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D.C. United’s 2019 Season Comes to a Close with a 5-1 loss to Toronto

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

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

The Match

D.C. United’s 2019 season has come to a close with a steep loss at BMO Field in Toronto. Black-and-Red supporters will not see Wayne Rooney hoist the MLS Cup, or in fact, play another match at Audi Field. It was a bitter end to a season that started with such high hopes.

Toronto’s Marky Delgado opened the scoring of the match early in the first half, and D.C. struggled to find their own scoring opportunity, even with both Wayne Rooney and Ola Kamara on the field. There was no dirty play, and no controversial calls were made by referee Allen Chapman, tonight simply wasn’t D.C.’s night.

In the dying moments of the match, Lucas ‘Titi’ Rodríguez found the elusive equalizer. Weaving through the chaos surrounding Toronto’s goal, Rodríguez capitalized on a corner kick taken by Rooney. The Argentine’s goal tipped the match into extra time and gave everyone behind the Black-and-Red something incredible after almost 90 minutes of nail-biting – hope.

Unfortunately for D.C., Toronto quickly racked up the goals in extra time, creating a deficit that proved impossible to overcome. Bill Hamid’s clean sheet record mattered for naught as Toronto lobbed ball after ball into the back of the net.

The shot with the most sting, however, came from a spurned Nick DeLeon. DeLeon’s shot flew past Hamid into the high right corner of the net, tinged with a sense of poetic justice.

A D.C. substitution prior to the final 15 minutes of extra time saw Wayne Rooney leave the field for the last time as a D.C. player for Leonardo Jara. It was apparent the match and season were both over. There would be no final minute miracle for the Black-and-Red.

Looking Forward

2019 began with high hopes, as D.C. United beat the reigning MLS Champion, Atlanta United, in their very first match. As the freezing rain poured down at Audi Field, the Black-and-Red showed their fighting spirit and emerged tenacious, gritty, and hungry to win. While many are somber at the departure of superstar Wayne Rooney, and surely feeling the sting of loss as the season comes to a close, it’s time to reflect.

This season has been special. We’ve seen living legends, like Robert Gillespie and Tony Quinn, honored for their part in building our rich culture. We’ve been part of the magic that is a Wayne Rooney own half goal. We’ve witnessed Alejandro Bedoya of the Philadelphia Union speaking out against gun violence. We’ve had an all-female broadcast crew at Audi Field.

We’ve witnessed our players become parents, struggle with loss, and start new endeavors. We have seen them grow and succeed, both on the field and off. And soon, we will welcome back Yamil Asad to our fold.

Our supporter community has grown as well, with many faces welcomed into the Black-and-Red family this season. Throughout 2019, we have come together to battle illness, stand against intolerance, fight hunger, and make our community a better place. 

Tonight was not the ending to our 2019 season that any of us would have chosen, but there really is so much to look forward to. Together.

Vamos United!

Featured image: D.C. United

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @SarahKallassy

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You Can’t Always Get What You Want: D.C. United Draw with FC Cincinnati

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 (Leonardo Jara, 67′); Lucas Rodríguez, Paul Arriola, Ulises Segura (Luciano Acosta, 58′); Quincy Amarikwa (Ola Kamara, 69′)

Unused Substitutes: Chris Seitz, Donovan Pines, Marquinhos Pedroso, Emmanuel Boateng

In the last match of the regular season, D.C. United faltered, unable to break a scoreless deadlock with FC Cincinnati. What should have been an easy win at home turned into a physical and frustrating game that eventually cost D.C. United a home playoff match.

Decision Day has a way of bringing surprises to the League, and today was no exception. Although their season record has been nothing short of dismal, FC Cincinnati brought everything to the pitch at Audi Field for their last match of the 2019 season.

The Stage Was Set

Black-and-Red supporters so desperately wanted a win, and optimism hung thick in the air at Buzzard Point. D.C. United broke with broadcasting partner FloSports earlier in the week, in a move lauded by fans. Today’s match was streamed for free on D.C. United’s website, with play by play announcers Dave Johnson and Devon McTavish at the helm, joined by special guest Joanna Lohman (Washington Spirit and USWNT), and D.C. United’s Claudia Pagan reporting from the sideline.

D.C. United had prepared special tifo to honor the club’s four MLS Cup Championships, which were displayed before kickoff. The club has been widely criticized for ignoring its history and culture since moving to Audi Field, and today’s gesture was welcomed by many.

