All posts by Sarah Kallassy

Tied Up on Tuesday: D.C. and Montreal Draw 0-0 at Audi Field

Sarah Kallassy - DC United/mlsfemale
Official D.C. United Reporter

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

The Match:

Beautiful sunset at Audi Field. Photo Credit: Sarah Kallassy

Audi Field wasn’t quite at capacity Tuesday night, but with attendance at 18,116 it was close. As the sun went down over Buzzard point, the volume turned up. D.C. Unitedstarted minus Captain Wayne Rooney, due to his red card in Saturday’s match against LAFC. After their drop to the number three spot in the Eastern Conference Standings, D.C. was certainly seeking some redemption. A win at home against Montreal before hitting the road would have been nice.

Supporter’s groups showing up for D.C. Photo Credit: D.C. United

Despite widespread predictions, Quincy Amarikwa did not start but rather began the match on the bench. Instead, Ulises Segura started the match as a forward, something that Head Coach Ben Olsen has previously tried. Zoltan Stieber started as well, in place of Joseph Mora,who is out due to injuries sustained in D.C.’s match against Orlando City SC. 

Ulises Segura Photo Credit: D.C. United

While the Black-and-Red came out with a certain level of grit and tenacity, they were unable to settle in on the pitch. While able to win duels throughout the first half and test Montreal’s defense, they ended up at halftime with nothing in the net. Rather, the half saw both Paul Arriolaand Leonardo Jaraissued yellow cards. 

The second half of the match yielded much of the same frustrating stalemate as the first half did. As Quincy Amarikwa was (finally) substituted into the match in the 64’, replacing Stieber, a collective sense of excitement seemed to ripple through Audi Field. Unfortunately, Amarikwa couldn’t save the match for the Black-and-Red, even with a pair of well-placed headers. 

D.C. and Montreal split the points, ending the match in an incredibly frustrating 0-0 draw.

Takeaways:

D.C. is still reliant on Rooney

The Black-and-Red just couldn’t seem to get it together without their Captain on the field. While Rooneyis an incredible player and leader, D.C. United has the talent to win matches when he is unavailable. Now, they just need to believe it.

More injuries will challenge the team

Both veteran defender Chris McCannand newly signed defender Leonardo Jarawere injured in this match. McCann has a hamstring injury that could see him out for a few weeks, while Jara injured his shoulder and may be out over a week. In addition to the jaw injury and concussion that Joseph Morasuffered, these injuries further reduce the number of experienced players Head Coach Ben Olsen has available.

New players will have the chance to step up

Players like Akeem Ward, may have the chance at minutes on the pitch given the shakeups due to injury. Homegrown players such as USMNT U20 player Chris Durkin, Loudon United playerDonovan PinesJalen RobinsonGriffin Yow, and Antonio Bustamante may also be making more appearances in the 18 and starting XI.

Time will tell how the Black-and-Red will adapt. Captain Wayne Rooney will travel with D.C. United as they take to the road and face the Colorado Rapids on Saturday, April 13th!

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A Bitter Pill: D.C. United Fall to LAFC at Home 0-4

Sarah Kallassy - DC United/mlsfemale
Official D.C. United Reporter

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

The Match:

Saturday’s sellout D.C. United vs. Los Angeles FC match at Audi Field began on a high note. Perfect weather, legend Jamie Moreno joining another 20,600 fans in the stands, and the supporter’s groups chanting their hearts out set the stage for what Black-and Red fans hoped would be a victorious home match. 

The matchup between the two top teams in MLS, and the dramatic face off between their star Captains had been widely anticipated. D.C.’s Captain Wayne Rooney and LAFC’s Captain Carlos Vela are two players with long records of success both before and in MLS. Everyone was wondering what would happen when they collided on the pitch.

Credit: Goal

D.C.’s starting XI has seen a few changes since Joseph Mora suffered a broken jaw and concussion in last week’s match with Orlando City SC. After the same starters for four straight matches, Head Coach Ben Olsen brought in veteran defender Chris McCann to start. Homegrown player Donovan Pines also saw his first match in the 18.

