Category Archives: D.C. United

D.C. United

Rob Gillespie Comes Home to D.C. United

Sarah Kallassy - DC United/mlsfemale
Official DC United Reporter

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

Since the Beginning

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.”

Coming Home

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.”

Photo Credit: Kim Kolb

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. 

Aryka and Marco debate a play. Photo Credit: Sarah Kallassy

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. 

Dave Johnson and Rob Gillespie. Photo Courtesy of Rob Gillespie.

“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
Dave Johnson with Rob’s son, Marco, and sister, Aryka. Photo Credit: Sarah Kallassy

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.’”

Photo Credit: Kim Kolb

“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.”  

A Family

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! ‪

PayPal/Venmo: nffc65@gmail.com or CashApp: $MarcoDad

Featured image: Kim Kolb // Twitter: @NestDevil09 // IG: kolbkl

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @SarahKallassy

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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United Night OUT Sees D.C. Best Orlando

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

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

D.C. United v Orlando City SC: 1-0

D.C. United XI: Bill Hamid; Joseph Mora, Steven Birnbaum, Frederic Brillant, Leonardo Jara; Chris Durkin, Russell Canouse, Lucas Rodriguez, Ulises Segura, Luciano Acosta (Quincy Amarikwa, 88′); Wayne Rooney 

A Match, A Celebration, A Remembrance

Photo credit: D.C. United

Wednesday night saw Audi Field packed for both the matchup between D.C. United and Orlando City SC and for United Night OUT. The win against Orlando made the evening even more special, as D.C. United Captain Wayne Rooney scored from his own half in a feat he has pulled off for each club he’s played for now, including Manchester United and Everton.

Falling just before the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a historic moment that sparked the gay rights movement in the United States, this year’s United Night OUT was particularly poignant.  

Photo credit: D.C. United

While this year isn’t the first that D.C. United has celebrated Pride, it is the first year that the club has changed its logo on social media in support, and the second-year players have worn rainbow numbers and the rainbow captain’s armband.  D.C. United also held a minute’s applause in the 49′ for those who lost their lives in the Pulse Night Club shooting in Orlando.

I was lucky enough to spend part of the match with Jim Ensor, a D.C. United season ticket holder since 1996 and a member of Federal Triangles Soccer Club (FTSC), the organization that hosts United Night OUT.

Photo credit: Jim Ensor

United Night OUT is presented by Team DC as part of their Night OUT series. Ensor and FTSC worked closely with D.C. United to coordinate the entire evening, from the coin toss and flag bearers, to the performance of the National Anthem by DC Different Drummers. Through the FTSC website, over 500 tickets were sold, a portion of their proceeds donated to D.C. Scores.

An interview with Jim Ensor

While we all tried to recover Rooney’s first half stunner, and had our fingers crossed that Orlando wouldn’t score, Ensor kindly discussed his thoughts on United Night OUT with me:

Sarah Kallassy: What would you like to see the community to gain from United Night OUT?

Jim Ensor: I want people to feel that they are part of this club, I want them to feel comfortable in the stands. I want them to be excited about the team on the field and feel connected to the organization behind the team on the field. More importantly, I want the team to reach out to the community as a whole…however you identify, we all are the community.

SK: How can someone be an ally or a better ally?

JE: Allies can listen, participate, and really be a part of it.

Listen. Be a part of our peoples’ lives, encourage them to be themselves. Allow them the opportunity to express themselves and create without judgement. We don’t need pandering; we don’t need sympathy. It’s very normal. That’s probably the biggest lesson, is to understand that its normal. 

Participate, learn more about what it is we’re going through. Learn more about our history. When we get to a point that parents and family and friends are not worried about someone coming out, or not feeling like they have to be an ally, that’s when we’re in a better place.

SK: What would you like someone to take away from tonight?

JE: The sense of community and being united is the most important part of it. We’ve got a long way to go. We have a very long way to go. I’ll continue to advocate for participation and inclusion, and for us to be united on and off the field.

“I don’t take it lightly that I’m sitting here feeling comfortable in the stands at a professional event, where they feel comfortable acknowledging our existence, acknowledging that we are part of the community. There are a lot of people that have paved the way to this and sacrificed and given up a lot for us to be here and enjoy this moment.”