What Happens on the Pitch…

D.C. United began the match on a high note, creating chances and looking dangerous from the first whistle. Head coach Ben Olsen fielded a strong XI and stacked the bench with super subs, to create an 18 more than capable of taking on Cincinnati.

While D.C. began the first half with good pace, they seemed to let off the gas too soon. Cincinnati played with the type of desperation and heart of a team with nothing left to lose, becoming physical quickly with D.C. United. The visitors from Ohio created chances of their own, and while D.C.’s keeper Bill Hamid handily saved each shot, Cincinnati should have never been allowed that close.

The last ten minutes of the first half turned chaotic, and the wheels came off of Cincinnati’s bus. A series of nasty fouls against D.C.’s players, including a dangerous high kick to Ulises Segura and the throwing of Felipe Martins to the ground… by his neck, resulted in not one, but two red cards issued to Cincinnati. In the 41’ and 43’, Joseph-Claude Gyau and Roland Lamah were sent off respectively, leaving D.C. United up two men.

Ulises Segura quickly capitalized on the restart advantage, rocketing the ball into the back of the net for the Black-and-Red. Unfortunately, the elation coursing through Audi Field was short-lived, as referee David Gantar went to VAR for review and subsequently struck the goal as he determined Segura had been offside.

Regardless of the goal being called back, the second half began with optimism; after all, Cincinnati was down to nine men. What the Black-and-Red didn’t bank on was their opponent’s ability to park the proverbial bus, even with the wheels off. Cincinnati moved into a 5-3 formation, creating an almost impenetrable backline.

Throughout the second half, D.C. United struggled to get through Cincinnati’s defense. Assaults by Lucho Acosta, Paul Arriola, Lucas ‘Titi’ Rodríguez, and Ola Kamara were still not enough to earn D.C. another goal. The chances were thwarted by Cincinnati’s defense, and otherwise lacked accuracy. Clinical finishes have been D.C.’s Achilles heel this season, and today was no different.

Yes, FC Cincinnati wasted incredible amounts of time in the second half and were unchecked by the officials. (They used this tactic intelligently, and honestly, any team in Cincinnati’s position would have done the same.) However, D.C. didn’t capitalize on being up two men, or their abundant chances, even with six minutes of stoppage time added to the match.

Where We Go from Here

With the opportunity for a home playoff match off the table, D.C. United will be forced to hit the road and head to Toronto. This is not the scenario desired by the team or supporters; however, the Black-and-Red have been in excellent road form this season. Bill Hamid just logged a record 14th shutout, and D.C.’s defense is one of the best in the League. All that remains is tightening up D.C. United’s attack.

Speaking to media after the match, Hamid said, “When the final whistle blew, the frustration was there, it was a very chippy night. Their players were… wasting time, but we’ve got to forget about it now. We’ve got to forget about it and move on. We’ve got to focus on going there and beating them and putting in a solid performance. So, that’s the focus now. We’ve got to let this one hurt a little bit so we can build up some fire from within and beat Toronto.”

Olsen said, “it’s been one of my toughest seasons, with adjustments and injuries…” Although D.C. United may not have their home playoff match, and supporters likely won’t get to send off Wayne Rooney in style, you can’t always get what you want. The Black-and-Red have a playoff berth, and still have a shot at the MLS Cup. So maybe, we’ll get what we need.

Author’s note: On a bit of a sad note, captain Wayne Rooney made one of his final appearances at Audi Field today. Suspended due to yellow card accumulation, Rooney was on the pitch hours before today’s match, getting in his daily practice. Hopefully we will see Rooney before he departs for England at the end of the season to start as a player-coach for Derby County.

Featured image: Sarah Kallassy

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @SarahKallassy

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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

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @SarahKallassy

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Accept No Substitutes (For a D.C. United Win)

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, Jalen Robinson; Leonardo Jara, Felipe Martins; Lucas Rodríguez, Paul Arriola, Ulises Segura; Quincy Amarikwa

No Substitutions

D.C. United pulled off a stunner of a match against the LA Galaxy, winning 2-1 at home. With an XI that included neither Wayne Rooney (ill with an upper respiratory infection) nor Lucho Acosta (he began the match in the 18), the Black-and-Red relied on teamwork and their depth to claim a sorely needed three points. 

Coach Ben Olsen returned to the 4-2-3-1, with Quincy Amarikwa starting up top, Jalen Robinson at right back, and new signing Felipe Martins slotted in the midfield next to Leo Jara. The lineup drew some disappointment, from those wishing to see Rooney and LA’s Ibrahimovic face off on the pitch, and a bit of skepticism, from those who couldn’t understand why Acosta was starting the match on the bench. Mostly, the chosen XI drew curiosity; were they up to the task of taking on the LA Galaxy?