Credit: D.C. United

Something felt off, but D.C. held their own against LAFC, at first. Unfortunately, Leonardo Jara took a ball to the arm while down on the pitch that resulted in a PK. D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid made a beautifully difficult save against LAFC Captain (and star) Carlos Vela. 

The optimism generated by Hamid’s save evaporated moments later when Vela put one clean in the back of the net. LAFC were up 1-0.

Still, D.C. United would have no issue finding an equalizer before halftime, right? Two more goals from LAFC’s Diego Rossi before the 45’ certainly hit morale hard. As forward Quincy Amarikwa said, “That was the first time we got put on our heels in the first half. That’s the first time this year we’ve had to deal with being under fire.” 

Apr 6, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela (10) scores a goal on D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid (24) as D.C. United defender Steve Birnbaum (15) defends in the first half at Audi Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

D.C. United entered the second half down 0-3, and to their credit, they began to play like they were really fighting for a win. Midfielder Paul Arriola reflected on the second half saying, “We had nothing to lose at that point. I mean, 3-0, what are you going to do? You just go out there and you show the fans why they should be fans of D.C. United.”

Some would say the Black-and-Red perhaps went a little too hard in the second half, with Captain Wayne Rooney taking a red card in the 51‘ for his challenge of LAFC’s Diego Rossi

With D.C. United a man down, Rossi then finished the game up beautifully for LAFC with his third goal of the match, completing a hat trick. Even with five minutes of stoppage time added, D.C. United was still unable to score.

The Takeaways:

While the loss was indeed a bitter pill for D.C. United to swallow, we were left with two very positive takeaways from the match.

D.C. United is an accountable team

Although D.C. put in a performance they were unhappy with, they refused to place blame anywhere but squarely on their own shoulders. No criticism of the referee, the weather, or the other team was heard in the interview room or the locker room post-match. When asked about how D.C. fell short, Head Coach Ben Olsen said, “I look to myself first.”  About his players, Olsen said, “No one quit, no one pointed the finger.”

With no argument after being issued a red card, D.C. Captain Wayne Rooney handed off his armband, apologized to Rossi, and exited the pitch, exhibiting exemplary class and leadership. Rather than vanishing, Rooney waited after the match to speak with the press. He offered no criticism of referee Robert Sibiga, and said he “expected” the call.

There is no doubt about it: When the going gets tough, character counts. The Black-and-Red’s will carry them through even the toughest times this MLS season.

Talent runs deep

 D.C. United certainly has talent. New signings, and starters, Leonardo Jara and Lucas Rodriguez brought some of the most creative and snappy play to the match, especially during the second half. We saw Quincy Amarikwa’s D.C. United debut, and minutes for Chris Durkin and Ulises Segura. The Black-and-Red’s pool of talented players beyond the starting XI will be critical during the long and unpredictable season ahead.

Amarikwa, D.C.’s only other striker, will be one to watch on Tuesday where he is anticipated to fill in for suspended Captain Wayne Rooney. An experienced player, Amarikwa has been with the League since 2009. Post-match, he spoke exclusively to MLSFemale about his role and the example he hopes to set for other players at D.C. United: 

“I’m usually one who gets his opportunities when things aren’t going so well… Hopefully I can set a standard for guys to understand that even if you’re not expected to be called upon, you’re ready to go and make a positive impact regardless.”

D.C. United returns to the pitch on Tuesday, April 9thagainst Montreal at home. As always, VAMOS UNITED!

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D.C. United claim road victory 2-1 over Orlando

Sarah Kallassy - DC United/mlsfemale
Official D.C. United Reporter

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

D.C. United’s latest match may have broken goal keeper Bill Hamid’s streak of clean sheets, but D.C. took their first away win of the season, defeating Orlando City Soccer club 2-1.

This is the first time D.C. United takes home three points on the road since their May 2018 match with the San Jose Earthquakes. The no-win streak that lasted for 11 away matches is no more.

Almost match time! Photo Credit: Sara Phillips

D.C.’s last road match against NYCFC ended in a 0-0 draw, and at home D.C. United demolished Real Salt Lake 5-0 in a spectacular shut out. However, D.C. United’s test has always been playing on the road. The magic the team brings to Audi Field just hasn’t translated well to away matches, until tonight. 

