The Bad Hombres FC – Episode 15: DCU News, Lavelle leaving? and CONCACAF

Featuring  José Umaña and Mario Amaya

Tune in for The Bad Hombres Podcast every week on Thursdays at 8 p.m. as soccer journalists José Umaña and Mario Amaya talk on the main topics dealing with D.C. United, Washington Spirit and any soccer news in the DMV.

The Bad Hombres FC – Episode 14: United, Spirit eliminated

Featuring  José Umaña and Mario Amaya

Tune in for The Bad Hombres Podcast every week on Thursdays at 8 p.m. as soccer journalists José Umaña and Mario Amaya talk on the main topics dealing with D.C. United, Washington Spirit and any soccer news in the DMV.

United out of MLS is Back Tournament after losing to Montreal

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor
Photo by Matthew Stith/Major League Soccer

WASHINGTON – From false-positive coronavirus tests and multiple schedule changes, D.C. United has gone through a roller-coaster experience during its trip to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, for the MLS is Back Tournament.

The off-the-field calamities did not add extra fuel to the Black-and-Red’s play once the group stage began. Despite all the negatives, United earned two draws, putting itself in a position to control its destiny. One win against the Montreal Impact Tuesday night separated United from a place in the knockout round.

Instead, United’s lack of attack stunned goal-scoring opportunities. An inadvertent deflection for the game’s only goal was enough to seal their fate as D.C. United lost to their Canadian opponents 1-0, knocking themselves out the tournament.

July 21, 2020: Montreal Impact defender Jorge Corrales gains possession of the ball away D.C. United’s Julian Gressel during an MLS is Back Tournament game in Orlando, Fl. (Xavier Dussaq/D.C. United)

D.C. (1-2-2) leaves Orlando with more questions than answers. It finished group play in last place with two points and no wins. With the group stage matches transferring over to their regular-season record, United ends their Walt Disney trip sitting in ninth place in the Eastern Conference.

Thoughts of the future were not immediately on the minds of head coach Ben Olsen and his players following the match. Even after only having three days off between games, Olsen said he did not think his players were overly fatigue heading to their match against Montreal (2-2-1).

“When you’re here, and you’re caught up in it, and you want to be in this tournament, and you want to advance to the group stage.” Olsen said. “You want your three points, and you want your points for the regular season, so we’re disappointed in both of those parts of today.”

“I think we felt pretty good actually,” defender Steve Birnbaum said. “You know everyone’s in the same boat. It’s no disadvantage to anyone. Obviously, it’s the way the tournament is set up, and it’s a little awkward for everyone.”

Three changes were made from United’s starting lineup that played against New England on Saturday. Peruvian midfielder Edison Flores was out due to a hamstring injury but Junior Moreno returned to start after serving a red-card suspension. Former University of Maryland star defender Chris Odoi-Atsem made his first start in over a year, replacing Oneil Fisher at left back. 

Early on, United fired multiple shots, including a right-footed attempt by Ulises Segura that flew over the crossbar. Other attempts were quickly stopped by the Impact defense.

In the 31st minute, Montreal’s Saphir Taider attempted a long-range shot, which bounced off defender Frederick Brillant and flew past a stretched-out Bill Hamid for the game’s only goal.

As the match continued, United struggled offensively. Despite having more shots (12-7) than Montreal, only three were on target. D.C. brought more firepower in second half with midfielders Federico Higuaín and Kevin Paredes and striker Ola Kamara entering the game. Their influence was limited and did not trouble goalkeeper Clément Diop.

“I felt like we were ready as a group today,” Birnbaum said. “We had good training before this, and we had a good game plan going into it, we just didn’t execute.”

The tournament was, Olsen said, a realization of the team’s lack of depth in talent and it will be important to add “a player or two” during the transfer window. However, when asked about the lack of team chemistry, Olsen shrugged the question off, repeating the word “no” multiple times.

United will take the next few days off after returning to D.C. and regroup for training next week. With the future of how the rest of the regular season’s schedule will look like going forward, United needs to be ready for the next challenge.

“We’ll wait for the league to see what’s next, whether it’s another tournament, whether it’s a league, Eastern/Western Conference setup, regional league games. I’m not exactly sure,” Olsen said. “But I know right now, we will get back, and we’ll get training and try to get better.”

The Sports Pulse’s Mario Amaya contributed to this story.

Higuaín’s second-half goal helps United earn 1-1 draw over New England

By Mario Amaya/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Photo by Xavi Dussaq/D.C. United

Federico Higuaín’s goal in the 72nd minute was enough to help D.C. United manage a 1-1 draw against the New England Revolution Friday night in Orlando, Florida, in Group C play in the MLS is Back Tournament.

United was down a goal once the veteran midfielder entered the game in the second half. It would only take three minutes for Higuaín to make an impact as he intercepted an attempted back pass from New England defender Antonio Delamea Mlinar to goalkeeper Matt Turner.

Higuaín took the ball and quickly connected a low strike past Turner to help United tie the game. Since joining the club in March, the 35-year-old has attempted to prove that he still can be a high-level contributor after suffering an ACL injury last year with the Columbus Crew SC.

In two tournament games, Higuaín has shown to be an asset for United off the bench, scoring twice in critical moments.

“This is probably the first time in his life that he has been considered a super sub,” Head coach Ben Olsen said. “He is a guy who is always the focal point of a team from the beginning, and you build around him, but that is the mindset he has and the attitude he has had since coming here, his willingness to do his best to the team.”

With the result, the Black-and-Red ends the second round of group matches in third place (two points) behind Toronto FC and New England (four points).

