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Perry Kitchen celebrates his first goal of the night. Red Bull NY rallied back to tie DC United 2-2 at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. on Saturday April 11, 2015.

D.C. United getting house in order ahead of Free Agency and Re-Entry Draft

Washington, D.C., December 7, 2015 – D.C. United today exercised contract options for a number of players as well as declining options on some important players.

With the Midnight deadline approaching tonight, United exercised options on starters Fabian Espindola, Sean Franklin, Steve Birnbaum and Taylor Kemp. Fringe first-team players Chris Korb, Conor Doyle, Luke Mishu, Travis Worra, Miguel Aguilar and Jared Jeffery all had their options picked up as well.

Players who’s options were not picked up included Jairo Arrieta, Andrew Dykstra, Michael Farfan and Perry Kitchen. Kitchen is out of contract and far apart in negotiations with the team and seems likely to move on to Europe this winter if a settlement isn’t reached. The team is also actively trying to re-sign Dykstra as well. United will have until this Friday’s Stage One of the Re-Entry Draft to try and retain any of the veterans who’s options were declined. If United can’t come to an agreement with those players, they will be eligible for the Re-Entry Draft.

United waived Argentine midfield Facundo Coria after limited appearances this summer.

MLS’ first form of true Free Agency begins tomorrow and it will be interesting to see if United is a big player in that arena. Considering how busy United continues to be in trading and acquiring MLS proven players over the past few years, it would seem logical that they would be highly motivated to sign potential free agents.

United fall 1-0 to Red Bull; Face uphill climb in 2nd leg at Red Bull Arena

Washington D.C., November 1, 2015 – The semi-final round of the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs began with two of the leagues most fierce rivals clashing at RFK Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

D.C. United and New York Red Bull have met three of the past four years in the semi-final round only adding fuel to the fire between the clubs.

That bitterness played itself out on the pitch tonight as the visitors from the North scored a deserved 1-0 win before 19, 525 disappointed fans at East Capitol Street.

Dax McCarty’s diving header behind United’s defense in the 72nd minute was the difference maker as Red Bull take the 1-0 aggregate lead back up I-95 to Red Bull Arena next Sunday night. Additionally, the road goal scored by Red Bull means that United must score next weekend or their season will be over.

That goal was special for Red Bull but it came just three minutes after the games most vital talking point. United midfielder Markus Halsti was savagely taken down by substitute Red Bull defender Ronald Zubar in the 69th minute. Everyone watching was thinking straight red card except for the one man that mattered – referee Fotis Bazakos. He only produced a yellow card after a circle of Red Bull players begged and pleaded for mercy. That mercy was granted to the bemusement of United head coach Ben Olsen and the entire bench of the Black-and-Red.

Nevertheless, it was  less than efficient performance for United who looked tired after their Sunday-Wednesday-Sunday journey. Olsen noted after the match that players like Chris Rolfe and Nick DeLeon just didn’t have the required energy to take on a full week rested Red Bull squad.

It definitely showed as United were fractured and inconsistent all game long and logged a paltry 55% passing completion percentage (normal MLS games range in the 70% percentile) in addition to producing 0 shots on goal through the entire match.

Obviously you can’t win MLS playoff matches with those numbers much less advance past a top team like Red Bull.

Both teams came out with energy to begin the match abut United started to dictate tempo as the first half wandered on. However, that final ball was lacking all afternoon long and Red Bull goalkeeper Luis Robles had precious little to do.

Bill Hamid came up big in the 33rd minute to deny Mike Grella from a close-in sharp angle, blocking the shot with his face to keep the game scoreless. United’s best opportunity came via a free kick when Steve Birnbaum’s redirected header across the face of goal just missed the onrushing Perry Kitchen right in front of Robles.

After the break the visitors started to gain their foothold as United started to tire. Bill Hamid stopped Grella again in the 58th minute with a diving save of Grella’s header. Seconds later Red Bull left back Kemar Lawrence lined a shot off the near post and out.

The game turned in Red Bull’s favor in the 72nd minute when Sacha Kjlestan’s curling free kick sailed over a thicket of players in United’s penalty area to Dax McCarty who was all alone inside the goal box. His diving header gave Hamid no chance and the all-important road goal for Red Bull.