Jim Ensor, Federal Triangles Soccer Club

Author’s note: A special thank you to Jim Ensor, who was one of the first people in the D.C. United community to welcome me as a reporter to this club. It was an honor to speak with you, and I will always remember what you said about the responsibility of this platform and honoring those who have come before me.

Featured image: @unitednightout

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @SarahKallassy

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We’re Here For The Soccer

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

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

Women are here for soccer, representing an influential 42% of Major League Soccer’s fanbase. We attend matches, we are season ticket holders, we are leaders in our supporters’ groups; we promote and share the sport we love.

‘We Fan’

‘We Fan’

Recently, SeatGeek, Official Ticketing Partner of Major League Soccer, developed and released a research report entitled, ‘We Fan’. In cooperation with MLS, the ticketing company sent a survey to 300,000 fans to better understand both their ticket purchasing behavior and how to improve their fan experience. From a diverse group of 1,200 respondents, SeatGeek identified a few of the ways female fans want MLS to recognize their presence. 

According to the ‘We Fan’ study, female fans #1 request is to be featured in advertising, representing their legitimate status as soccer fans. One of SeatGeek’s respondents said, “Market to us not as moms or wives, but as fans.” In response, SeatGeek will be turning the spotlight on female fans through a ‘We Fan’ advertising campaign, created by an all-female crew.

Female fans who participated in the ‘We Fan’ survey also wanted MLS to recognize their purchasing preferences. Female fans want more choice. They want merchandise that fits their personality and unique style. Respondents also requested varied concession options at stadiums.

SeatGeek’s ‘We Fan’ study is an important step in amplifying the voices of female fans and celebrating their presence in soccer culture, but the work is far from over.

We Wanted to Ask… You

Our passion for soccer runs deep at MLSFemale. We are a group of all female journalists, who are first and foremost supporters of our teams and the vibrant communities surrounding them. We asked our readers, followers, and staff to share their experiences as female fans with us. 

It is a privilege to share their insightful responses with you, as they discuss assumptions, representation, inclusivity, community, and why we need women’s cut authentic jerseys.

On Assumptions: We’re Here Because We Want to Be

“I just want to be a fan; not a “female fan.” And D.C. United does a good job of making me feel that way.”

Laura Kakuk, D.C. United supporter

“Treat me with the assumption that I am there because of my own decision. Often, people assume that you are there with a boyfriend, husband, significant other, kid who plays soccer, etc. There isn’t this acceptance, still, that a female loves the sport enough to show up on her own will.”

Bailey Brown, FC Dallas supporter and ISC Representative

“I haven’t had a problem as a female who’s a fan, though most people think my husband got the tickets and I tag along (I got him into the team).”

Willow Dalton, NYCFC supporter, STH, and founding member

On Why Representation Matters

“When we say we want more representation, I think we’re talking about a lot more than putting women in ads. The way you treat the women and women-presenting folks working for you is far more convincing than an ad campaign could ever be.”

Hope, Seattle Sounders supporter

“I think it’s important to highlight that many MLS fans are women and we support this league just as many men do. I have never given up on the team and I never will.”

Julia Sepe, NE Revolution supporter and STH

“I personally think that D.C. United does a great job of knowing their fans are not just men, and have a wide variety of merchandise, advertisers, and I’ve always felt welcome at the games.”

Emily, D.C. United supporter

“League wide, I think they should focus on having more female coaches, trainers, and commentators. As we all always say… representation matters.”

Dayna O’Gorman, Sporting KC supporter

“I think one thing that could really improve the experience is if the local broadcast teams had more female pundits. When you are watching a sport and everyone who is commenting on it are men, and then you try to have a conversation with someone… I feel like I get taken less seriously because of my gender. The biggest thing for me that I think the MLS can do, is to hire more females, have them be more visible, and that would make the fan experience better.”

Halles Serres, Portland Timbers supporter

“I feel that Minnesota United and the Dark Clouds are very welcoming, and my experience has been overall really positive. I can speak for myself when I say that a few years ago I couldn’t see myself being as heavily involved with Dark Clouds as I am now. I think it helps that there are quite a few women that are in prominent roles in the Dark Clouds, like capo.”

