It’s no secret that Paul Arriola‘s star is on the rise. The talented midfielder is a regular starter for D.C. United and a member of the USMNT. In D.C. United’s season opener against Atlanta, Arriola’s early goal was critical to the Black-and-Red’s victory. Paul kindly took the time to discuss the match with me after D.C.’s win.
After a disappointing end to DC United’s preseason, the team, and Arriola especially, played with an incredible intensity during the match despite the tough opponent and weather conditions. I asked Arriola what clicked for D.C. United to give such a positive performance.
Paul said, “I think it’s a willingness. There were tough conditions. But, before the game, we said it wasn’t going to make a difference. We go out and its pouring rain and the fans want to be there but it’s so cold. You know, you go out there and your hands go numb. All of those things are just little things, but they can make or break you.”
Atlanta United was clearly not playing to their usual standard during the match. The team has experienced significant changes and challenges to include: a new coach in Frank de Boer, losing Miguel Almiron to Newcastle, and a punishing CCL schedule in addition to their MLS obligations. These were all positives for D.C. United on Sunday according to Paul.
Arriola said, “I think we got Atlanta at a great time after playing Thursday a tough game against the Costa Rican team, and then having to play this week coming up. For them I’m sure it was tough, when you are fatigued, it plays a role, being away plays a role in the MLS for some reason.”
Atlanta is the favorite of many pundits to do well this season and even have a chance at another MLS Cup Championship. However, D.C. United contained Atlanta from the first whistle, giving them very little opportunity to create chances on goal.
Paul said, D.C. United, “talked a lot leading into the game about how dangerous Atlanta could be…and how we could take care of that.” D.C. was able to translate this knowledge into a strategy to keep Atlanta at bay, “the most important thing we talked about is the best way to defend is to keep the ball, and we were able to do that. I think it was great to be able to get the goal for the team early before the first half ended.”
“Like I said, I think there is still a lot of work for us to still do, but you can’t ask for a better way to start the season,” Arriola said.
No, you certainly can’t ask for a better start. Happy 2019 season and as always…Vamos United!
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.
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.
MLS is back this weekend (finally!) and Black-and-Red fans are counting the hours until D.C. United take the pitch in their first match of the 2019 season. As D.C. prepares to face off against reigning MLS Cup Champions Atlanta United this Sunday, March 3rd, the question on everyone’s mind seems to be, is D.C. prepared to defend their fortress?
D.C. United’s final two preseason matches saw them fall first to Philadelphia Union and then to Montreal Impact. In the 2018 season, D.C. bested both teams to take the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference standings. While the losses were disheartening, we can’t place too much stock in preseason matches. D.C. United took advantage of the opportunity to try new combinations of players on the field and allow academy players pitch time.
The Black-and-Red has picked up quite a few notable players during this preseason that will add experience and a fresh dimension to the team’s lineup. Lucas Rodriguez (AM), Leonardo Jara (RB), Donovan Pines (CB), Akeem Ward (D), Earl Edwards Jr. (GK), Chris Seitz (GK), and Chris McCann (DM) are among the new signings. Chris McCann comes to D.C. United from Atlanta United, where he was part of the 2018 MLS Cup Championship team.
Most recently, D.C. welcomed Quincy Amarikwa on March 1st as a new forward in a last-minute addition to the team ahead of Sunday’s match. It is a relief to see another forward added to D.C.’s roster, as Captain Wayne Rooney was previously the sole striker for the team.
Captain Wayne Rooney reflected on the upcoming match against Atlanta saying, “it’ll be an important week, obviously. You know it’s going to be a tough game against Atlanta. So, we have to be ready for them coming here, and get off to a good start to the season.”
Although positive about 2019, Rooney acknowledges that the team has work to do. He said, “we can improve on many things… but I think we need to come with a focus, a desire, as I said the maturity, especially in games away from home, which could be vital to us come the end of the season.”
D.C. United Coach, Ben Olsen, stated, “we are a work in progress as with most teams. We might be a little bit further along at this point than we were last year. Just because of Wayne and Lucho’s relationship, Russell and Junior’s relationship…” Olsen acknowledged, “it’s a new season and a new journey.”
