Tag Archives: Ben Olsen

D.C. United Are A Step Closer To Bringing The Playoffs Home After 2-0 Victory Over Seattle

Sarah Kallassy - DC United/mlsfemale
MLSFemale Editor-In-Chief 
Official DC United Reporter

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

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.”

D.C. United is back, and just in time!

Vamos United!!!

All images: D.C. United

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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

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D.C. Draws with Toronto, Sending Nick DeLeon Home with A Point

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

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

D.C. United XI: Bill Hamid; Chris McCann (Marquinhos Pedroso, HT’), Steven Birnbaum, Frederic Brillant, Leonardo Jara; Russell Canouse, Lucas Rodriguez, Ulises Segura (Quincy Amarikwa, 80′), Zoltan Stieber (Chris Durkin, 66′); Wayne Rooney, Luciano Acosta 

Sunset at Audi Field, we are underway. Photo credit: Sarah Kallassy

If you felt a sense of deja-vu after D.C. United’s matchup with Toronto FC this Saturday, you’re not alone. In their second meeting in as many months, the two teams yet again split points as they drew, 1-1.

Black-and-Red supporters and pundits alike were banking on Toronto arriving in the District with a squad depleted by international duty. No one doubted that D.C.’s heat and humidity would put the visitors at a further disadvantage. It almost came as a surprise when Toronto scored early in the first half.

Toronto’s goal scorer was none other than former D.C. United player Nick DeLeon. In the 19’, DeLeon slotted a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Bill Hamid to put Toronto on the board and leave the Black-and-Red seeking an equalizer.

A nasty foul brought D.C. defender Fred Brillant down in the box and led to a penalty kick that would put the Black-and-Red on the board. In a deviation from his usual technique, Captain Wayne Rooney drove the shot dead center to equalize the match. 

D.C.’s Captain was far from elated though. Toronto gave the Black-and-Red a difficult time from the start. Head Coach Ben Olsen said, “they are a tough team to prepare for, because they throw you for a loop with a false 9 in Pozuelo, and we didn’t think they would go that way and it took us a little while to adjust.”

 As a result of Toronto’s clever tactics, D.C. United were left chasing a single goal for the entire match. Were it not for Rooney’s successful penalty kick, Nick DeLeon would have likely headed back to Toronto with three points.

Even with a draw at home, Olsen, said, “I was proud of the second half and the effort to get something out of it… it wasn’t the end of the world.”

D.C. United hits the road this week for what Olsen says will be “a very tough game July 4thin Dallas”, where temperatures are predicted to soar into the 90s with a high percentage of humidity. 

Head Coach Ben Olsen has been lamenting the challenges brought by ‘summer soccer’, but D.C.’s Captain remains nonplussed. Wayne Rooney said, “yeah, its hot in Dallas, I was there a few weeks ago and experienced the heat there. We’ll be fine I think.”  

With the impending return of Moreno and Arriola from international duty, we can only hope that Rooney’s confidence is contagious, and D.C. is able to nab three points on the road. 

Featured image: @dcunited

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D.C. United Out of the Running for the U.S. Open Cup

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

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

D.C. United XI: Chris Seitz; Leonardo Jara (Jalen Robinson, HT), Frédéric Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, Joseph Mora; Chris Durkin, Antonio Bustamante (Russell Canouse, 70’), Lucas Rodríguez (Griffin Yow, 87’), Luciano Acosta, Ulises Segura; Wayne Rooney

The Match

D.C. United bowed out of the U.S. Open Cup in today’s match against NYCFC, losing 1-2 at home. The disappointing loss comes on the heels of a dramatic win in extra time against the Philadelphia Union just last week.

The Black-and-Red faithful and a small contingent of NYCFC’s supporter group, The Third Rail, were situated at opposing ends of the stadium, their face off mirroring the battle on the pitch. Both groups of supporters fought to be heard while their respective teams rallied in a quest to advance to the quarterfinals.

D.C.’s faithful. Photo Credit: Sarah Kallassy

Wednesday’s match seemed to be going in D.C. United’s favor at first, after an early NYCFC goal that had slipped past goalkeeper Chris Seitz was canceled in the 7’ due to a handball. After a missed attempt, Captain Wayne Rooney rocketed one into the back of the net in the 32’, opening D.C. United’s account for the match.

Unfortunately, Rooney’s goal would be the last of the Black-and-Red’s good fortune for the match. NYCFC broke through D.C. United’s defense to score in the 38’ and 41’. D.C. was sent into halftime down, 1-2.

After halftime, homegrown defender Jalen Robinson entered the match for Leonardo Jara, who had been feeling ill. However, no further substitutions were made by D.C.’s Head Coach Ben Olsen until much later in the second half, despite the pressure from NYCFC on the pitch.

As NYCFC continued to press D.C., Olsen brought on experienced midfielder Russell Canouse in the 70’. Even with the addition of homegrown striker Griffin Yow in the 87′, the Black-and-Red were still unable to find the equalizer. D.C. fell 1-2 to NYCFC, closing the door on a run toward the U.S. Open Cup this season.

A Fractured Squad

D.C. United entered the match against NYCFC with a fractured squad. Given the availability and health of D.C.’s players, it is no surprise they were not at their best Wednesday night against NYCFC. 

Paul Arriola and Junior Moreno are on international duty, for the USMNT and Venezuelan National Team respectively. Leonardo Jara, D.C.’s creative defender, is suffering from a minor illness that was further exacerbated by the heat and humidity. Russell Canouse, another regular starter, is still making a journey toward full fitness after an ankle injury.

Looking Forward

D.C. United will face off against Orlando City SC next Wednesday, June 26th, as they move into the second half of the MLS season. Out of the running for the Open Cup, D.C. can now shift focus to prioritize League matches, while the return of Arriola and Moreno from international duty and better health throughout the squad will give Ben Olsen greater flexibility as D.C. begins a push toward the playoffs.

Vamos United!

Featured image: @dcunited

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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!

Featured image: @dcunited

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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!

Featured image: @dcunited

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

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

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

The Match:

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

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

Credit: Goal

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

Credit: D.C. United

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Takeaways:

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

D.C. United is an accountable team

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

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

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

Talent runs deep

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

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

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

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

Image credit: D.C. United

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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