Helen, MNUFC supporter, Dark Clouds SG member

“There definitely could be more representation in marketing at the fan level. By this, I mean, let’s show solo females. I don’t want to always see a female with family or with a male in a marketing sense. Instead, celebrate the women who work in your front office, celebrate the fans, and make this about females who are contributing to the soccer culture in your community in a positive way.”

Bailey Brown, FC Dallas supporter and ISC Representative

About Those Jerseys… 

“It seems pretty clear that MLS is marketed to men as a primary audience and women as a secondary audience. One example: It’s been challenging to find a women’s jersey that doesn’t have a deep V-neck cut. Like, I don’t want to be a sexy Timbers supporter. I just want a shirt that fits.”

Kelly Hall, Portland Timbers supporter, 107ist member

“One gripe I have is that the “fun” merch is always in men’s cut. So-called “unisex” t-shirts look awful on me, but all the merch that’s more amusing (like the pigeon shirts) tend to only be in men’s cut.”

Willow Dalton, NYCFC supporter, STH, and founding member

“There is something I’ve been saying from Day 1:  CAN WE PLEASE HAVE AUTHENTIC FEMALE CUT KITS?!  I get that they would be naturally less “authentic” because the players wearing them are males, so the authentic kit will be the male cut.  But I’d love a female cut kit with the special touches – the 4 stars denoting our championships and the button-down neckline.”

Laura Kakuk, D.C. United supporter

“I think they should change the marketing and fit of their women’s jerseys. Not everyone wants a deep neckline.”

Dayna O’Gorman, Sporting KC supporter

On Inclusivity 

“Orlando City as a club are very inclusive of female fans in my experience. Kay Rawlins who is the co-founder of Orlando City is the pioneer and epitome of female inclusion within the team. She is a well-respected part of Orlando from both myself, male and female fans alike. Kay has a very hands on approach and is very visible to the fanbase, interacting with fans on social media and outside of games.”

“Kay is also very supportive of inclusion of [those with] disabilities and LGBT [community] as well. I feel like having a founder with her way of thinking and views, has created the feeling of inclusiveness regardless of your gender, sexuality, religion, age or disability, which is why I love this club.”

Charlotte, Orlando City SC supporter from the UK

“The best part about my supporters’ group and my team is they don’t see gender, orientation, race, ethnicity, or age. We all bleed black and red, and that’s all that matters.”

Karen DiFederico, D.C. United supporter, La Barra Brava member

“The stadium has an indoor fan area with…TVs showing the match. It was always used as a room for breastfeeding babies.  That’s a great example of inclusivity for women. I didn’t have to choose between being a mom or a supporter because there was space for me to be both.”

Kelly Hall, Portland Timbers supporter, 107ist member

“It was a Pride Night match. There were rainbows everywhere and I mean everywhere! They were handing out rainbow flags to every single fan. And nobody was declining them or using derogatory language about them. The second I saw our (then) captain Brad Evans step out onto the pitch with a rainbow armband I felt like I had finally, after years of being a sports fan and always leaving because of homophobia, finally, found a team and possibly an entire professional sports organization where I could actually feel welcomed and belong.”

Kara Dannenhold, Seattle Sounders supporter

“I appreciate that the Sounders not only didn’t balk at partnering with a “feminine” sponsor like Zulily but have embraced it. I appreciate the no-nonsense approach to handling complaints about pink kits and players wearing ‘sports bras’ for analytics. The more they treat this stuff as normal the less stigma there is in being ‘girly’.”

Hope, Seattle Sounders supporter and STH

On Building a Community

“What I would like to see as a woman, are more women looking to connect with other women. I seriously don’t know any women that go to games alone like I do most of the time and I end up connecting with the guys. It would be cool to have content that connects us in some way.”

Sara Phillips, D.C. United Supporter and STH

“I’ve actually connected more with the team and the fans because of the away games that I’ve been able to go to; specifically speaking, Angel City Brigade, one of the Galaxy’s SGs, have welcomed me with open arms. I would’ve called myself a lone die-hard fan that traveled to games, but now I’ve found that I’ve made so many friends through traveling to these games.”

Pamela Garcia, LA Galaxy supporter

Author’s note: I would like to thank every reader, follower, and staff member that took the time to respond when I asked for your thoughts. Your insight, strength, and willingness to share has me in awe. This is truly your article, and I am proud to share your story.