Will this be the year that the Black-and-Red make the journey to their fifth MLS Cup Championship? It all starts with D.C. United defending Audi Field on Sunday.
Fans were able to watch DC United take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies in Saturday’s friendly match via a live stream. However, it was not FloFC, DC’s new broadcast partner, that provided the stream, but rather the Rowdies via YouTube. Having the ability to see the Black and Red in a preseason game was a treat, given that there hasn’t been a solid plan in place for fans to view the matches.
DC won the match, 1-0, with a goal scored in the 34th minute by Paul Arriola (#7), avenging the elbow he took to the face in the 27th minute. Arriola, a fan favorite and member of the USMNT, took advantage of a well-placed ball by Luciano Acosta (#10) to score the deciding goal of the match. Captain Wayne Rooney (#9) scored the second in the 40th minute with a diving header. Unfortunately, Rooney’s goal was called offside after the referee went to VAR for review.
The match was physical for a friendly, with Acosta taking an early yellow card, and Arriola, Rooney, Leonardo Jara, and Akeem Ward all taking decent knocks throughout. Papé Diakité of the Tampa Bay Rowdies took a yellow card in the second half.
The Tampa Bay Rowdies substituted several trialists during the second half and their youthful energy made the game even more interesting to watch. One of the commentators said, “What I love, is that they are so young, they don’t realize they are playing against DC United.”
DC United made their own series of substitutions in the 77th minute, swapping out Earl Edwards Jr. for Bill Hamid, and sending in Jalen Robinson (#20) and Donovan Pines for Frédéric Brillant (#13) and Steven Birnbaum (#15). Arriola, Joseph Mora (#28), Júnior Moreno (#5), Zoltán Stieber (#18), and Rooney all left the field and were replaced by Shinya Kadono, a new Loudon United FC signing, and several DC United Academy players, including Griffin Yow and Bryang Kayo. Ulises Segura (#8) received the captain’s armband from Wayne Rooney (#9) to finish the match.
While this was certainly not DC United’s most technical or fast-paced match, it was a good opportunity for fans to see new talent take the field. We saw a nice save by Edwards and how Jara and Ward may fit in with the DC’s on-field dynamics. Above all though, fans were just happy to be able to watch a preseason DC United match.
DC United will face the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday, February 20th in their next preseason match.
To say that DC United has had an eventful preseason would be an understatement. Although the team bowed out of the 2018 season after a heartbreaking loss to the Columbus Crew in their first (and last) playoff game, the fact that DC made the playoffs at all is giving fans hope for 2019. As DC United reaches the halfway mark of MLS training camp, let’s recap some of the biggest news from the preseason.
Head Coach Ben Olsen Will Remain Through 2021
Head coach Ben Olsen is a fixture at DC United, where he spent his MLS career as a player. This preseason, DC signed Olsen to a multiyear contract extension that will endure until 2021. After Peter Vermes, Olsen is the longest tenured coach in MLS.
“I am thrilled that ownership has shown faith in the path my staff and I are taking with this extension. Our aim is to continue to put a team on the field that our fans and community will identify with and be proud of. The major goal, however, remains the same since the day I took the job and that’s to bring trophies back to D.C.” – Ben Olsen
DC United has made some very promising acquisitions during this preseason. Defender Leo Jara was secured on a season-long loan from Boca Juniors and midfielder Lucas Rodriguez will also come to the District on a year-long loan with the option for a permanent transfer from Club Estudiantes. Both Argentines have experience playing together and with DC United favorite Luciano Acosta, which bodes well for the squad’s on-field chemistry.
The FloSports Broadcast Deal
DC United’s supporters’ groups and fans have been vocal since the announcement of the team’s new broadcast deal with FloSports. The new deal will require a subscription in order to view all 21 regionally broadcast DC United games over the season. Games not regionally broadcast will require fans to have access to cable in order to watch. Although season ticket holders and supporters’ group members will receive a discount on the subscription service, the games are still behind a paywall and geofenced, causing many to argue that casual fans or prospective fans will be discouraged from watching. While the deal promises additional team content, fans remain skeptical.