Paul Arriola

It was clear from the first whistle that D.C. were on the pitch to win, with fiery, tenacious performances from the XI. Paul Arriola opened the scoring in the 28’, assisted by Ulises Segura and Quincy Amarikwa. While LA answered in the 48’, it wasn’t enough for the visitors to leave Audi Field with any points in hand. Lucas ‘Titi’ Rodríguez found the back of the net for D.C. in the second half, bringing the Black-and-Red the match winning goal in the 73’. 

Lucas ‘Titi’ Rodríguez and Quincy Amarikwa celebrate

Quincy Amarikwa may not have scored for the Black-and-Red, however, he did log his first assist in Black-and-Red. Amarikwa’s major accomplishment of the match, however, was getting inside of the Galaxy’s heads. He epically trolled the players on the pitch, getting uncomfortably close to Zlatan, and putting on a show of crying in front of Alvarez. While Amarikwa was rewarded with a yellow card for his theatrics by referee Alan Kelly… It. Was. So. Worth. It.

While Ben Olsen usually waits until the final minutes of the match are ticking away on the clock to make any changes, he chose to forgo substitutions entirely. Instead, he opted to let the XI continue on with their ‘rhythm and familiarity.’

While the move could have cost D.C. due to fatigue, every player put in 90’+ and still seemed to have gas left in the tank.  Perhaps this option isn’t sustainable, but Olsen bet correctly Sunday night, preserving quite a few sets of fresh legs for Vancouver and a rivalry match with the Red Bulls.

‘Bill Hamid, Bill, Bill, Hamid!’

Zlatan is denied by Bill Hamid

LA’s Zlatan Ibrahimović had a record-breaking match, tallying 14 shots. His scoring record was substantially less impressive, as he was soundly denied any scoring chance by D.C.’s defense, and homegrown goalkeeper, Bill Hamid. Hamid’s cat-like reflexes were put to the test the entire evening and he delivered, racking up five saves for the Black-and-Red (although it certainly felt like more). 

The one and only, Bill Hamid

In the second half, Zlatan fired a rocket of a shot toward D.C.’s goal that seemed destined to find the net. Hamid sprang into action, deflecting the shot and refusing the towering Swede a seemingly perfect goal scoring opportunity. Hamid stood up to chants from supporters, and applause from Zlatan himself.

A ‘Culture of Meritocracy’

Quincy Amarikwa getting vertical

For D.C. United’s Quincy Amarikwa and Jalen Robinson, their start in Sunday’s match was well earned. Amarikwa said, “We wanted to come out and prove a point where we are in the season.” He continued, “A lot of the work we put in goes unseen. We have to show up every day prepared to play, and we typically go home disappointed because we don’t get an opportunity to showcase what we can do.”

Amarikwa believes that a player’s time to shine will come, “maybe it’s in week one, and maybe it’s in week 30. I think the guys who haven’t gotten minutes stepped up and showed why and how to contribute. I think it’s a testament to our group. It shows that we have depth… I think building a culture of meritocracy is important here, and I think that’s what we’re doing.”

Jalen Robinson

Jalen Robinson was assigned to the tough task of defending Zlatan. He said, “I think people forget, this is my sixth year. I’ve dealt with forwards like that [Zlatan]…Zlatan is a big dude, but I had to step up to the challenge. No matter what, I just gave it my all for my team. It was just nice that he didn’t score.”

Robinson, who has played with D.C.’s second team for years, is ready to challenge the misconception of the Black-and-Red lacking depth.

“I don’t think people realize; we have a good team. What you don’t see is, our second team has always been good. I think I can testify to that because I’ve been on the second team for so long. We’ve always been super deep. You know, we came out tonight, Quincy, myself, Uli…we came and showed everything we had. What better way to get three points?”

Amarikwa has some advice for those doubting D.C. United, “Don’t take us lightly. If you do, it’s a mistake. If you come, we’re ready. That’s what tonight was and we’re looking forward to the run into the playoffs here.” Robinson agreed, a smile on his face, “We’re going to be a problem. I guarantee we’re going to be a problem.”

D.C. hits the road to face the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday and will return to Audi Field for a rivalry match with the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday, August 21st

As always, Vamos United!

All images: Patrick Rouin // Twitter: @PR4_photography // IG: @pr4_photography

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @SarahKallassy

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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