D.C. United’s 2019 season has come to a close with a steep loss at BMO Field in Toronto. Black-and-Red supporters will not see Wayne Rooney hoist the MLS Cup, or in fact, play another match at Audi Field. It was a bitter end to a season that started with such high hopes.
Toronto’s Marky Delgado opened the scoring of the match early in the first half, and D.C. struggled to find their own scoring opportunity, even with both Wayne Rooney and Ola Kamara on the field. There was no dirty play, and no controversial calls were made by referee Allen Chapman, tonight simply wasn’t D.C.’s night.
In the dying moments of the match, Lucas ‘Titi’ Rodríguez found the elusive equalizer. Weaving through the chaos surrounding Toronto’s goal, Rodríguez capitalized on a corner kick taken by Rooney. The Argentine’s goal tipped the match into extra time and gave everyone behind the Black-and-Red something incredible after almost 90 minutes of nail-biting – hope.
Unfortunately for D.C., Toronto quickly racked up the goals in extra time, creating a deficit that proved impossible to overcome. Bill Hamid’s clean sheet record mattered for naught as Toronto lobbed ball after ball into the back of the net.
The shot with the most sting, however, came from a spurned Nick DeLeon. DeLeon’s shot flew past Hamid into the high right corner of the net, tinged with a sense of poetic justice.
A D.C. substitution prior to the final 15 minutes of extra time saw Wayne Rooney leave the field for the last time as a D.C. player for Leonardo Jara. It was apparent the match and season were both over. There would be no final minute miracle for the Black-and-Red.
2019 began with high hopes, as D.C. United beat the reigning MLS Champion, Atlanta United, in their very first match. As the freezing rain poured down at Audi Field, the Black-and-Red showed their fighting spirit and emerged tenacious, gritty, and hungry to win. While many are somber at the departure of superstar Wayne Rooney, and surely feeling the sting of loss as the season comes to a close, it’s time to reflect.
This season has been special. We’ve seen living legends, like Robert Gillespie and Tony Quinn, honored for their part in building our rich culture. We’ve been part of the magic that is a Wayne Rooney own half goal. We’ve witnessed Alejandro Bedoya of the Philadelphia Union speaking out against gun violence. We’ve had an all-female broadcast crew at Audi Field.
We’ve witnessed our players become parents, struggle with loss, and start new endeavors. We have seen them grow and succeed, both on the field and off. And soon, we will welcome back Yamil Asad to our fold.
Our supporter community has grown as well, with many faces welcomed into the Black-and-Red family this season. Throughout 2019, we have come together to battle illness, stand against intolerance, fight hunger, and make our community a better place.
Tonight was not the ending to our 2019 season that any of us would have chosen, but there really is so much to look forward to. Together.
D.C. United XI: Bill Hamid; Joseph Mora, Steven Birnbaum, Frédéric Brillant, Russell Canouse; Júnior Moreno, Felipe Martins (Leonardo Jara, 67′); Lucas Rodríguez, Paul Arriola, Ulises Segura (Luciano Acosta, 58′); Quincy Amarikwa (Ola Kamara, 69′)
Unused Substitutes: Chris Seitz, Donovan Pines, Marquinhos Pedroso, Emmanuel Boateng
In the last match of the regular season, D.C. United faltered, unable to break a scoreless deadlock with FC Cincinnati. What should have been an easy win at home turned into a physical and frustrating game that eventually cost D.C. United a home playoff match.
Decision Day has a way of bringing surprises to the League, and today was no exception. Although their season record has been nothing short of dismal, FC Cincinnati brought everything to the pitch at Audi Field for their last match of the 2019 season.
The Stage Was Set
Black-and-Red supporters so desperately wanted a win, and optimism hung thick in the air at Buzzard Point. D.C. United broke with broadcasting partner FloSports earlier in the week, in a move lauded by fans. Today’s match was streamed for free on D.C. United’s website, with play by play announcers Dave Johnson and Devon McTavish at the helm, joined by special guest Joanna Lohman (Washington Spirit and USWNT), and D.C. United’s Claudia Pagan reporting from the sideline.
D.C. United had prepared special tifo to honor the club’s four MLS Cup Championships, which were displayed before kickoff. The club has been widely criticized for ignoring its history and culture since moving to Audi Field, and today’s gesture was welcomed by many.
What Happens on the Pitch…
D.C. United began the match on a high note, creating chances and looking dangerous from the first whistle. Head coach Ben Olsen fielded a strong XI and stacked the bench with super subs, to create an 18 more than capable of taking on Cincinnati.
While D.C. began the first half with good pace, they seemed to let off the gas too soon. Cincinnati played with the type of desperation and heart of a team with nothing left to lose, becoming physical quickly with D.C. United. The visitors from Ohio created chances of their own, and while D.C.’s keeper Bill Hamid handily saved each shot, Cincinnati should have never been allowed that close.