Luciano Acosta [Almost] Signs with Paris Saint-Germain
DC United failed to strike a deal with Paris Saint-Germain as the final day of the transfer window passed, assuring that Luciano Acosta will remain in the District for the time being. The offer made by PSG is said to have been between $7 million and $8 million, but DC United deemed the offer too low for Acosta. Alongside Wayne Rooney, Acosta was part of a dynamic dyad that drove DC United toward their 2018 playoff spot. While the move to Europe would have given Acosta a significant pay raise, losing the Argentine midfielder would strike a significant blow to a team that many feel is just starting to come into its own again after many years of lackluster performance. Although the failed transfer was a blow to Acosta, his value has certainly increased.
The Saga of Yamil Asad
Preseason has been full of ‘will he or won’t he,’ in regard to charismatic Yamil Asad remaining at DC United. Asad spent the 2018 season on loan to DC United from the Argentine club, Velez Sarsfield. Asad had spent his whole professional career at Velez prior to moving to MLS in 2017 to play for Atlanta United. DC United fans spent much of this year’s preseason wondering if they will see Asad play for the Black and Red again. An interview with Radio Republica hasn’t given fans much hope. Asad said, “as of today my head is with Velez. I’ve decided to stay and hope to take advantage of this second chance.” It’s looking less and less likely that Asad, who scored the team’s first goal at Audi Field, will make a return.
Chris Odoi-Atsem is Cancer Free
In arguably the best news of the preseason, Chris Odoi-Atsem is cancer-free after a being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma last year. He has just completed his final treatment and his teammates are looking forward to welcoming him back. Hopefully, Odoi-Atsem will make an appearance soon by attending the second half of DC United’s MLS training camp beginning on February 13th.
Now, DC United fans will wait out the final three weeks until the Black and Red take the field against Atlanta United in their March 3rd home opener at Audi Field. After the dramatic comeback the club made during the 2018 season, it’s hard not to be optimistic about 2019. Will DC United make another run for the MLS Cup?
On Saturday Atlanta’s skies were grey and a chilly rain persistently pelted the city causing anyone in the streets to look for cover. It was not a beautiful day for a soccer match, but for Atlanta United and Portland Timbers supporters, the weather couldn’t dampen their enthusiasm.
The Timbers Army began their MLS Cup day by planting trees at the Morningside Nature Preserve before their afternoon tailgate. Atlanta United supporters’ groups, such as Resurgence, gathered in the Gulch, pushing their way under an overpass to avoid the rain while they waited to enter Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
73,019 fans. A record-breaking number, attended the 2018 MLS Cup, rocking the multi-use Mercedes-Benz Stadium with soccer fervor.
Before the match even began, the excitement inside the stadium was palpable and very, very, loud. It was definitely Atlanta United’s house, the crowd awash with black, red, and gold, broken only by the small contingent of the Timbers Army clad in forest green.
Tifo flags bearing Atlanta’s logo and statements such as, ‘bless your heart,’ waved amidst the ‘fireflies’ that lit the stands and conjured the image of a summer night in the heart of Georgia.
As the match began, the Portland Timbers hoped to recreate the magic of their 2015 MLS Cup victory over the Columbus Crew, while Atlanta United’s young team looked for a perfect end to their electrifying second season in MLS. The home team did not disappoint.
Early on in the match, it was clear that playing at home gave Atlanta a clear edge over the Timbers. Feeding off the energy coursing through their stadium, Atlanta continually denied Portland possession and chances on goal, keeping the pressure on during the first half.
Josef Martinez, the Venezuelan Striker who was named the 2018 MLS MVP, scored his 35th goal of the season in the 38th minute, putting Atlanta United ahead 1-0 right before halftime. Predictably, the fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium went wild. Martinez’s performance during the match would lead him to be named MLS Cup MVP by the end of the night.