Featured image: @SeatGeek

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @SarahKallassy

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D.C. United Turns Up in Extra Time to Win Over the Philadelphia Union 2-1

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

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

D.C. United XI: Christopher Seitz; Joseph Mora (Chris McCann, 97’), Steven Birnbaum, Frédéric Brillant, Jalen Robinson (Quincy Amarikwa, 90’); Antonio Bustamante (Griffin Yow, 73’), Leonardo Jara, Ulises Segura, Lucas Rodríguez, Luciano Acosta; Wayne Rooney. [Note: Originally Chris Odoi-Atsem was in the XI, however due to a pulled muscle in warmups, he was replaced by Jalen Robinson.]

If you weren’t at Audi Field this Wednesday for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match between D.C. United and the Philadelphia Union, and many weren’t, you missed out on one of the best nights of soccer the District has seen in quite a while.

A nail biter that went into extra time, the fourth-round match saw D.C. and Philadelphia battle it out for 120 minutes before the Black-and-Red were able to claim their victory. In classic Audi Field style, rain began to fall just before the match went into extra time, lending to the drama and testing the Black-and-Red faithful who were posted up in the supporters’ section. 

Notably, Joseph Mora made his return to the pitch, logging over 90 minutes of playing time as he continues the journey to full fitness after being out since the end of March with a broken jaw. Mora’s comeback comes at a wonderful time for D.C. United, as the team is currently sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference standings.

Heading into the second half of the season D.C. will look forward to a run toward a playoff berth, making every player critical to the team’s success. 

Joseph Mora is BACK! Photo Credit: D.C. United

Goalkeeper Chris Seitz and homegrown midfielder Antonio Bustamante made their competitive debuts for the Black-and-Red against the Union. Bustamante told MLSFemale, “When I was subbed out, it felt like I just woke up from a dream. My adrenaline was high, it was very exciting.” Bustamante was replaced by 16-year-old Griffin Yow in the 72’, a homegrown favorite and member of the U-17 MNT team.

In the 90’, the match remained scoreless. Coach Ben Olsen brought in veteran striker Quincy Amarikwa, in a smart move that bolstered D.C.’s attacking front. With two 15-minute halves added, the two teams continued to battle in the pouring rain as they each sought just one goal to end the match and avoid dreaded penalty kicks.

Chris McCann sending one home for the Black-and-Red! Photo Credit: D.C. United

When the Union scored in the 113’ it seemed the match might be over with D.C. defeated at home. Black-and-Red supporters cranked up the volume as D.C. United rallied. In the 118’, defender Chris McCann scored the equalizer, slamming a well-placed ball by Captain Wayne Rooney into the back of the net. The crowd in Audi Field roared with approval. Just moments later, in the 119’, our Captain buried a penalty kick to clinch the match for D.C. United.

The dreaded penalty kicks were avoided, and D.C. United emerged victorious, moving on to the next round of the U.S. Open Cup. Will D.C. United claim another Open Cup? A fourth trophy would certainly be a nice addition to the Black-and-Red’s collection.

D.C. United faces off against NYCFC at home on June 19that 7pm in the next round! Vamos United!

Featured image: @dcunited

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Frustration as D.C. United Draw with San Jose

Sarah Kallassy - DC United/mlsfemale
Official DC United Reporter

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

D.C. United Substitutions: Russell Canouse (Leonardo Jara, 25’), Steven Birnbaum (Chris Odoi-Atsem, 62’)

D.C. United’s Captain, Wayne Rooney, was noticeably frustrated post-match tonight. After two consecutive draws against the NE Revolution and Chicago Fire (which should have been a win for D.C.), D.C. United drew again against the San Jose Earthquakes, 1-1. 

The level-headed Englishman described his irritation with the constant mistakes made by match officials and their inability to get even the simple calls right. Unfortunately, such officiating mistakes had cost D.C. United three points just a few days earlier, when an offsides call was botched. PRO Referees issued a statement, however the points were still lost.

Audi Field was packed with just over 18,000 supporters, ready to see the Black-and-Red emerge victorious before they head toward a break until the end of June. The team has played more games during the first half of the season than any other team, and fatigue is starting to creep in. After a trying stretch, a win at home would have set D.C. up nicely before they continued on into the second half of the season.