The last ten minutes of the first half turned chaotic, and the wheels came off of Cincinnati’s bus. A series of nasty fouls against D.C.’s players, including a dangerous high kick to Ulises Segura and the throwing of Felipe Martins to the ground… by his neck, resulted in not one, but two red cards issued to Cincinnati. In the 41’ and 43’, Joseph-Claude Gyau and Roland Lamah were sent off respectively, leaving D.C. United up two men.
Ulises Segura quickly capitalized on the restart advantage, rocketing the ball into the back of the net for the Black-and-Red. Unfortunately, the elation coursing through Audi Field was short-lived, as referee David Gantar went to VAR for review and subsequently struck the goal as he determined Segura had been offside.
Regardless of the goal being called back, the second half began with optimism; after all, Cincinnati was down to nine men. What the Black-and-Red didn’t bank on was their opponent’s ability to park the proverbial bus, even with the wheels off. Cincinnati moved into a 5-3 formation, creating an almost impenetrable backline.
Throughout the second half, D.C. United struggled to get through Cincinnati’s defense. Assaults by Lucho Acosta, Paul Arriola, Lucas ‘Titi’ Rodríguez, and Ola Kamara were still not enough to earn D.C. another goal. The chances were thwarted by Cincinnati’s defense, and otherwise lacked accuracy. Clinical finishes have been D.C.’s Achilles heel this season, and today was no different.
Yes, FC Cincinnati wasted incredible amounts of time in the second half and were unchecked by the officials. (They used this tactic intelligently, and honestly, any team in Cincinnati’s position would have done the same.) However, D.C. didn’t capitalize on being up two men, or their abundant chances, even with six minutes of stoppage time added to the match.
Where We Go from Here
With the opportunity for a home playoff match off the table, D.C. United will be forced to hit the road and head to Toronto. This is not the scenario desired by the team or supporters; however, the Black-and-Red have been in excellent road form this season. Bill Hamid just logged a record 14th shutout, and D.C.’s defense is one of the best in the League. All that remains is tightening up D.C. United’s attack.
Speaking to media after the match, Hamid said, “When the final whistle blew, the frustration was there, it was a very chippy night. Their players were… wasting time, but we’ve got to forget about it now. We’ve got to forget about it and move on. We’ve got to focus on going there and beating them and putting in a solid performance. So, that’s the focus now. We’ve got to let this one hurt a little bit so we can build up some fire from within and beat Toronto.”
Olsen said, “it’s been one of my toughest seasons, with adjustments and injuries…” Although D.C. United may not have their home playoff match, and supporters likely won’t get to send off Wayne Rooney in style, you can’t always get what you want. The Black-and-Red have a playoff berth, and still have a shot at the MLS Cup. So maybe, we’ll get what we need.
Author’s note: On a bit of a sad note, captain Wayne Rooney made one of his final appearances at Audi Field today. Suspended due to yellow card accumulation, Rooney was on the pitch hours before today’s match, getting in his daily practice. Hopefully we will see Rooney before he departs for England at the end of the season to start as a player-coach for Derby County.
D.C. United XI: Bill Hamid; Joseph Mora, Steven Birnbaum, Frédéric Brillant, Russell Canouse; Júnior Moreno, Felipe Martins; Lucas Rodríguez (Quincy Amarikwa 70′), Paul Arriola, Ulises Segura (Emmanuel Boateng,; Wayne Rooney (Luciano Acosta, 77′)
A muggy Sunday night match against the Seattle Sounders put D.C. United one step closer to hosting a playoff match at Audi Field this season. The Black-and-Red had only guaranteed their playoff berth the night before, with a little help from their friends in the West, the LA Galaxy. Ready to bring the playoffs home to the District, a win over the Sounders stood as another obstacle in their way. D.C. did not disappoint, logging their third consecutive shutout victory.
The Black-and-Red clearly turned up to win, chippy and focused from the first whistle. As D.C. finds their identity as a team once more, individual players are also blossoming. In particular, Ulises Segura has indeed come into his own this season, developing a sharpness and style that was rarely seen in 2018. Paul Arriola continues to be one of the hardest working and most tenacious men on the field; his work rate is exhausting even to watch.
Russell Canouse has recently been slotted into the RB position, where he is thriving. Canouse is creating a brick wall for opponents, and we are here for it. Head coach Ben Olsen was proud of his performance, saying, “he understands spacing, and when to get out… offensively he can still help us in builds; he connects more passes than not…I think he’s doing pretty damn good there.”
After a missed attempt by D.C. captain Wayne Rooney in the 13’, Lucas ‘Titi’ Rodríguez snapped back to put the Black-and-Red on the board. Capitalizing on the chaos surrounding Seattle’s goal, Titi, sank a rocket right into the net behind goalkeeper Stefan Frei in the 14’.
Play began to get physical between the two teams, both vying for the advantage under referee Alan Kelly’s watchful eye. Crisp passing by D.C. Untied kept the Sounders running in circles for a good portion of the first half, while the Black-and-Red created chance after chance up top.