Head Coach Ben Olsen kept the same starting XI lineup he has used for four matches now. No surprises for anyone who has been following the Black-and-Red. Based on the more difficult schedule D.C. United is about to face and injuries, Olsen will have to start relying on some of the stellar talent he has on the bench.

Defender Steven Birnbaum scored the first goal of the match in the 6thminute, setting D.C. up well very early on. It is Birnbaum’s first goal of the 2019 season. He celebrated by paying tribute to his expecting wife, shoving the soccer ball under his jersey.

Unfortunately, Orlando’s intensely physical playing style saw an early injury around minute 15 to D.C. United’s Joseph Mora. Mora was immediately escorted off the pitch by medical staff as a precaution. “It’s a shame,” said Head Coach Ben Olsen. Mora will have to undergo surgery for a broken jaw.

Veteran defender Chris McCann entered the game for Mora, making his D.C. United playing debut. McCann previously played for Atlanta United and was part of the team that won last year’s MLS Cup Championship. 

As the match continued it became easier to count the number of D.C. players that weren’t knocked down on the pitch. Even Captain Wayne Rooney took his fair share of knocks. After a dangerous foul by Orlando’s Dom Dwyer, Rooney had a chance for some retribution and he did not disappoint.

The foul.

In the 30th minute, Rooney sent the ball past Orlando goalkeeper Rowe in an absolute stunner to raise D.C.’s lead over Orlando to 2-0. From the angle Rooney took his free kick at, an assist seemed more probable, however D.C.’s Captain continues to show his high level of skill, especially under pressure.

Rooney’s stunning goal quickly brought to mind the last time D.C. United and Orlando met at Audi Field. ‘The tackle’ and assist by Rooney that led to Lucho Acosta’s header was arguably one of the finest moments of the 2018 season.

D.C. United’s defense had the chance to shine under Orlando’s pressure tonight. Brillant and Birnbaum especially, did not disappoint and were hard at work clearing away Orlando’s attacks throughout the match.

Goalkeeper Bill Hamid only let one goal in the entire match, which, considering the pressure he faced from a possessively dominant (54.4%) Orlando, is impressive. While not the clean sheet Hamid was surely looking for, he made consistently difficult saves to keep D.C. in the lead for the win.

“There is a winning spirit about the group”, said Head Coach Ben Olsen. Can undefeated D.C. United keep up the momentum?

We will find out when the Black-and-Red return home to Audi Field to face off with LAFC on April 6th!

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Insight from the Midfield: Paul Arriola Talks D.C. v Atlanta

Sarah Kallassy - DC United/mlsfemale
Official D.C. United Reporter

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

It’s no secret that Paul Arriola‘s star is on the rise. The talented midfielder is a regular starter for D.C. United and a member of the USMNT. In D.C. United’s season opener against Atlanta, Arriola’s early goal was critical to the Black-and-Red’s victory. Paul kindly took the time to discuss the match with me after D.C.’s win.

After a disappointing end to DC United’s preseason, the team, and Arriola especially, played with an incredible intensity during the match despite the tough opponent and weather conditions. I asked Arriola what clicked for D.C. United to give such a positive performance.

Paul said, “I think it’s a willingness. There were tough conditions. But, before the game, we said it wasn’t going to make a difference. We go out and its pouring rain and the fans want to be there but it’s so cold. You know, you go out there and your hands go numb. All of those things are just little things, but they can make or break you.”

Atlanta United was clearly not playing to their usual standard during the match. The team has experienced significant changes and challenges to include: a new coach in Frank de Boer, losing Miguel Almiron to Newcastle, and a punishing CCL schedule in addition to their MLS obligations. These were all positives for D.C. United on Sunday according to Paul.

Arriola said, “I think we got Atlanta at a great time after playing Thursday a tough game against the Costa Rican team, and then having to play this week coming up. For them I’m sure it was tough, when you are fatigued, it plays a role, being away plays a role in the MLS for some reason.”

Atlanta is the favorite of many pundits to do well this season and even have a chance at another MLS Cup Championship. However, D.C. United contained Atlanta from the first whistle, giving them very little opportunity to create chances on goal.