Seconds after the restart from the goal, United had arguably their best chance to score when Fabian Espindola launched a left-footed rocket from 22 yards that narrowly missed the near post.

That was the best United could produce on the evening as they struggled all night long to deal with Red Bull’s three-man central midfield. United, due to an injury to Chris Pontius, were forced to shuffle the lineup and pushed Rolfe from a forward position to wide midfield with Alvaro Saborio manning his striker spot. United also had to deal with the suspension of their captain Bobby Boswell after their win midweek over the New England Revolution.

Rolfe and DeLeon spent the majority of the match in central midfield in an attempt to negate the effectiveness of the Red Bull trio of McCarty-Kjlestan and Felipe. That in turn made United way too narrow and were unable to use outside backs Taylor Kemp and Sean Franklin as outlets.

The solution is simple for United now. Because of the away goals rule, United can win the series if they win the game at Red Bull Arena by a 2-1 score or better. A 1-0 win for United is the only scoreline that would force the 30-minute extra time and ensuing penalty kick shootout, if necessary. A draw or a loss (obviously) would eliminate United from the playoffs.

Perry Kitchen (pictured) rises above the fray to score the first of his two goals tonight against Red Bull. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

United squanders two-goal lead in 2-2 draw with Red Bulls

Perry Kitchen (pictured) rises above the fray to score the first of his two goals tonight against Red Bull. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

No one is denying the fortune that has come D.C. United’s way through the first five weeks of the season. Back-to-back stoppage-time wins in the past two weeks have painted over some issues, particularly on the offensive side of things through the opening five weeks of the MLS campaign.

Tonight however the visiting New York Red Bulls flipped the script and grabbed a stoppage-time goal to secure a two-goal comeback in tonight’s 2-2 draw with United before 16,304 fans at RFK Stadium.

Lloyd Sam, quickly ascending to the top of the United Killers list, pounced on a Bill Hamid spill of a Sacha Kjlestan free kick from 30 yards away in the 91st minute to spoil what had been United’s best 90-minute performance of the season.

Perry Kitchen bagged both of United’s goals on the night, the first via a Taylor Kemp corner kick in the 26th minute and then a 23-yard laser to beat Luis Robles in the 67th minute to stake United to it’s first two-goal lead of the season.

That feeling lasted all of sixty seconds as United (3-1-1, 10 points) allowed Red Bull (2-0-2, 8 points) to cut the lead in half when defender Damien Perrinelle went relatively unchallenged to head home a corner kick of his own.

United seemed to have squelched the Red Bull comeback until a Luis Silva foul in the 89th minute set up the game-tying sequence. Kjlestan stepped up and hit a dipping shot over the wall that normally would be handled easily by a goalkeeper of Bill Hamid’s stature, however Hamid spilled the shot in front of goal and Sam beat Taylor Kemp to the ball and slammed it home for his second goal against United this season. Sam has scored three goals in four league games against United going back to late last season.

Even with the disappointing finish, United remains alone atop the Eastern Conference and welcome former conference foes the Houston Dynamo to town next Saturday night. Additionally, it will be the last game for Fabian Espindola to serve his six-game suspension imposed by the league for his physical confrontation with an official as United were eliminated by Red Bull last November.

Espindola will be a welcomed face to the lineup when they travel to Vancouver in two weeks time.

United rallies from early deficit to 3-3 draw in Chicago

For the first half hour of tonight’s match between D.C. United and the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, it wasn’t looking too good for road-weary United.

Down 2-0 to a desperate squad on a terribly re-sodded pitch, you would have given the Black-and-Red the proverbial pass considering the team was wrapping up an 8 matches out of 11 stretch on the road, including a midweek match in Jamaica.

This team however are making believers of all United fans as they rallied to a 3-3 draw and pushed their precious lead at the top of the Eastern Conference standings to three points over idle Sporting Kansas City. With United already clinching the season series over SKC (with a head-to-head match still remaining in October at RFK), the three point cushion keeps them in first place even through next weekend when they welcome the Philadelphia Union to town after their lengthy road sojourn.