Closing out the first half up 1-0 over Seattle, D.C. wasn’t done yet. A strong defense by the Sounders at the beginning of the second half seemed to have the Black-and-Red pinned back. However, a foul in the 53’ on Joseph Mora gave D.C. an opening to score yet another goal. Fred Brillant tipped in a perfectly placed ball from a set-piece by captain Wayne Rooney in the 54’, putting D.C. up 2-0. Brillant’s effort earned him well deserved ‘Man of the Match’ honors.
A 70’ substitution brought on striker Quincy Amarikwa for Titi Rodríguez. He settled in quickly to make a run at Seattle’s goal. The early substitution gave Amarikwa significant time to get in the heads of the Sounders, and he delivered his signature mental game on the field.
Luciano Acosta entered the match in the 77’ for captain Wayne Rooney, who left the pitch to a standing ovation. The cheers for Rooney were deafening. Olsen then made his third substitution of the match, bringing on Emmanuel Boateng for Ulises Segura. While Olsen usually takes his time making substitutions, if he makes them at all, his instincts tonight were near flawless.
Olsen knows the playoff run will be challenging and has acknowledged that the team has to “sustain focus to raise silverware…you’re going to have to adapt and change and be good with every aspect of the game.”
After a tumultuous season, D.C. United have managed to clinch a 2019 playoff spot! Throughout 2019, the Black-and-Red have faced countless challenges. Injury, roster shakeups (Wayne Rooney’s early departure anyone?), and winless streaks have forced many to question how soon the season would end.
After a 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers at Providence Park and a little help from the LA Galaxy in shoving the anemic Montreal Impact further down the Eastern Conference table, D.C. United are currently sitting in a comfortable 5th place. A win tonight against the Seattle Sounders at Audi Field could indeed move D.C. up into 4th place and earn the opportunity to host a playoff match at home.
D.C. United will play two more regular-season matches after tonight, the first on the road against the New York Red Bulls, and the second at home against FC Cincinnati. It stands to reason that the Black-and-Red could win at least one of these matches, especially a home match in front of an energized supporter base.
D.C. United’s roster has experienced quite a few shakeups in the past few months. Captain Wayne Rooney announced his departure at the end of this season to play for Derby County, cutting short his contract with the Black-and-Red. Although the striker will be missed, D.C. has made valuable additions that should mitigate the impact of his exit. Ola Kamara, Emmanuel Boateng, Felipe Martins, and now, Yamil Asad, are a few of the players who will bolster the Black-and-Red in the 2020 season.
D.C.’s new players (except for Asad who will join the roster in 2020) have already more than proven their capability to be difference makers on the pitch, especially Kamara with his innate ability to find the back of the net. As D.C. looks to make a solid playoff run, the Black-and-Red’s newfound roster depth will be a tremendous asset.
D.C. United XI: Bill Hamid; Joseph Mora (Luciano Acosta, 72′), Steven Birnbaum, Frédéric Brillant, Jalen Robinson (Leonardo Jara, 38′); Lucas Rodríguez, Júnior Moreno, Felipe Martins, Paul Arriola; Ola Kamara (Quincy Amarikwa, 69′), Wayne Rooney
Two of the oldest teams in Major League Soccer, D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls have been at each other’s throats almost as long as the League has been in existence. Times have changed (and so has the Red Bulls’ name, they used to be the MetroStars) and while some believe this rivalry is dead, tonight’s match certainly made the case that the mutual animosity between D.C. and New York (or New Jersey, if you will) is alive and kicking.
Tonight’s match had everything, except for a D.C. win. However, this wasn’t from a lack of trying on the part of the Black-and-Red.
The New York Red Bull’s took an early goal, with Kaku taking advantage of a blind spot at D.C.’s end of the pitch in the 6’. Then things really began to get ugly between the two teams. Escalating physicality did not bode well for either D.C. or New York.
By the 24’, captain Wayne Rooney was booked with a red, taking D.C. down to 10 men. The cards kept coming for D.C. with Felipe Martins being booked shortly after with a yellow in the 34’. New York was shortly left with 10 men as well, when Amro Tarek received his second yellow of the match and left the game just before halftime.
With both sides down a player, D.C. found the equalizer in the 55’. Newly signed Ola Kamara opened his account for D.C. United, finding the back of the net off an assist by Joseph Mora.
It was a bittersweet moment for Kamara. He said, “It would of course been more satisfying if it gave us a point or three. But of course, it feels good to get out in front of the home crowd and score a goal… It was a great feeling to start again.”
D.C.’s elation wouldn’t last long. After a controversial call by referee Ismail Elfath against Lucas ‘Titi’ Rodríguez, New York’s Daniel Royer cashed in on a penalty kick, bypassing D.C.’s goalkeeper Bill Hamid to claim another point on the scoreboard for the Red Bulls in the 59’. Black-and-Red supporters made their disapproval of Elfath’s call known throughout Audi Field, as they chanted and booed the official. Post-match, coach Ben Olsen would say, “It’s the wrong call. It’s a dive.”
Even with two relatively early (for Olsen) second half substitutions made, D.C. United couldn’t seem to regain the ground lost, despite the chances they continued to create. It seemed that every time D.C. built momentum, the whistle would sound again.