Paul said, D.C. United, “talked a lot leading into the game about how dangerous Atlanta could be…and how we could take care of that.” D.C. was able to translate this knowledge into a strategy to keep Atlanta at bay, “the most important thing we talked about is the best way to defend is to keep the ball, and we were able to do that. I think it was great to be able to get the goal for the team early before the first half ended.”

“Like I said, I think there is still a lot of work for us to still do, but you can’t ask for a better way to start the season,” Arriola said.

No, you certainly can’t ask for a better start. Happy 2019 season and as always…Vamos United!

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D.C. United Shut Out Atlanta 2-0 in Home Opener

Sarah Kallassy - DC United/mlsfemale
Official D.C. United Reporter

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

The beginning of the rain at Audi Field. Photo credit: Sarah Kallassy

D.C. United did not hold back during their home opener against reigning MLS Cup Champion Atlanta United. Temperatures hovered in the balmy 30s and freezing rain pelted Audi Field, turning it into a veritable slip-and-slide where players from both teams took repeated tumbles. 

With the inclement weather, one would expect a slower pace, however, the matchup between D.C. United and Atlanta was incredibly physical from the start. After disappointing results at the end of the preseason against Philadelphia and Montreal, D.C. gave us a reminder of who they are tonight; a team that is tenacious and determined.

Image credit: D.C. United

D.C. United’s starting lineup was no surprise to longtime followers of the team and included new signings Leonardo Jara (#29) and Lucas Rodriguez (#11). Both Jara and Rodriguez put in solid performances during the match and seem to have started settling in well with the DC United squad.

Although D.C. had possession less than half of the time (43.7%) in the first half, they were able to create a staggering 11 chances on goal. Paul Arriola’s (#7) 45+1’ minute goal capitalized on the chances the Black-and-Red created and placed DC United in the lead. Atlanta United was only able to create three chances during the first half, none of which materialized into a point on the scoreboard.

D.C. returned to the second half strong, with another goal scored in the 58th minute by Luciano Acosta (#10), assisted by Lucas Rodriguez (#11) in his first MLS assist. D.C. finished out the match by shutting out Atlanta 2-0. This match marks the first season opener since 2015 that the Black-and-Red have won.

D.C. United Head Coach Ben Olsen, “was really pleased with the performance overall,” and said the “timing of the goals were big.” Olsen was quick to touch on the difficult schedule that Atlanta has and the fatigue the team must be experiencing. He said, “although it was a really good performance and a mature performance from us, you have to take it with a little grain of salt with the schedule they’ve had. Maybe we didn’t get their best punch.” Olsen wished Atlanta the best of luck with their upcoming CCL match this week.

D.C. United certainly benefitted during the match from Atlanta United’s fatigue due to their heavy schedule with CCL and MLS matches. Internal changes to Atlanta’s structure also were a welcome boon to D.C. such as the loss of Miguel Almiron to Newcastle and the new leadership of Head Coach Frank de Boer.

De Boer spent much of his career under Louis van Gaal and his loaded resume includes numerous titles and time at Ajax, Barcelona, and the Dutch National Team. However, it may take Atlanta’s players some time to get used to de Boer’s more conservative style after being accustomed to former Head Coach ‘Tata’ Martino’s looser, attack-focused style.

D.C. United was able to exploit the myriad of factors contributing to Atlanta United’s lackluster performance at Audi Field. Ben Olsen said, “in this league [MLS], you have to take advantage of those days, and I think we did that for most of the night.”

D.C United is now in possession of their first three points of the season, with their next match played away against New York City FC on Sunday, March 10th.

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D.C. United Prepares to Defend Audi Field Against Atlanta United

Sarah Kallassy - DC United/mlsfemale
Official D.C. United Reporter

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

MLS is back this weekend (finally!) and Black-and-Red fans are counting the hours until D.C. United take the pitch in their first match of the 2019 season. As D.C. prepares to face off against reigning MLS Cup Champions Atlanta United this Sunday, March 3rd, the question on everyone’s mind seems to be, is D.C. prepared to defend their fortress?