Portland made several attempts on goal throughout the game; however, Atlanta United goalie Brad Guzan kept the sheet clean. In the 42nd minute, a particularly dangerous shot by Timber’s striker Jeremy Ebobisse looked like it would see the back of Atlanta United’s net and tie the match before halftime. Atlanta’s fans seemed to hold their collective breath as the ball soared toward Guzan. Not to be bested, Guzan made the difficult save, and the Timbers Army, cloistered on the 300 level of the stadium would have to continue to hope that Portland would make it on the board.
The Portland Timbers emerged from the locker room for the second half with a renewed sense of urgency. They began to place more pressure on Atlanta, but it would be for naught. In the 53rd minute, Franco Escobar made a second goal for Atlanta United, giving the team a comfortable lead, 2-0 over Portland.
Sebastian Blanco, Diego Valeri, Alvas Powell, and Dairon Asprilla all tried to fire shots at Atlanta’s Guzan in the second half but were unable to send the ball into the net. Diego Chara of the Timbers and Chris McCann of Atlanta United were both issued yellow cards toward the end of the second half, but neither Atlanta nor Portland scored again.
As the five minutes of stoppage time that referee Alan Kelly had added to the second half came to an end, the sense of anticipation and excitement in the stadium grew. When the clock hit 95 minutes, Atlanta, the city that hadn’t claimed a sports championship in over 20 years, had won the MLS Cup.
In the post-game press conference, Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese was predictably solemn, he said that both teams had put up, “a good fight.” He expressed his frustration with the officiating of the game and stressed that “for this final, for a final so important… I expected more. And I think, sometimes the little things are very important.” Savarese stressed that he did not wish to detract from the great performance of Atlanta United with his statement.
Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino, Atlanta United head coach, was of course jubilant. Doused in champagne after the traditional toast in the locker room, he stated that, “the club never modified their plan,” that was established in 2016 when he came on board as head coach. Martino said that “the most satisfying thing was to be able to fulfill all the plans the club presented to me at the beginning. I think we’ve got the best training facilities in the league, we’ve got the best team in the league… they give the coaching staff absolutely everything they need to be successful, and that’s what makes it the most satisfying.”
While some may say that the stars aligned this season for Atlanta’s win, it seems rather that they positioned their own stars, aligning them through careful investment in the team, the facilities, and the staff. Both the Portland Timbers and Atlanta United played terrific soccer in the MLS Cup and their supporters should be proud, but Atlanta United proved a point on Saturday night about the future of American soccer; we will get out of it what we put in.
Soccer has the power to transcend differences and create a vibrant community. This is just one of many reasons I am a DC United fan.
The DC Metro area is one of the most diverse in the nation, with 29% of residents speaking a language that is not English. We come from all over the country and the world to work and live here. Some of us were born and raised here.None of that matters when DC United takes the pitch though. Our differences fall away as we enter the stadium, where we are only soccer fans.
When I first moved to the DC area, I had just finished my time on active duty in the Marine Corps. I was searching for work and adjusting to my new life outside of the military when I found DC United. I had always loved soccer and played avidly growing up. As I got older, I enjoyed connecting with friends over matches. It was refreshing to take time out of a busy day to sit together and share our thoughts, often loudly, about a game.
Watching DC United’s games, either on tv or in person, helped me to find a new sense of home in the DC area and gave me something positive to look forward to on a regular basis. Work and school took me away from the District for a few years, but since returning, the community around DC United feels as vibrant and welcoming as it ever did before I left.
I was fortunate enough to attend DC United’s final match at RFK Stadium. I remember seeing a middle-aged, hijabi, mom, who was attending the game with her teenage son, start the wave. She was met with nothing but enthusiasm as she got up on her feet to support our team. Of course, we all followed suit.
This moment stands out so clearly in my mind from that day. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t tell you who scored or who made the best plays in the game. But I remember the feeling I had when I saw the way fans were interacting with each other that day, brought together by a mutual love of the Black and Red.
In July of 2018, United moved to their new home at Audi Field, a beautiful, state-of-the-art stadium at Buzzard Point. While the venue is different, the overwhelmingly positive sense of community that was built at RFK has stayed the same. The fanbase is still incredibly diverse, inclusivity is key to events the club holds, and everyone is always welcome.
For me, whether at RFK or Audi Field, when DC United is playing, I know I’m home.