Luis Silva led the comeback with a pair of goals including a dead-cinch lock for Goal of the Week with a wicked free kick stunner in the 54th minute to level the match after United had fallen behind so early. Silva’s penalty kick conversion in the 39th minute had turned around a performance that was less then stellar until that goal. Silva leads United now with 10 goals on the season, all in the last 15 matches United has played.

United had designs on stealing all three points when Perry Kitchen finished off a bizarre play in the 58th minute to give United a 3-2 lead. Taylor Kemp’s free kick was flicked on in the area by Bobby Boswell and found Kitchen in a good spot with Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson rushing out to stop him. Kitchen got a touch to the ball to poke it past Johnson as it rolled towards the empty net. Fire defender Gonzalo Segares made a lunging attempt to clear it just as it crossed over the line. Boswell was on hand however to slam the clearance into the net to remove all doubt on the play. Once the league reviews the play, no doubt Kitchen will be rewarded with his 5th goal of the season.

However, as has been the case on occasion this season, United gave up the equalizer in the 78th minute when Matt Watson’s shot from 23 yards took a fatal deflection off of defender Steve Birnbaum and flew past the helpless Bill Hamid in goal.

All of the drama wouldn’t have been necessary had United not slept-walked through the games initial start. Chicago took the lead in the 16th minute when Quincy Amerikwa took advantage of a failed clearance from Taylor Kemp and curled a left-footed shot past Hamid for the 1-0 lead. In the 32nd minute the Fire doubled their advantage when Kitchen was judged to have tripped Amerikwa in the box. Jeff Larentowicz stepped up and blasted his shot past Hamid to give the home side the 2-0 lead.

With Chicago seemingly in control of the match, United received the lifeline they were looking for when Birnbaum was shoved over in the penalty area in the 38th minute by Fire defender Baky Soumare. Silva stepped up and strangely seemed to shoot right at Johnson as he dove to his right but the burly goalkeeper couldn’t keep the full force of the shot out and United’s comeback had it’s start.

With United at the tail end of their most devastating crunch of matches all season (7 out of 9 league matches on the road in addition to the midweek trip to face Waterhouse FC in Jamaica), Ben Olsen’s squad was missing their top player in Fabian Espindola to a red card controversially given ten days ago in a last-second 1-0 loss in New York as well as Eddie Johnson for a third consecutive league match with concussion symptoms although he did return to training late in the week.

This gave young Michael Seaton his first start in MLS up top with Silva and it also saw the MLS debut of Ghanaian International Samuel Inkoom on the right side of the midfield. Seaton was a non-factor until the last minute of stoppage time in the first half when he got a flick to well struck free kick from Silva that forced a diving fumbling save from Johnson to keep Chicago ahead 2-1 at the break.

After the break Olsen subbed in both Chris Pontius and Chris Korb into the lineup and brought off the two debutants and it paid immediate dividends on both ends of the field. Pontius’ pass set up Silva with a chance in the area but his shot was well defended by Fire defender Lovel Palmer who was throwing his body all over the field.

Korb helped to stabilize what had been a shaky first half performance from United’s usually staunch defense. Even though United were missing quite a few offensive weapons, their defense for the most part had been picking the team up through the past two league matches which saw United shutout in both of those matches in Vancouver and New York.

With the big road point, United now will play three of their remaining five matches at the friendly confines of RFK Stadium to close out the season. Before that however is a tricky midweek home match against Tauro FC in the CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday night. All United needs is a draw against the winless side to advance to the knockout stages of the competition beginning next February. Conventional wisdom will have Olsen playing mostly a reserve side to help rest for their big match next Saturday afternoon when the welcome the Union to town. That match will be live on the NBCSports Network starting at 3:30 pm EST.

 

United vaults to first place after stunning 3-0 win in Kansas City

For at least another 21 hours or so, one team sits alone at the top of MLS.

D.C. United.

With tons of talk in and around the league this week about Supporters Shield contenders, much has been made of surging teams FC Dallas and RSL, who are tied with the Seattle Sounders at 42 points atop the Western Conference while Sporting Kansas City, also on 42 points, have been leaders in the East for most of the season.

Very little thought has been afforded to D.C. United, aside from the predictable comments from all pundits that the team has made an incredible turnaround from a history making awful 2013 campaign.

