussion symptoms.

The addition of Acosta is a welcome sight for United fans as they have desperately craved someone, anyone, to help their attack from central midfield as it sputtered at the tail end of the 2015 campaign. While his size will work against him in a renowned physical league like MLS, his creativity, quickness and flat out straight-line speed will increase the tempo of United’s seemingly predictable attack pace.

Acosta played the 2013-14 season with the Argentine giants before going on loan with Estudiantes in 2015. His teammate at Estudiantes Leanardo Gil was United’s main target this offseason before he finally was pulled from consideration a week ago. United then turned their efforts towards Italian midfielder Antonio Nocerino of AC Milan and what a storm that story brewed up. United submitted a Discovery Claim on Nocerino only to see Orlando City SC step in and offer a reported $900,000 a year deal (United reportedly has offered a $700,000 a year deal). Seeing as United were in negotiations with Nocerino, Orlando City clearing violated MLS’ tampering rules and will most likely have to pay United something substantial in return for the services of Nocerino.

It’s being reported that a trade between United and Orlando City is imminent to acquire Nocerino. While Nocerino would have been a nice addition to United’s midfield, the position seems rather stacked with the addition last week of Marcelo Sarvas as well as the drafting of Julian Buescher and Paul Clowes last month.

United head coach Ben Olsen stated that team is not finished on the international market and the team “has plenty of money” to acquire “one for sure, two possible” players in the very near future. In order to acquire Acosta this afternoon, United traded midfielder/forward Conor Doyle to the Colorado Rapids for a 2017 third-round pick. The move also frees up a spot to possibly sign English midfielder Rob Vincent from the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. The 25-year old has been with United since the beginning of preseason and has impressed Olsen and his coaching staff.

United will travel back to Florida this weekend to begin to ramp up training ahead of their match in Querataro on February 14th. United will play three matches down in Florida over the next two weeks starting with the Tampa Bay Rowdies (Feb 13th) and then playing the Philadelphia Union (Feb 17th) before wrapping up their trip against the Montreal Impact (Feb 20th).

Ben Olsen

United move up in SuperDraft to select Julian Buescher; trade 13th pick down to 2nd Round

Baltimore, MD, January 14, 2015 – D.C. United moved up two picks in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft and selected Syracuse midfielder Julian Buescher with the 11th pick in the first round this afternoon. Two picks later United traded the #13 pick to Orlando City SC for TAM (Targeted Allocation Money) and the #12 pick in the 2nd Round.

Buescher, a German native, was acquired from Sporting Kansas City for TAM. Head coach Ben Olsen said the team got most, but not all, of the TAM traded to Sporting with their trade down deal with Orlando City.

Buescher’s vision and box-to-box ability attracted Ben Olsen and his staff to him at the MLS Combine this past week. “A man among boys,” was the description leveled at Buescher by the MLS draft pundits on the webcast. Buescher was dominant for the Orangemen in the College Cup this past December. Olsen said in describing his new player, “he has a healthy arrogance in making the final pass”. Olsen says he see’s Buescher as a #10, #8 or even possibly as a wide midfielder.

However, Buescher will most likely play in central midfield in tandem with Markus Halsti. Halsti will play deeper and allow Buescher to move forward and join the attack. Davy Arnaud’s concussion issue and Perry Kithchen’s inevitable departure (after failed contract extension attempts) most likely played a big role in acquiring the German midfielder. Arnaud will report to preseason camp and any decision on him will be based on how he responds in camp.

United wasn’t done and later acquired English midfielder Paul Clowes from Clemson with the #12 pick in the second round (via earlier) Orlando City trade. Clowes is a defensive midfielder that covers a ton of ground but he is older than most of the draft picks and will cost United an International Player roster spot.

The 3rd and 4th Rounds of the draft will be conducted next week via a conference call. United has three picks in the 4th Round (#6, #13 and #16).

 

United Notes

  • potential devastating news as it is being reported that Bill Hamid’s successful surgery on the meniscus in his right knee might put him out for “several months”. Initial reports had the recovery time at approximately 4-6 weeks for recovery
  • Forward Jairo Arrieta has ended his time with United after signing a contract with the New York Cosmos of the NASL

United drop second straight match with 1-0 loss in Orlando

Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2015 – D.C. United has reached the midway point of the 2015 MLS season in first place, but tonight’s 1-0 loss to Orlando City SC at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida suggests something other than tangible progress as the Black-and-Red dropped their second game in a row.