With Paul Arriola back on the pitch after a two-match suspension, things seemed to be in D.C.’s favor. Beginning the match with a tenacity and energy reflective of high spirits, D.C. United was well in control of the pitch, containing San Jose. The Earthquakes began to pick apart D.C.’s defense, making their way dangerously close to the Black-and-Red goal. Then, defender Russell Canouse rolled his ankle early on, removing him from the match.

As D.C.’s control of the first half disintegrated, San Jose pelted D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid with attempt after attempt. Hamid saved five shots on target in the first half alone. However, he was unable to stop a well-placed header by Chris ‘Wondo’ Wondolowski that sailed into the back of the net in the 36’. Wondolowski, the top scoring player in MLS history, netted his 151st goal.

D.C. United’s failure to sufficiently mark Wondolowski was clearly a mistake, as he was able to sneak in behind defender Jalen Robinson to open San Jose’s account. As a result, the Black-and-Red were sent to halftime down 0-1. Perhaps most unsettling was that San Jose totaled seventeen shots (6 on target), from 9 players while D.C. totaled only 3 shots (0 on target) from two players during the first half.

The second half was punctuated with knock after knock for D.C. United. Defender Steven Birnbaum took a nasty crack to the head that saw him escorted off the field by medical staff. Minutes later Luciano Acosta was also down on the field, holding his face. Defender Fred Brillant was thrown into San Jose’s goal, and struggled to get to his feet, noticeably limping away.

D.C.’s Acosta was able to find the equalizer in the 67’ bringing the score to 1-1. Bolstered by Acosta’s goal, D.C. United began to put San Jose under more pressure, but remained unable to find another opportunity, even in seven minutes of stoppage time

Tensions flared between D.C. and San Jose, the match becoming increasingly physical as both teams struggled to find just one more goal. Spats could be seen between players both on the field and on the sideline, with heated words being exchanged at close range.

D.C. United hangs on to the top spot in the Eastern Conference, but a rising Atlanta United is only one point behind. Hopefully the next month will provide the Black-and-Red with a chance to rest and regroup before embarking on their 2019 push for a playoff berth.

D.C. will play the Philadelphia Union on June 12 in the US Open Cup and will resume the regular MLS season when they face Orlando city SC on June 26that Audi Field.

Note: Steven Birnbaum received stitches and passed concussion protocol. He was available for interview and doing well after his injury.

Featured image: @dcunited

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @SarahKallassy

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D.C. United’s Rough Week On the Road

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

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

D.C. v Toronto: 0-0 and D.C. v Houston: 1-2

D.C. United had a rough week. Three matches in 7 days rough. The Black-and-Red pulled a win, a draw, and a loss, and logged some serious frequent flyer miles as the team flew from the District to Toronto, and then on to Houston.

Ben Olsen Shakes Up the XI

D.C. United Starting XI against Toronto FC. Credit: D.C. United

D.C.’s starting XI aren’t usually a surprise, especially to those familiar with the team. Head Coach Ben Olsen is a man of habit, which sometimes brings him criticism (unless of course D.C. United is winning, in which case the ranks of Olsen’s Army swell). For the May 15th midweek matchup against Toronto FC and former D.C. United player Nick DeLeon, Olsen had some serious considerations to make in terms of his lineup. 

In a move of genius, or not (depending who you are), Olsen made massive changes to the XI. Leaving Captain Wayne Rooney, Acosta, Arriola, Jara, Pedroso, and Rodriguez to rest on the bench, we saw Jalen Robinson, Akeem Ward, Chris Durkin, and Quincy Amarikwa (finally) get some significant minutes on the pitch. 

Unfortunately, D.C. was unable to score against Toronto FC, but the Black-and-Red were able to withstand the immense pressure they were placed under, keeping the match at a 0-0 draw. Which leads to the fact that…

Bill Hamid is a Brick Wall

Undoubtedly, Bill Hamid was D.C.’s biggest asset during their trip north. Toronto FC took an MLS record 35 shots during the match, however Bill Hamid set a record of his own. Logging a career best 12 saves, Hamid’s shot stopping ability clearly kept the match at a draw, rather than allowing it to turn into a humiliating loss.  Can the man get his USMNT call up, please?

Temperatures and Tempers Flare in Houston

With D.C.’s starters somewhat rested, the team headed to steamy Houston for the final match of the week to face the Dynamo. The Houston Dynamo were, and are, unbeaten at home. 