Perhaps now people will sit up and notice the Black-and-Red. United went into Sporting Park and put a 3-0 beat down on SKC tonight to jump into first place in the East behind three goals in a seven-minute onslaught from Fabian Espindola, Chris Rolfe and Perry Kitchen.

The win for United (13-7-4, 43 points) was their first ever at Sporting Park in five attempts and their first against Sporting on the road since 2007. Coming off back-to-back drubbings on the road, one would hardly have expected United to put forth such an effort, particularly during the busiest stretch of the season.

United was coming off a 1-0 home win in their CONCACAF Champions League opener on Wednesday night while Sporting struggled to a 1-1 draw away in Nicaragua on Tuesday, a game in which Sporting head coach Peter Vermes called on eight of his normal starters while Ben Olsen rolled out a reserve-laden squad.

The difference in philosophies seemed to pay a huge dividend for United as they seemed the more energetic side for most of the evening. United was on the back foot for first twenty minutes or so but took the lead against the run of play in the 24th minute.

Luis Silva played a seemingly harmless ball to Espindola in the corner where he juked Aurelien Collin and made his way to the top corner of the penalty area. Using his weaker right foot, Espindola’s worm burner skipped along the grass and curled it’s way into the far side of the goal to give United the 1-0 lead. Espindola’s goal was his team-leading 9th of the season and gave tallies in two straight league games.

Just four minutes later, United would double their lead when Chris Rolfe beat Sporting’s high defensive line and went in alone and just got his shot past Sporting goalkeeper John Kempin. For Rolfe it was his sixth goal of the year, also scoring in back-to-back games, and it was Silva’s second assist of the night.

United ended all drama on the night when Perry Kitchen wrapped up the scoring just three minutes later. Again United victimized Sporting’s high line as Kitchen ghosted in behind Collin. As Collin caught up to Kitchen, the young midfielder cut back expertly on Collin and rifled his shot just inside the near post for an incredible 3-0 lead.

United was now tasked with simply seeing the remainder of the match out with staunch defending and they did just that. As a matter of fact United had numerous opportunities to extend the lead only to see the woodwork deny Nick DeLeon and substitute David Estrada.

Sporting created only a few chances throughout the match, the best coming off the foot of ex-Maryland and U.S. World Cup veteran Graham Zusi’s shot hitting the crossbar midway through the second half. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid picked up his sixth shutout of the season and second against Sporting this season.

United’s brutal schedule continues when they travel to California to play the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday night at 10:30 pm EST. The match will be shown live on Comcast SportsNet.

Hamid comes up big as United take 2-1 win in Toronto

Bill Hamid’s last-second reflex save on Daniel Lovitz’ angled shot helped preserve a huge 2-1 win for D.C. United over Toronto FC tonight in Toronto, Ontario.

The win for United (8-5-4, 28 points) is their third road win of the season and more importantly it puts United back in first place in the Eastern Conference as they await Sporting Kansas City’s result tomorrow afternoon when they host the cellar-dwelling Chicago Fire.

Nick DeLeon’s second goal of the season opened the scoring in the 54th minute against the run of play as United had been second-best all night long. After the first forty-five minutes saw United defending in numbers and turning the ball over too easily, they decided to take a more aggressive approach and apply high pressure and it paid off for the Black-and-Red.

United’s high pressure forced a turnover and Luis Silva’s toe-poke set DeLeon off towards goal. DeLeon did well to keep TFC defender Nick Hagglund on his outside shoulder as he barreled towards goal with the ball. As he entered the penalty area, DeLeon spun TFC defender Collen Warren into the ground and unleashed a left-footed shot that squeezed between TFC goalkeeper Joe Bendik and defender Steven Caldwell.

Up to that point DeLeon was more of a hindrance to United’s play rather than a factor, mirroring many of the issues that plagued United through the first fifty minutes of the match.

United’s lead did not last long however as the home side equalized in the 60th minute. With United under heavy pressure, a shot from TFC midfielder Jackson was on goal and Hamid made the save but couldn’t handle it cleanly as United were very slow to react to the rebound and Luke Moore tucked the ball for his third goal of the season.