Armed with a four-point lead in the Eastern Conference over the New England Revolution, United (8-5-5, 28 points) still has played at least two more games than most of their conference opponents to this point in the season. With a seemingly rare full week of training and rest for United, it didn’t seem to make much of a difference as they wilted in the heat and humidity in Central Florida.

Orlando City (5-5-5, 20 points) jumped into third place in the East by virtue of their win tonight and are on a 5-game unbeaten run. Kaka, the man who runs the show in Orlando for the Lions was the difference maker this evening though in controversial fashion. In the 28th minute United defender Taylor Kemp was adjudged to have fouled Orlando City forward Pedro Ribeiro who was chasing down a failed clearance from Steve Birnbaum after Bill Hamid had just pulled off a stunning save on Ribeiro.

The controversy doesn’t lie in the penalty call from referee Jose Carlos Rivero as much as a clear non-call on a high foot right in the face of Davy Arnaud from Ribeiro just seconds before he took his shot on Hamid. That non-call began the fateful sequence of events that ultimately ended up with Kaka heading in his own penalty-saved shot off of a save from Hamid to give the home side a 1-0 lead before a sweaty and raucous crowd of 30,054 fans.

United had plenty of time to turn the deficit around as United are MLS’ best team in doing so (4-4-1 when giving up the first goal this season) and felt they should have had the opportunity to do so in the final minute of the first half. On a rare United corner kick, midfielder Perry Kitchen was essentially rugby tackled from behind by Orlando City fullback Luke Boden at the penalty spot but Rivero either didn’t notice the play or simply refused to give United a penalty claim.

After the break it was United who took it to the Lions by pushing numbers up into attack but as has been the case for a great deal of the season, United couldn’t get any quality looks on goal or the necessary service to level the match. The best of United’s chances was a Conor Doyle drive that he sliced just past the far post late in the match after being set up beautifully by Fabian Espindola. United only had two shots on goal for the match and both of them came from long distance and never really threatened Orlando City goalkeeper Tally Hall.

With the loss, United now has fallen on their worst patch of play of the season. Not surprising considering the amount of games the team has had to play in the past six weeks. United is 2-4-1 in their last seven matches and are in danger of being caught by the rest of the Eastern Conference. The task of turning around their league form begins next Sunday afternoon when they welcome the Revolution to RFK Stadium for a nationally televised (ESPN2) match on Fathers Day at 5pm.

Before that however United will play the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in U.S. Open Cup play on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. It is expected that Ben Olsen will send his reserves to this match in order to rest up his players for the league match on Sunday.

 

United Notes

  • Chris Pontius (hip), Sean Franklin (ankle), Michael Farfan (hamstring) and Facundo Coria (unknown ailment) all remained back in DC and did not make the trip to Florida
  • Markus Halsti was with Finland over the weekend as they lost 1-0 to Hungary in a Euro 2016 qualifier. Halsti is expected to be back in D.C. by Tuesday. It’s unknown whether he will be included on the bus that will travel to Pittsburgh on Wednesday night for their 4th Round match up with the Riverhounds in the U.S. Open Cup
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

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???

United adding depth ahead of SuperDraft

In the span of 48 hours D.C. United have acquired Finnish International midfielder Markus Halsti and Costa Rican International striker Jairo Arrieta to help bolster the squad ahead of their 2015 campaign.

Halsti, a 30-year old free transfer from Swedish front runner’s Malmo FC, will most likely slip into central midfield alongside Perry Kitchen. Halsti played for Malmo for seven seasons and brings exstensive UEFA Champions League experience to the Black-and-Red. Davy Arnaud, who played in successful partnership with Kitchen for most of 2014, will now most likely fill the Lewis Neal role of veteran backup though I expect the fiery Arnaud to have a lot to say on the field in preseason in competition with Halsti for that role.

Arrieta comes over in a trade with Orlando City SC for a 2015 International Player spot. Arrieta was selected by Orlando City in the recent Expansion Draft in December. Arrieta scored 17 goals with 9 assists in his three years in Columbus before being selected last month by Orlando City.

Both players will help build depth for the club as the team begins their 2015 season with a two-leg aggregate series with Costa Rican champion Alejuelense beginning on February 26th in Costa Rica. United will also add a few more players to the squad in the form of draft picks being made when the MLS SuperDraft starts tomorrow in Philadelphia. United currently holds the 17th pick (1st Round) and 42nd pick (last pick in 2nd round) but as well all know, there is a ton of wheeling-and-dealing going on during the Draft and United may improve their positioning or they may trade down for bonus picks.