A collision between D.C.’s Steven Birnbaum and Alberth Elis of the Dynamo in the early minutes of the match left the latter so injured he couldn’t continue. The first half continued scoreless with D.C. and the Dynamo heading to halftime at 0-0. 

D.C. United Captain Wayne Rooney issued a wakeup call to the Dynamo with the first match goal scored in the 46’. With the Black-and-Red up 1-0, Houston rallied. Taking advantage of a lapse in D.C.’s defense, Houston scored an equalizer in the 67’ and another goal just a minute later. 

With tensions rising and the time left on the clock dwindling for D.C. to seek another opportunity on goal, the match became even more physical. D.C. United’s Paul Arriola was booked with a red card in the 85’ for violent conduct after a foul and subsequent tangle up with the Dynamo’s Lundqvist.

With D.C. down to 10 men, they continued to chase an equalizer in the final minutes, even bringing in striker Quincy Amarikwa in stoppage time. Unfortunately for D.C. United, there would be no equalizer and the match ended in a Dynamo victory, 2-1.

Looking Forward

The week’s results were surely not what D.C. United had hoped, especially given that the top spot of the Eastern Conference is at stake. Captain Wayne Rooney has been openly critical of his team, saying, “We were not good enough . . . we need to learn, and if we can’t learn when we’re top of the league, then we never will.”

D.C. United will host an international friendly at Audi Field on May 22 against Spanish side Real Betis but won’t see any MLS action until next week’s match against the NE Revolution on May 25. 

Here’s hoping the Black-and-Red bounce back after a challenging week. Vamos United!

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Paul Arriola Leads D.C. United to a 1-0 Win Over Sporting Kansas City at Home

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

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

Paul Arriola, the tenacious 24-year-old Californian, made the game winning goal for D.C United in the 78’ during a tough match against Sporting Kansas City. Attendance at Audi Field was not at its best Sunday night, with a recorded total of just over 12,500. Any variety of factors could have been to blame: Mother’s Day, Game of Thrones, or the chilly weather that belonged back in early March. 

With numerous Sporting KC starters missing due to injury on the team’s first visit to Audi Field, it would have been easy for D.C. United to underestimate the depleted team. Instead, the Black-and-Red exhibited a real sense of urgency on the pitch, as D.C. needed a win to keep pace with the Philadelphia Union atop the Eastern Conference Standings. (Both teams currently are in possession of 23 points.)

The first half of the match saw a focused D.C. United trying to break through holes in Sporting’s defenses and the veritable brick wall that is Tim Melia. Sporting’s Dániel Sallói was shown a yellow card early, in the 11’, for dragging D.C.’s creative Leonardo Jara back.

Shortly after, Captain Wayne Rooney took a beauty of a free kick in the 14’, only to have his effort thwarted by the talented Melia. The first half continued to slip away, with both D.C. and SKC unable to find an opening. At halftime, the score stood at 0-0.

As the second half started, the weather deteriorated further and pouring rain pummeled the pitch. While the Black-and-Red faithful remained, many in ponchos, a good number of fans exited Audi Field, unwilling to suffer any longer. The pitch became slick, sending players sliding and giving both D.C. and Sporting a tough time. Medics were called onto the field numerous times as players went down hard. Although there were a few scares, everyone emerged from the match relatively unscathed. 

Just when it looked like D.C. would have to accept a draw, Paul Arriola curled the ball in past Melia. The shot was the ‘something special’, in the words of Ben Olsen, that the Black-and-Red needed to surpass Vermes’ team and take three points for the District. For fans that had been braving the elements all evening, Arriola’s goal immediately injected a sense of warmth into the crowd at Audi Field. Defender Russell Canouse, said, “It was unbelievable. Once it left his foot, we had the feeling that it was going in.”

After scoring, Arriola immediately sent up his love to his late father, Arturo, who passed away late last year. Lifting his cleat to his ear and pointing skyward, there was no doubt who Arriola was dedicating his goal to.

Arriola’s goal is his third this season, bringing him even with Luciano Acosta. Only Captain Wayne Rooney has scored more in 2019. Arriola said, “This time last year, I don’t even think I had a goal. So, it feels good…But more importantly, today was a complete team performance. In the end, it’s not about who wins it, it’s which team wins it.” 