Quincy Amarikwa, who entered the match for Ola Kamara in the 69’, is well known for his ability to get into his opponents’ heads and exploit any sign of mental weakness. An ability he put into action against the Red Bulls tonight. “I would’ve liked to get in earlier,” the forward said, “I feel I could have created more opportunities. You know, we were really breaking them down at the end there. They were really struggling to hold on to the lead. You could tell with how often they were going down.”
Although there were 8 minutes of stoppage time added to the match (which turned into more), it wasn’t enough for D.C. to secure a comeback. The final score line of 1-2 didn’t seem to reflect the tremendous effort put in by D.C. United on the pitch.
As for Kamara, he is happy to have made a return to Major League Soccer. He said, “I really enjoy my time here. I have a lot of fun and I know so many people here too, so I see a lot of familiar faces. Coming to D.C. too, there are a lot of great guys, so it’s been very positive, I’m very happy.”
As the weekend approaches, the Black and Red will make a road trip north to face the Philadelphia Union on Saturday. With Wayne Rooney serving a suspension, it is highly likely we will see Ola Kamara in the XI again. Let’s hope his incredible positivity is contagious.
D.C. United XI: Bill Hamid; Joseph Mora, Steven Birnbaum, Frédéric Brillant, Leonardo Jara (Ema Boateng 67′); Júnior Moreno, Felipe Martins; Lucas Rodríguez, Paul Arriola, Ulises Segura (Luciano Acosta 58′); Wayne Rooney (Ola Kamara 74′)
D.C. United lost to the Vancouver Whitecaps on the road, with a lone goal scored in the first half deciding the match. After a standout performance against the LA Galaxy, sans Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta, it seemed almost preposterous that D.C. was bested by a team sitting in last place in the MLS Western Conference Standings. Almost.
With a stacked roster, D.C.’s road trip to Vancouver could have been an easy opportunity for the Black-and-Red to secure three points before returning home to face their rivals, the New York Red Bulls, on Wednesday. New signing Ola Kamara was available to play in the away match, only increasing the feeling of confidence going into Saturday night’s match-up.
Coach Ben Olsen began the match with many familiar faces in the XI, and for the first 10’ , D.C. seemed well in control of the match; then, the wheels came off the bus. Although they made 24 total shots, D.C. could not seem to find the back of the net. Only two shots were on target, an early shot in the 2’ by Paul Arriola and another shot in the 19′ by Ulises Segura.
Vancouver also only managed two shots on target, however, unlike D.C., one by Yordy Reyna managed to pass through the frame and connect, putting the Whitecaps up 1-0 in the 18’. It would be enough to best the Black-and-Red.
Even with 7 minutes of stoppage time added – yes, 7 – D.C. was unable to convert one of their 24 shots into a goal and left empty handed. Much to the chagrin of the team’s captain, they also had 12 hours of flight time to think about what went wrong.
Officiating seemed to be a pain point for D.C. again. What appeared to be a handball on the part of Vancouver, went without any call from referee Timothy Ford. Rooney, who is known to have publicly taken issue with MLS’s inconsistent officiating before, went off on the 4th official as he was subbed out of the match for Ola Kamara in the 74’. Post match, Rooney expressed his frustration, saying:
“Because I have my opinions on the referees and it’s not very good. So, I feel they need to improve the game – that’s my opinion. I feel like I’m entitled to my opinion. I said a couple of weeks ago, I got kicked, the referees do nothing. All I’m asking for is a bit of protection and it would be nice if Howard Webb could come to the training ground and let us speak to him over it because I feel it’s happening game after game. And to get some clarification, it would be nice if Mr. Webb came down to the training ground to speak to us.”
There were two standout performances of the night, despite no result. Paul Arriola totaled five shots during the match, his most this season, and seemed to be everywhere on the pitch. Often considered to be Ben Olsen’s ‘Swiss Army Knife’, Arriola is a play maker, capable of influencing the match wherever he happens to be positioned.
Paul tried to draw the positives from the match saying, “We had early chances to go ahead. We knew what Vancouver was going to bring to the table. They were very well-shaped defensively and looked for counter-attacks. They’ve got very good players up top. Credit to them, they executed when they needed.”
Ulises Segura, who has been simply outstanding in D.C.’s last few matchups, was incredible with his service during the match. The midfielder’s successful passes, open play crosses, and key passes would have certainly been converted to assists had D.C. managed to score against Vancouver.
D.C. United will face their rivals, the New York Red Bulls at home this Wednesday and followed by a road trip to Philadelphia to face the Union on Saturday. With the urgency of securing a playoff berth looming, hopefully the Black-and-Red will make a turnaround before these two tough matchups.
D.C. United XI: Bill Hamid; Joseph Mora, Steven Birnbaum, Frédéric Brillant, Jalen Robinson; Leonardo Jara, Felipe Martins; Lucas Rodríguez, Paul Arriola, Ulises Segura; Quincy Amarikwa
D.C. United pulled off a stunner of a match against the LA Galaxy, winning 2-1 at home. With an XI that included neither Wayne Rooney (ill with an upper respiratory infection) nor Lucho Acosta (he began the match in the 18), the Black-and-Red relied on teamwork and their depth to claim a sorely needed three points.