Either way, United’s roster is shaping up nicely ahead of the start of training camp on January 22nd.

Chivas USA folds; Conference realignment for 2015

This afternoon Major League Soccer’s  worst kept secret came to fruition when the league announced that Chivas USA has ceased operations after ten years of play.

The team and front office have been disbanded and the players will be dispersed via a Dispersal Draft which will be held in early December according to various sources. MLS teams will pick from their roster in reverse order of finish from their 2014 MLS season. That would put D.C. United third from the bottom and in all likelihood United will pass on their opportunity to pick a player from one of the worst rosters in MLS.

Commissioner Don Garber announced that a second Los Angeles franchise will be announced this Thursday and begin league play in 2017. A group of investors led by Vietnamese-American businessman Henry Ngyuen will take charge of the yet-to-be-named team while Arthur Blank, the owner of the Atlanta Falcons, will spearhead the Atlanta franchise also set to begin in 2017.

Additionally, the league announced also that because of the 2015 additions of expansion franchises NYCFC and Orlando City SC, that the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City will be moved to the Western Conference beginning next season. This will balance out both conferences at ten teams apiece. With MLS now set at 20 teams, the schedule will remain at 34 league games.

Each team will play every opponent in the opposite conference once (5 at home; 5 away – 10 games total) and will play home-and-home against each conference team (18 games total) and an additional 6 games against a conference opponent (3 home; 3 away). Those additional games have yet to be decided but most likely will attempt to keep league rivalries in play (Atlantic Cup/Cascadia Cup/Rocky Mountain Cup/California Clasico/Texas Derby, etc…) and will rotate from year-to-year.

What this means for D.C. United is that things have gotten a lot less complicated as they have traded two conference rivals for two expansion teams. While it may appear an easier path to the playoffs with Houston and SKC out of the picture, it would be a tragic mistake for United,their staff and their fans to assume it will be a cakewalk from this point forward.

2013 should have told us all we need to know about that.

 

 

 

 

 

MLS announces new club on the eve of conference Semifinal matches

On the eve of the second leg of the MLS Cup Semi-finals Major League Soccer announced that Orlando City SC will become the newest member of the “club.” Orlando will join the league as the 21st MLS franchise and is set to debut, under a “purple banner,” in 2015.

Orlando will join the league’s 20th franchise, New York City FC, in league play at the same time. This is the first time since 1998 that MLS has added two clubs in one year. Back then the league added the Chicago Fire and the now defunct, Miami Fusion.

The excitement of the addition of MLS’s 21st franchise comes at a time when four teams remain in the hunt for the 2013 MLS Cup. Still in play are Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers in the West, and Sporting KC and the Houston Dynamo in the East.

Heading into their second legs respectively each team still is capable of advancing to the League’s premier event, but in my opinion, Real Salt Lake and Sporting KC hold the edge in their respective series.

Houston and Sporting will face off on Saturday November 23rd at 7:30 pm in Sporting Park to conclude their series. The teams have played to consecutive scoreless draws, including a 0-0 draw in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinal series and Kansas City has only won once against the dynamo in the last five meetings at Sporting Park. Coincidentally the win came in the second leg of last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals – Houston would prevail 2-1 by virtue of their 2-0 win in the first leg.

The teams are obviously no strangers to each other and Kansas City looks poised to avenge their Semifinal loss from last year to advance to this year’s MLS Cup.

In the West, Real Salt Lake holds a slight advantage over the Portland Timbers as they head into the “confines” of Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, Oregon on Sunday November 24th at 9:00 pm. Real leads the series by virtue of their opening leg 4-2 win at Rio Tinto Stadium in Salt Lake City, UT.

All Kreis’ guys need to do is not loose by more than 1 goal (to avoid extra time) to a Portland team that has not lost a competitive match in their home field since March 9, when they fell 2-1 to the visiting Montreal Impact. For Portland, overturning a 2 goal deficit is by no means impossible, but they will have to accomplish something that has not been done since 2004 when the then Kansas City Wizards came back to defeat the San Jose Earthquakes 3-2 on aggregate to win the series.

Real holds the advantage by virtue of their 2 goal lead and the fact that Kreis’ squad is ready to forget this year’s Open Cup debacle.

If I were to place a bet on the official William hill website my money would be on a Sporting KC vs Real Salt Lake in the MLS Cup Final, with Sporting edging the boys from UT to win their Second MLS Cup, their first since becoming Sporting KC. A prediction I mad earlier this season on the UnitedMania.com Podcast.