Undaunted though, United struck back in the 69th minute and got the game-winner thanks to a Perry Kitchen header off of a corner kick. Kitchen was unmarked in the middle of the goal box and simply headed the ball down after very accurate service from substitute Lewis Neal.

With the new found lead, United pulled back and defended well over the final twenty minutes and actually went ahead a man when Hagglund was red-carded for his pulling down of Eddie Johnson on a breakaway. Initially referee Jeff Gantar only issued a yellow card to Hagglund but after consultation with the fourth official and his far sideline assistant, Gantar “upgraded” the foul to a red card offense.

United seemed relatively comfortable playing out the final minutes but not without one more heart-pounding moment at the death of the match. In the 95th minute Kitchen made a routine clearance that resulted in a TFC throw-in at midfield. With only seconds remaining a last ditch ball was curled over everyone to the far post where TFC defender Daniel Lovitz was crashing in on goal. Lovitz’ one-time shot was struck goal bound with venom but Hamid seemed to come from out of nowhere to make a dazzling save to preserve the win for United.

United now will savor this rather unexpected result and prepare for a match in San Jose next Friday night at 11pm EST. This match will be shown nationally on the NBCSportsNetwork.

Snap Shots – DC v Fire

DC United’s valiant come from behind effort was all for naught as the Fire’s Quincy Amerikwa’s redirect from the six-yard box in the 82nd minute leveled the match at 2-2 and spoiled the party for the announced crowd of 9,445 fans, the smallest league crowd at RFK in over five years.

DC United have now gone 15 matches without a win over the course of two seasons. United will next take aim at the New England Revolution who come to town next Saturday night at 7pm.

Photos: Martin Fernandez.

Perry Kitchen Congratualtes Fabian Espindola

United secures first point of the season in 2-2 draw with Chicago

D.C United took the field at soggy RFK Stadium on Saturday afternoon looking to excise the demons of back-to-back shutout losses to start the 2014 MLS campaign. The Chicago Fire however had other plans as their late goal ruined United’s chance at their first win of the season and first win in nearly seven months.

Quincy Amerikwa’s redirect from the six-yard box in the 82nd minute leveled the match at 2-2 and spoiled the party for the announced crowd of 9,445 fans, the smallest league crowd at RFK in over five years.

Chicago opened the scoring in the 27th minute against the run of play when Jhon Kennedy Hurtado headed in a Harrison Shipp corner kick. Hurtado easily shook the mark of United defender Sean Franklin and overpowered Cristian Fernandez to fire into the top corner of the net. Prior to the goal United were completely bossing the match when they forced Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson into four saves. In the games opening twenty-five minutes United had essentially tripled it’s offensive output in terms of creating chances from their first two league games.

After the gut shot of falling behind against the run of play, United did not shirk their responsibilities and quickly regained the momentum of the match in the 35th minute. Eddie Johnson was pulled down from behind at the right edge of the penalty area after being sent through by Perry Kitchen. While most of RFK howled in derision at Jair Maruffo for not pointing to the penalty spot, replays showed he made the right call. Up stepped Fabian Espindola and Nick DeLeon to combine for United’s first goal of the season. DeLeon rolled the free kick behind and to the left for the onrushing Argentine to blast a shot through the wall and skip past Johnson on the greasy surface and level the match at 1-1.

Both teams struggled with the sloppy conditions by trading half-chances through the subsequent next forty minutes before United took the lead in the 73rd minute. Espindola’s corner kick found the head of Bobby Boswell who forced a diving save from Johnson on the line. The rebound found it’s way back to Boswell who then slammed a shot off the goalpost only to see the rebound finally land at the feet of Kitched who shoveled the ball into the net for the go-ahead goal.

United from there retreated into a defensive stance trying to capture their first win of the season. However, they got burned badly in the 82nd minute and paid the price with the game-tying goal from Amerikwa. Substitute Patrick Nyarko collected a ball along the right end line and nutmegged United defender Cristian Fernandez. His centering pass found Amerikwa in stride and his blast easily bested Bill Hamid.

The draw with Chicago means that United have now gone 15 matches without a win over the course of two seasons. United will next take aim at the New England Revolution who come to town next Saturday night at 7pm.