Coach Ben Olsen returned to the 4-2-3-1, with Quincy Amarikwa starting up top, Jalen Robinson at right back, and new signing Felipe Martins slotted in the midfield next to Leo Jara. The lineup drew some disappointment, from those wishing to see Rooney and LA’s Ibrahimovic face off on the pitch, and a bit of skepticism, from those who couldn’t understand why Acosta was starting the match on the bench. Mostly, the chosen XI drew curiosity; were they up to the task of taking on the LA Galaxy?
It was clear from the first whistle that D.C. were on the pitch to win, with fiery, tenacious performances from the XI. Paul Arriola opened the scoring in the 28’, assisted by Ulises Segura and Quincy Amarikwa. While LA answered in the 48’, it wasn’t enough for the visitors to leave Audi Field with any points in hand. Lucas ‘Titi’ Rodríguez found the back of the net for D.C. in the second half, bringing the Black-and-Red the match winning goal in the 73’.
Quincy Amarikwa may not have scored for the Black-and-Red, however, he did log his first assist in Black-and-Red. Amarikwa’s major accomplishment of the match, however, was getting inside of the Galaxy’s heads. He epically trolled the players on the pitch, getting uncomfortably close to Zlatan, and putting on a show of crying in front of Alvarez. While Amarikwa was rewarded with a yellow card for his theatrics by referee Alan Kelly… It. Was. So. Worth. It.
While Ben Olsen usually waits until the final minutes of the match are ticking away on the clock to make any changes, he chose to forgo substitutions entirely. Instead, he opted to let the XI continue on with their ‘rhythm and familiarity.’
While the move could have cost D.C. due to fatigue, every player put in 90’+ and still seemed to have gas left in the tank. Perhaps this option isn’t sustainable, but Olsen bet correctly Sunday night, preserving quite a few sets of fresh legs for Vancouver and a rivalry match with the Red Bulls.
‘Bill Hamid, Bill, Bill, Hamid!’
LA’s Zlatan Ibrahimović had a record-breaking match, tallying 14 shots. His scoring record was substantially less impressive, as he was soundly denied any scoring chance by D.C.’s defense, and homegrown goalkeeper, Bill Hamid. Hamid’s cat-like reflexes were put to the test the entire evening and he delivered, racking up five saves for the Black-and-Red (although it certainly felt like more).
In the second half, Zlatan fired a rocket of a shot toward D.C.’s goal that seemed destined to find the net. Hamid sprang into action, deflecting the shot and refusing the towering Swede a seemingly perfect goal scoring opportunity. Hamid stood up to chants from supporters, and applause from Zlatan himself.
A ‘Culture of Meritocracy’
For D.C. United’s Quincy Amarikwa and Jalen Robinson, their start in Sunday’s match was well earned. Amarikwa said, “We wanted to come out and prove a point where we are in the season.” He continued, “A lot of the work we put in goes unseen. We have to show up every day prepared to play, and we typically go home disappointed because we don’t get an opportunity to showcase what we can do.”
Amarikwa believes that a player’s time to shine will come, “maybe it’s in week one, and maybe it’s in week 30. I think the guys who haven’t gotten minutes stepped up and showed why and how to contribute. I think it’s a testament to our group. It shows that we have depth… I think building a culture of meritocracy is important here, and I think that’s what we’re doing.”
Jalen Robinson was assigned to the tough task of defending Zlatan. He said, “I think people forget, this is my sixth year. I’ve dealt with forwards like that [Zlatan]…Zlatan is a big dude, but I had to step up to the challenge. No matter what, I just gave it my all for my team. It was just nice that he didn’t score.”
Robinson, who has played with D.C.’s second team for years, is ready to challenge the misconception of the Black-and-Red lacking depth.
“I don’t think people realize; we have a good team. What you don’t see is, our second team has always been good. I think I can testify to that because I’ve been on the second team for so long. We’ve always been super deep. You know, we came out tonight, Quincy, myself, Uli…we came and showed everything we had. What better way to get three points?”
Amarikwa has some advice for those doubting D.C. United, “Don’t take us lightly. If you do, it’s a mistake. If you come, we’re ready. That’s what tonight was and we’re looking forward to the run into the playoffs here.” Robinson agreed, a smile on his face, “We’re going to be a problem. I guarantee we’re going to be a problem.”
D.C. hits the road to face the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday and will return to Audi Field for a rivalry match with the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday, August 21st.
The past seven days have been tumultuous for D.C. United, to say the least. A 5-1 drubbing by the Philadelphia Union last Sunday saw D.C.’s midfield further depleted, as homegrown player Chris Durkin suffered an ankle injury described as a ‘snap and pop’ by coach Ben Olsen. Then, only three short days remained before the summer transfer window came to a close on Wednesday.