D.C. United’s final two preseason matches saw them fall first to Philadelphia Union and then to Montreal Impact. In the 2018 season, D.C. bested both teams to take the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference standings. While the losses were disheartening, we can’t place too much stock in preseason matches. D.C. United took advantage of the opportunity to try new combinations of players on the field and allow academy players pitch time.

The Black-and-Red has picked up quite a few notable players during this preseason that will add experience and a fresh dimension to the team’s lineup. Lucas Rodriguez (AM), Leonardo Jara (RB), Donovan Pines (CB), Akeem Ward (D), Earl Edwards Jr. (GK), Chris Seitz (GK), and Chris McCann (DM) are among the new signings. Chris McCann comes to D.C. United from Atlanta United, where he was part of the 2018 MLS Cup Championship team.

Most recently, D.C. welcomed Quincy Amarikwa on March 1st as a new forward in a last-minute addition to the team ahead of Sunday’s match. It is a relief to see another forward added to D.C.’s roster, as Captain Wayne Rooney was previously the sole striker for the team.

Captain Wayne Rooney reflected on the upcoming match against Atlanta saying, “it’ll be an important week, obviously. You know it’s going to be a tough game against Atlanta. So, we have to be ready for them coming here, and get off to a good start to the season.” 

Although positive about 2019, Rooney acknowledges that the team has work to do. He said, “we can improve on many things… but I think we need to come with a focus, a desire, as I said the maturity, especially in games away from home, which could be vital to us come the end of the season.”

D.C. United Coach, Ben Olsen, stated, “we are a work in progress as with most teams. We might be a little bit further along at this point than we were last year. Just because of Wayne and Lucho’s relationship, Russell and Junior’s relationship…” Olsen acknowledged, “it’s a new season and a new journey.” 

Will this be the year that the Black-and-Red make the journey to their fifth MLS Cup Championship? It all starts with D.C. United defending Audi Field on Sunday.

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DC United Win Preseason Friendly in Suncoast Invitational

Sarah Kallassy - DC United/mlsfemale
Official DC United Reporter

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

Fans were able to watch DC United take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies in Saturday’s friendly match via a live stream. However, it was not FloFC, DC’s new broadcast partner, that provided the stream, but rather the Rowdies via YouTube. Having the ability to see the Black and Red in a preseason game was a treat, given that there hasn’t been a solid plan in place for fans to view the matches.

DC won the match, 1-0, with a goal scored in the 34th minute by Paul Arriola (#7), avenging the elbow he took to the face in the 27th minute. Arriola, a fan favorite and member of the USMNT, took advantage of a well-placed ball by Luciano Acosta (#10) to score the deciding goal of the match. Captain Wayne Rooney (#9) scored the second in the 40th minute with a diving header. Unfortunately, Rooney’s goal was called offside after the referee went to VAR for review.

The match was physical for a friendly, with Acosta taking an early yellow card, and Arriola, Rooney, Leonardo Jara, and Akeem Ward all taking decent knocks throughout. Papé Diakité of the Tampa Bay Rowdies took a yellow card in the second half. 

The Tampa Bay Rowdies substituted several trialists during the second half and their youthful energy made the game even more interesting to watch. One of the commentators said, “What I love, is that they are so young, they don’t realize they are playing against DC United.” 

DC United made their own series of substitutions in the 77th minute, swapping out Earl Edwards Jr. for Bill Hamid, and sending in Jalen Robinson (#20) and Donovan Pines for Frédéric Brillant (#13) and Steven Birnbaum (#15). Arriola, Joseph Mora (#28), Júnior Moreno (#5), Zoltán Stieber (#18), and Rooney all left the field and were replaced by Shinya Kadono, a new Loudon United FC signing, and several DC United Academy players, including Griffin Yow and Bryang Kayo. Ulises Segura (#8) received the captain’s armband from Wayne Rooney (#9) to finish the match. 

While this was certainly not DC United’s most technical or fast-paced match, it was a good opportunity for fans to see new talent take the field. We saw a nice save by Edwards and how Jara and Ward may fit in with the DC’s on-field dynamics. Above all though, fans were just happy to be able to watch a preseason DC United match.

DC United will face the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday, February 20th in their next preseason match.