According to Head Coach Ben Olsen, Arriola is establishing himself as a viable option in terms of scoring goals for D.C. United. ‘Lucharoo’ (Acosta and Rooney) have been systematically marked in almost every match, making it more difficult for the duo to create chances on goal. Their dynamic partnership led to D.C. United climbing the Eastern Conference Standings in 2018 to a playoff berth and other teams have taken note. Arriola’s ability to create chances and to distract from the pair remains an incredible asset for D.C. United as the season progresses.

Sunday night was a true team effort for D.C. United, with every player contributing substantially to the team’s success. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid logged his 60th career clean sheet (and 6th this season), placing him 11th in all-time shutouts in MLS.  Ulises Segura and Chris Durkin saw minutes in the second half. Talented homegrown player Durkin will head off to the U20 FIFA World Cup later this month. 

Marquinhos Pedroso, D.C. United’s recently acquired defender from FC Dallas, put in a solid 90-minute performance, adding much needed coverage to the backline. Pedroso brings a wealth of international experience to the team. He has played in his home country of Brazil, as well as Hungary and Turkey. Olsen was pleased with Pedroso’s performance in the match, saying, “I certainly enjoyed watching him.” The defender’s presence allowed D.C. to return to their comfortable formation on the pitch with a four-man backline.

D.C. United is about to hit the road for two matches, on Wednesday against Toronto and on Saturday against Houston, in what Olsen calls ‘silly scheduling.’ When asked how he would deal with his first true travel test since coming to MLS, Captain Wayne Rooney just smiled. “When you’ve got four kids at home, and you’re used to flying with four kids, yeah, any flight is easy without them.” 

D.C. United plays Toronto FC this Wednesday, May 15th, and then moves on to face the Houston Dynamo on Saturday, May 18th.

Vamos United!

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D.C. United Weekly Roundup: Match preview, Injuries, Call Ups, and Marquinhos Pedroso

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

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

Match Preview: D.C. United v Sporting KC 

D.C. United is set to host Sporting KC for a Mother’s Day matchup at 7pm EST May 12that Audi Field. The match will be nationally broadcast on FS1 and FOXDEPORTES.

While D.C. is fresh off a 3-1 home victory against the Columbus Crew, Sporting KC just fell to Atlanta United 0-3 in a shutout match. Sporting KC currently is sitting in 10th place of the Western Conference. In addition to the spate of injuries that have plagued Sporting, this is the first time the team will hit the road in a six-match stretch. 

For D.C. United, a position at the top of the Eastern Conference hinges on winning this home match against SKC. Currently, D.C. is tied with the Philadelphia Union and Montreal Impact for first place in terms of points, however, the Black-and-Red occupy second place due to goal differential.

Although SKC is depleted and having a tough run lately, D.C. should not take them lightly. Sporting’s offense is dangerous, having scored 19 goals this season, and has only been without a goal in one match, their most recent faceoff with Atlanta United. SKC has also recently reacquired midfielder Benny Feilhaber from the Colorado Rapids. Whether he will take the pitch against D.C. is up for debate.

Injuries

D.C. saw the recovery and return to play of Russell Canouse and Leonardo Jara, two integral players who have regularly appeared in Head Coach Ben Olsen’s starting XI. However, homegrown player Donovan Pines is sidelined due to a sprain in his medial collateral ligament sustained during D.C.’s most recent match with the Columbus Crew. Pines has started in the last two matches for D.C. United and has shown valuable speed and accuracy, able to bail out the Black-and-Red defensively.

Call Ups

D.C. United homegrown player Chris Durkin has received a call up to compete in the U-20 FIFA World Cup in Poland. The U-20 FIFA World Cup kicks off May 23rd. Striker Griffin Yow, D.C.’s newest homegrown signing, just helped the U-17 USMNT to a 8-0 victory over Guadeloupe. The team will advance to the Concacaf U-17 Championship Quarterfinals where they will face Panama.

New Player Marquinhos Pedroso

D.C. recently acquired left back Marquinhos Pedroso from FC Dallas for $100,000 in GAM. The 25-year-old Brazilian began his professional career at Figueirense, and has since played in the Brazilian top flight, and in Turkey and Hungary. Pedroso was a regular starter for FC Dallas throughout 2018 and fills in a critical defensive gap for D.C. United, as Joseph Mora is still unavailable due to injury. The acquisition of Pedroso also allows Olsen to keep Paul Arriola forward, where he is able to create scoring opportunities for the Black-and-Red.