D.C. United has historically waited until the last minute to make major transfer window announcements. However, with a plethora of injuries and a recent shaky record both at home and on the road, making the right decisions during this window were critical for the Black-and-Red to keep their playoff run aspirations alive.
And then… there were decisions outside of D.C.’s control.
About That Match
Sunday’s D.C. United match against the Philadelphia Union had just about everything, except a D.C. win. A goal by Alejandro Bedoya in the 3’ (after which he called upon Congress to do something about gun violence) tipped the scale in Philadelphia’s favor, and D.C. was unable to recover.
DC’s Junior Moreno proceeded to be booked with a red card in the 40’, taking DC United down to 10 men shortly before halftime. While Philadelphia collected a handful of yellow cards, they also racked up another goal. The Black-and-Red were sent to halftime down 0-2.
Even after defender Fred Brillant found the back of the net in the 54’, the flurry of goals that followed from Philadelphia left D.C. empty handed at the final whistle. The Black-and-Red finished with zero points to show, and down two midfielders from this match alone (Durkin due to injury and Moreno due to a red card).
Wayne Rooney is Heading Home
D.C. United’s captain Wayne Rooney flew to the UK on Monday, sparking rumors that quickly ignited a social media blaze. As it became public knowledge that Rooney was meeting with Derby County to discuss a player-coach role, speculation rose as to whether or not his transfer would be immediate.
Even in the late hours of Monday evening, an immediate transfer of Rooney to Derby County remained a possibility, and Black-and-Red supporters wondered if they had seen the last of their English captain. Thankfully for both D.C. United and the team’s supporters, Rooney will stay on until the end of the 2019 season before leaving the District for good.
If Not for The Last Minute, Nothing Would Get Done
With news of Rooney’s imminent exit hanging over the District, D.C. United was busy making moves in the final days and hours of the summer transfer window. Rumors abounded including the likes of Mario Balotelli and Mesut Özil, and of course, Yamil Asad (who will not return, much to our chagrin).
After the dust settled and the transfer window officially closed, it was Ola Kamara, Emmanuel ‘Ema’ Boateng, and Felipe Martins who made their way into the Black-and-Red’s ranks.
Norwegian international Kamara has spent the better part of 2019 with Shenzhen FC in the Chinese Super League. The forward was acquired for $2.5 million, D.C. United’s second largest transfer fee ever. Previously, Kamara has played for the Columbus Crew SC and LA Galaxy in MLS, as well as several clubs internationally. Unfortunately, Kamara is unavailable for today’s match against the LA Galaxy due to a visa hold up.
Ema Boateng is another LA Galaxy alum, having played for LA the past four seasons. 25-year-old Boateng began his career at the Right to Dream Academy in his home country of Ghana before moving to the US to play Division I soccer at UC Santa Barbara. A flexible player, Boateng is capable of contributing to D.C. United’s midfield or attack. He is available to play in today’s match against his former team.
The decision to sign Martins from the Vancouver Whitecaps has drawn much ire from D.C.’s supporters. However, at a time when D.C.’s midfield is sorely lacking, Martins is a much-needed addition to the roster. Martins himself has acknowledged the long memory of D.C. supporters and has pledged to win them over through his hard work.
[Prior to this week, D.C. mutually parted ways with both Zoltan Stieber and Chris McCann. Akeem Ward was released and Gordan Wild, formerly a midfielder for Atlanta United, was signed.]
The Zlatan Show Comes to D.C.
As D.C. United face off with the LA Galaxy today in a sold-out match, one of the most often asked questions has been, “will Zlatan play?” Ibrahimović has missed playing in a few matches recently (due to distance, turf, or other factors) however he will indeed be in the District tonight. The Swede will go up against his former Manchester United teammate, Wayne Rooney, for the last time ever in MLS (barring a miracle where both teams meet in the playoffs).
D.C. United is expected to shake up the roster a bit this evening. With D.C.’s midfield mostly out of the picture (Canouse and Durkin with injuries, and Moreno with a red card), we may actually see Boateng and Martins hit the pitch. Kamara is still out of consideration due to a pending visa.
Will the Black-and-Red rise to the occasion with Rooney on his way out the door? My friend Laura reminded me of an important fact this week…
As always, Vamos United! I’ll see you all at Audi Field tonight!
D.C. United XI: Bill Hamid; Lucas Rodríguez, Steven Birnbaum, Frédéric Brillant, Donovan Pines, Leonardo Jara; Júnior Moreno, Russell Canouse (Chris Durkin 65′); Luciano Acosta, Wayne Rooney (Ulises Segura 90′), Paul Arriola (Joseph Mora 88′)
For D.C. United, a win tonight was critical. Losing their early season momentum, the Black-and-Red had started to slide down the Eastern Conference standings. Sitting precariously in 4th place before tonight’s match, D.C. needed to pull out all the stops. Unfortunately, the Black-and-Red were unable to secure three points, drawing 0-0 with the Chicago Fire.