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High Hopes: DC United Prepares for the 2019 Season

Sarah Kallassy - DC United/mlsfemale
Official DC United Reporter

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

To say that DC United has had an eventful preseason would be an understatement. Although the team bowed out of the 2018 season after a heartbreaking loss to the Columbus Crew in their first (and last) playoff game, the fact that DC made the playoffs at all is giving fans hope for 2019. As DC United reaches the halfway mark of MLS training camp, let’s recap some of the biggest news from the preseason.

Head Coach Ben Olsen Will Remain Through 2021

Head coach Ben Olsen is a fixture at DC United, where he spent his MLS career as a player. This preseason, DC signed Olsen to a multiyear contract extension that will endure until 2021. After Peter Vermes, Olsen is the longest tenured coach in MLS.

 “I am thrilled that ownership has shown faith in the path my staff and I are taking with this extension. Our aim is to continue to put a team on the field that our fans and community will identify with and be proud of. The major goal, however, remains the same since the day I took the job and that’s to bring trophies back to D.C.” – Ben Olsen

Promising Acquisitions

DC United has made some very promising acquisitions during this preseason. Defender Leo Jara was secured on a season-long loan from Boca Juniors and midfielder Lucas Rodriguez will also come to the District on a year-long loan with the option for a permanent transfer from Club Estudiantes. Both Argentines have experience playing together and with DC United favorite Luciano Acosta, which bodes well for the squad’s on-field chemistry.

The FloSports Broadcast Deal

DC United’s supporters’ groups and fans have been vocal since the announcement of the team’s new broadcast deal with FloSports. The new deal will require a subscription in order to view all 21 regionally broadcast DC United games over the season. Games not regionally broadcast will require fans to have access to cable in order to watch. Although season ticket holders and supporters’ group members will receive a discount on the subscription service, the games are still behind a paywall and geofenced, causing many to argue that casual fans or prospective fans will be discouraged from watching. While the deal promises additional team content, fans remain skeptical.

Luciano Acosta [Almost] Signs with Paris Saint-Germain

Jul 14, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; D.C. United forward Wayne Rooney (9) celebrates with midfielder Luciano Acosta (10) after a goal against the Vancouver Whitecaps at Audi Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

DC United failed to strike a deal with Paris Saint-Germain as the final day of the transfer window passed, assuring that Luciano Acosta will remain in the District for the time being. The offer made by PSG is said to have been between $7 million and $8 million, but DC United deemed the offer too low for Acosta. Alongside Wayne Rooney, Acosta was part of a dynamic dyad that drove DC United toward their 2018 playoff spot. While the move to Europe would have given Acosta a significant pay raise, losing the Argentine midfielder would strike a significant blow to a team that many feel is just starting to come into its own again after many years of lackluster performance. Although the failed transfer was a blow to Acosta, his value has certainly increased.

The Saga of Yamil Asad

Yamil Asad scoring the first goal for DC United at Audi Field

Preseason has been full of ‘will he or won’t he,’ in regard to charismatic Yamil Asad remaining at DC United. Asad spent the 2018 season on loan to DC United from the Argentine club, Velez Sarsfield. Asad had spent his whole professional career at Velez prior to moving to MLS in 2017 to play for Atlanta United.  DC United fans spent much of this year’s preseason wondering if they will see Asad play for the Black and Red again. An interview with Radio Republica hasn’t given fans much hope. Asad said, “as of today my head is with Velez. I’ve decided to stay and hope to take advantage of this second chance.” It’s looking less and less likely that Asad, who scored the team’s first goal at Audi Field, will make a return.

Chris Odoi-Atsem is Cancer Free

In arguably the best news of the preseason, Chris Odoi-Atsem is cancer-free after a being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma last year. He has just completed his final treatment and his teammates are looking forward to welcoming him back. Hopefully, Odoi-Atsem will make an appearance soon by attending the second half of DC United’s MLS training camp beginning on February 13th.

What’s Next?

Now, DC United fans will wait out the final three weeks until the Black and Red take the field against Atlanta United in their March 3rd home opener at Audi Field. After the dramatic comeback the club made during the 2018 season, it’s hard not to be optimistic about 2019. Will DC United make another run for the MLS Cup?

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