As always, VAMOS UNITED!

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Happy Birthday Ben Olsen: D.C. United Takes 3 Points at Home

Sarah Kallassy - DC United/mlsfemale
Official DC United Reporter

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

D.C. United win over the Columbus Crew 3-1 at Audi Field.

Starting XI:

D.C. United seem to have gotten their swagger back this weekend, beating the Columbus Crew for the second time this season. D.C. also ended their winless streak at Audi Field, giving Black-and-Red supporters an exciting Saturday night. While thunderstorms threatened and a light rain fell, the weather held, seeming like a good omen for D.C. United. 

Russell Canouse and Leonardo Jara were both back on the pitch, having recovered from recent injuries. As the match progressed it was clear just how much their presence was missed. Also starting was 23-year-old homegrown player, Donovan Pines. In his second start of the season, Pines who stands 6’5” has proved to be a real asset with his speed and accuracy, augmenting D.C.’s defense nicely.

The Black-and-Red were strong in possession from kickoff, doing a solid job keeping the ball away from Federico Higuain and company. However, Pedro Santos of the Crew made an early goal. 

Referee Ted Unkel and Video Assistant Referee Kevin Terry Jr. spent several long minutes deliberating the goal’s validity, as D.C. United insisted Will Trapp of the Crew had fouled Luciano Acosta. The goal was struck, bringing the score back to 0-0. However, many are insisting that it was Unkel himself who got in the way and committed the foul, not Trapp. 

Immediately after, Trapp did actually commit a foul, and D.C. United captain Wayne Rooney was awarded a free kick that Acosta, assisted by Jara, put in the back of the net. VAR was called upon again, to determine if Acosta had been offsides when he made the goal. D.C.’s goal was allowed to stand, putting the Black-and-Red up a point. 

After all of the minutes spent with the VAR, the first half naturally went into stoppage time. Four minutes in and Unkel returned to the video screen. The determination was made that Trapp was guilty of a handball (clearly Saturday was not Will Trapp’s night). Wayne Rooney squared up for a penalty kick, and, in what felt like sweet retribution for his miss during the playoffs, earned D.C. another goal, sending the team into halftime 2-0.

Columbus came out of the locker room ready to turn the match in their favor. However, D.C. United’s Brillant, Canouse, Pines, Jara, and Rodriguez joined goalkeeper Bill Hamid in creating a brick wall against the Crew’s attacks. 

In the 61’, tenacious Paul Arriola broke through the Crew’s defense to sink the first uncontested goal of the match. The third D.C. United goal of the night was Jara’s second assist for the evening. Columbus used up their substitutions as the second half waned.

D.C. scored again in the 75’, unfortunately, the goal was to the benefit of the Crew. After putting in a rock-solid performance all evening, goalkeeper Bill Hamid saw the ball slip through his grasp for an own goal. The drizzle falling on Audi Field surely played a role in ruining Hamid’s clean sheet for the night.

D.C. Head Coach Ben Olsen made only one substitution, Ulises Segura for Arriola in the 85’. Another three minutes of stoppage time were added to the second half; however, the Crew would not see the chance to equalize; the Black-and-Red were too far ahead. At the final whistle, D.C. United won, 3-1, and stayed tied for the top spot in the Eastern Conference Standings with the Philadelphia Union.

Olsen was beaming post-match, while Columbus Head Coach Caleb Porter was certainly less than thrilled. Porter said, “it was a fair goal. The referee fouls Acosta and then goes and looks at the television to bail himself out.” Speaking to the press in the locker room, Acosta stated he had indeed been fouled by Trapp.

D.C. United took a much-needed morale boost with the home win. When MLSFemale asked Donovan Pines how he will prepare mentally for next week’s match, the soft spoken 23-year-old smiled and said, “I just take it one day at a time. I think we have two days off now and I’ll just rest, make sure I’m doing the right stretching and preparing my body for practice and then watch film, progressively get better, and get ready for the game coming up.”

Keeping a positive mental attitude will be critical as D.C. United heads toward a faceoff with Sporting Kansas City Sunday, May 12.

Vamos United!

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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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