As the playoffs loom ever closer on the horizon, D.C. has come under pressure as other teams, such as Atlanta United and NYCFC, have settled into a mid-season rhythm. The Black-and-Red have to watch their backs if they intend to compete for a playoff berth. In MLS anything can happen, as D.C. United handily proved last season.
While tonight’s match was by no means a showstopper the likes of Friday’s LAFC v Atlanta matchup, the early moments had D.C. fans holding their breath. Just a few minutes in, a heart-stopping set piece by the Chicago Fire almost caught D.C. United napping. Defender Frédéric Brillant, in a feat of immense skill (and perhaps a touch of luck), managed to clear the shot and preserve D.C.’s clean sheet.
Time and again, the Black-and-Red attempted to breach the Fire’s defenses, but not even a bevy of attempts by Lucho Acosta and Lucas ‘Titi’ Rodríguez were able to send one home. With both sides unable to find the back of the net, the match went to halftime at a predictable 0-0.
No substitutions were made during halftime to shakeup D.C.’s play, and the second half plodded along much like the first. While both sides played a physical game, neither emerged as lethal. The match remained scoreless.
D.C. found themselves pressed by Chicago, and midfielder Russell Canouse took two successive hard knocks courtesy of the Fire’s C.J. Sapong. The second foul included what announcer Dave Johnson said looked like ‘a cleat to the ribs.’ Canouse was quickly pulled from the match, homegrown midfielder Chris Durkin taking his place on the pitch.
After continued missed attempts by D.C United, it seemed that captain Wayne Rooney would be able to convert a free-kick into a point on the board. As the ball sailed over the wall and rocketed toward the goal, it seemed inevitable that it would find the net. Chicago Fire goalkeeper, Kenneth Kronholm, dove, pulling off a massive save to deny D.C.’s captain.
In the waning minutes of the match, Ben Olsen made his final substitutions. Pulling Paul Arriola for Joseph Mora, and Wayne Rooney for Ulises Segura, it was clear that Olsen intended to bunker and finish out the match with a draw, much to the disappointment of Black-and-Red supporters.
“We need points,” said Brillant, “it’s not enough tonight.” Indeed, tonight was not enough to put D.C. back on top of the Eastern Conference. However, a sound thrashing of the Philadelphia Union by the Montreal Impact and yesterday’s defeat of Atlanta United at the hands of LAFC have allowed D.C. United to sneak into 3rd place.
D.C. United goes head-to-head with the Philadelphia Union on August 4th, as they return home to Audi Field.
Audi Field just turned a year old this past week, but one of D.C. United’s most ardent supporters only recently passed through the stadium’s gates for the first time. 96’er and Barra Brava elder, Rob Gillespie, finally made his way home. Affectionately known in the Black-and-Red community as ‘Big Rob’, Gillespie has been a fixture in the D.C. United community for over 20 years, his story woven into the fabric of the Club’s history.
Rob remembers the beginning of D.C. United. A gifted storyteller, he is able to transport his listener back in time with tales of Lot 8 and a young Ben Olsen on the pitch. Now, there are no more tailgates in Lot 8, and Ben Olsen has become United’s head coach who is shaping the future of the team. However, some of the original 96’ers, like Rob, remain; preserving the traditions they can and sharing the past with a new generation of supporters.
Becoming a part of the Barra Brava happened by chance, with a fight between Rob and Barra founder, Oscar Zambrana, resulting in their friendship and him joining the group.
“I actually got into the Barra Brava because Oscar Zambrana, the founder of the Barra Brava and I got into a fight over a misunderstanding.
They were getting hassled by security down at the Barra and I started yelling at the security guys. Oscar mistook me yelling at the security guys for me yelling at the Barra guys. So, he came up and you know, we were both well lubricated at that point. We ended up getting in a little scuffle, which is good on Oscar, because I’m twice his size.
Then some people pulled us apart, and were able to explain to Oscar… I was trying to explain to him while we were fighting… that I was actually on his side in this thing. Then about 10 minutes later he came and grabbed me and dragged me down into the Barra and I sort of stayed ever since.”
Despite his long relationship with the Club and testifying in front of the D.C. City Council in an effort that ultimately helped win the permission for the construction of D.C. United’s new home, Rob had never visited the Stadium at Buzzard Point. A 2012 diagnosis with a rare form of Leukemia upended Rob’s life and he was eventually forced to move out of the area due to the financial strain; leaving the District before Audi Field ever opened its gates.
After years away, Rob finally came home to D.C. and on July 12th he headed to Audi Field to see his team, D.C. United, face off against the New England Revolution.
Rob’s first reaction to seeing Audi Field was one of almost disbelief, as he saw the long-awaited new home of D.C. United. He said, “It was surreal, to turn down third street and see the stadium for the first time. Finally, it was there after all those years.”
Although happy to see a new home for D.C. United realized, Rob felt that something was missing. “I share Bruce Arena’s disappointment that there isn’t more connection with the past. That’s something I noticed right off.” Rob said.
Accompanied by his sister, Aryka, and his son, Marco (named after Bolivian and D.C. legend, Marco Etcheverry), Rob was in for a warm reception. He said, “it was just a great experience, definitely a coming home, even though we live in a new house.”
“It was amazing. It really was. I went to training on Thursday. I’ve been friends with Ben and Dave Kasper for almost 20 years, and I got a good chance to talk to them and see them. Ben made sure all the players came over and said hello. I don’t know most of them, so they introduced themselves. I went up into 130 to see Marco’s aunt and uncle, and that’s where a lot of the old time Screaming Eagles are at and people clapped when I went up there. I was completely overwhelmed by that… It was just one old friend after another.”
While Rob spent the match alongside the Barra Brava and friends he hadn’t seen in years, his family were guests of a local medical practice and D.C. United official oral surgeons, Fairfax Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (FOMS), in their suite. Prior to Rob’s homecoming, FOMS had taken to social media to auction off suite tickets in support of his treatment.
At halftime, Rob made his way to the FOMS suite to check on his son and thank those who had participated in the auction on his behalf. Dave Johnson, play-by-play announcer and legend in the D.C. sports scene, was there to greet him. Having known each other for years, Dave wanted to show his support by spending the match with Rob’s family and some of the community who had come together to support him.
“From day one he has cared about the team and he has cared about others. In short, Rob helped make D.C. United more than a club, he helped make it a family. Through good times and not so good we are always united, and it only adds to the times when we are united with Rob.”
… Dave Johnson, D.C. United play-by-play announcer
D.C. United took a draw against Bruce Arena’s New England Revolution, finishing the match 2-2. Even after dramatics on the pitch worthy of an Oscar (Quincy Amarikwa’s stunning goal, anyone?), the Black-and-Red were unable to secure three points at home.
Ben Olsen, who Gillespie has watched play (and now coach) since he was a young man, came over to greet his old friend.
“Ben came over to see me at the end of the game and, he had tears in his eyes. And he said, ‘God I wanted to get that win for you. I’m so sorry.’ I said, ‘No man, it was great. A great comeback. I’m really happy.’”
“I wasn’t happy about the unpleasant little thing that happened.” Rob said, referring to those who chose that poignant moment to begin chanting ‘Olsen out.’ “I thought it was disrespectful. Ben’s done as much if not more than anyone to build that house, that beautiful stadium that we have… That was a really special time for me and him. I would have rather they said [something] about me than about Ben.” Rob continued, “I don’t think it’s wrong to criticize somebody… There was a place and time for that kind of criticism. But that [the stadium] was not the place. Especially not for someone like Ben.”
Gillespie wasn’t alone in his criticism of those choosing that moment to voice their criticism of D.C. United’s coach. Supporters took the offenders to task on social media, calling them out for their poor timing.
“We always had a rule or a policy within the Barra Brava where we did not boo the team, we didn’t do any of these negative things in the stadium, it wasn’t the place. That was the place for 100% support, win, lose, or draw.”
‘Win Championships, Serve the Community’
Gillespie has long been a part of D.C. United’s legacy to serve the community, participating in everything from cleanups at the Anacostia River, to getting local schools ready for the new school year. He has taken to heart D.C. United’s slogan of ‘win championships, serve the community’.
Rob believes, “There is no better way to get rewards than to give.” After years of serving the community he loves, Gillespie is now the one in need of help.
“My life is a perfect example of that I always tried to give. I never thought I would need any help. Look at me now, I’m still alive in large part because of my relationship with D.C. United. I could not raise the money I need for cancer treatment without that relationship.”
With his out of pocket cancer treatment costs totaling between $3,500-5,000, plus travel, each month, Rob has come to rely on his community – his D.C. United family, to help him raise the money he needs to stay alive. “The people that support me day in and day out, week in and week out, they are D.C. United people.”
While Rob’s cancer is rare and incurable, treatment is helping to extend his life. As a single father, Gillespie is driven to continue fighting cancer to have more time with his son, Marco.
Sometimes, help comes from unexpected places. Just last year, “out of nowhere, Jozy Altidore donated $1,700. This is a player I’ve had no connection with and that just really gave me a little bit of breathing room. It really helped.” Rob said.
Of course, “the ideal situation is that you wouldn’t have to do this at all and could just focus on getting healthy.” Rob has had to conduct constant fundraising since he depleted his $900,000 savings and proceeds from the sale of his house. Gillespie calls the process, “humiliating and extremely stressful.”
Even through the hardships, Rob remains positive and committed to the D.C. United and Barra Brava family, the same family he credits with keeping him alive through their fundraising efforts and sharing his story.
“You can never go wrong by thinking about DC United or the Barra, or the Screaming Eagles, or whomever as a family. You want to show that love and respect and put in that work that you would in a family. Care for your brothers and sisters who are at your side. That’s really important.”
As Rob continues his battle with cancer, the D.C. United family remembers how much he has given to our community, and we all stand with him, united.
Author’s Note: If you would like to support Rob Gillespie’s fight against cancer and help him pay for life extending treatment so he can continue to be with his son, please donate!
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