United made multiple changes from the starting 11 that played in their 2-2 draw against Toronto FC on Monday. Defender Oneil Fisher made his first start since Sept. 29, 2018, due to a year-and-a-half-long knee injury. Argentine Yamil Asad took Ulises Segura’s spot in the midfield.

Lastly, Erik Sorga, a 20-year-old striker from Estonia, made his first start for United after Ola Kamara sustained a quad injury. 

New England Revolution defender Antonio Delamea Mlinar (left) delivers a pass as D.C. United’s Ulises Segura (right) attempts a late challenge during a MLS is Back Tournament match on July 17. Photo by Matthew Stith/Major League Soccer

After a scoreless first half, New England would find the back of the net first. An attempted shot from midfielder Cristian Penilla rebounded off a United player and landed in front of Adam Buksa. The striker headed the ball over a diving Bill Hamid for a Revolution goal.

 “It’s frustrating going down 1-0 and having to fight from behind again,” United midfielder Russell Canouse said. “But there is a big belief in this team, a good mentality.”

United bounced back with Higuaín’s goal, putting themselves in position to advance with a win over Montreal Impact in their final group match on Tuesday, July 21, at 10:30 p.m.

“It’s good for us,” United captain Steve Birnbaum said. “Right now, we control our own destiny…We have to get something out of this game, and we know it.”

The Bad Hombres FC – Episode 13: United, Spirit game recaps

Featuring  José Umaña and Mario Amaya

Tune in for The Bad Hombres Podcast every week on Thursdays at 8 p.m. as soccer journalists José Umaña and Mario Amaya talk on the main topics dealing with D.C. United, Washington Spirit and any soccer news in the DMV.

Washington, D.C. launches bid for 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor 

WASHINGTON – Before a ball is kicked in the FIFA Men’s World Cup in 2022 in Qatar, Washington, D.C. formally announced its bid to host matches in the next edition of the tournament in 2026. 

The District will compete with 16 other cities vying for 10 spots to represent the United States as hosts for the 2026 World Cup.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said with all the problems the country is facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city’s bid’s announcement gives people something to look forward to in the future.  

“And when the tournament comes to North America, it only makes sense for D.C. — the Sports Capital and District of Champions — to host,” Bowser said. “We are already a city united by the game, and in 2026, we look forward to uniting the world.”

Events DC Spokesperson Ashley Forrester said FedExField, the home stadium for the NFL’s Washington Redskins, is the proposed venue for matches. 

The Landover, Maryland stadium hosted five games of the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup and arranged several high-profile friendlies featuring European and international teams. FedExField’s current capacity is listed at 82,000. 

The city’s proposal also features Audi Field, D.C. United’s new stadium, as one of World Cup teams’ training sites. Other practice locations include The Fields at RFK Campus, Trinity University and the Maryland SoccerPlex. 

D.C.’s RFK Stadium, which hosted soccer matches in the 1992 World Cup and the 1996 Olympics, was not a part of the bid as it is set to be demolished in 2021

In their announcement, the District boasts its experience in hosting events averaging over 20 million visitors a year. The city hopes its existing infrastructure of over 31,000 hotel rooms in the city, alternative transportation options (Metro bus and Rail), and access to three major international airports within an hour of the city’s center will help its chances in hosting tournament matches. 

Events DC Chairman Max Brown said the World Cup would serve as an “economic driver” for the city’s future with an estimated impact of $500 million and the creation of approximately 3,500 jobs.

The bid will face stiff challenges from other metropolitan areas, such as New York and Los Angeles, and local opposition as Baltimore is also in the running

The bid features four co-chairs with city ties, including Mark Ein, founder and CEO of Capital Investment Corporation and organizer of the Citi Open tennis tournament in Rock Creek Park. 

Other advisory board members include celebrity chef José Andrés, retired U.S. Women’s National Team goalkeeper, Brianna Scurry, D.C. United CEO Jason Levien and Washington Spirit midfielder Andi Sullivan. 

“I could not think of a more vibrant, inclusive, or passionate soccer city to host FIFA World Cup matches in 2026,” D.C. United goalkeeper and Bid Co-Chair Bill Hamid said. 

“With our deep soccer roots and diversity, the culture of our city gives us our foundation to successfully highlight the matches and leave a lasting impact on the future of the game.” 

D.C. United to face Eastern Conference foes in MLS is Back Tournament

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor

WASHINGTON – D.C. United will restart its season as part of a World Cup-style competition, titled the MLS is Back Tournament, as the sport returns to action following a break due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Black-and-Red will face off against last year’s MLS Cup finalist Toronto FC, Montreal Impact and New England Revolution.

The opening match of the tournament will pit host Orlando City FC against expansion side Inter Miami CF in Group A play on July 8. The rest of the schedule will be announced on a later date on the league’s website.

The MLS is Back Tournament features all 26 Major League Soccer teams playing games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

Games will be played every day, with kickoff times set at 9 a.m., 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., until the final on Aug. 11. ESPN, Fox Sports, and Univision will broadcast the tournament.

“We are pleased to team up with Disney to relaunch the 2020 MLS season and get back to playing soccer,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. “The opportunity to have all 26 clubs in a controlled environment enables us to help protect the health of our players, coaches, and staff as we return to play.”

With the tournament, MLS joins the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) to make soccer the first professional team sport to return to play in the United States since the start of the pandemic.

The top two teams in each group, along with the four best 3rd-place finishers, will move on to the knockout stage.

All group stage games will count toward the regular season, which will continue at each team’s home venues after the competition. The winning team of the MLS is Back Tournament will earn a spot into the next edition of the Concacaf Champions League, and their players receive bonuses as part of a $1.1 million prize pool.

All players will be tested for COVID-19 before and after flying to Florida on June 24. Teams and their representatives who travel to Orlando will be checked regularly, including the day before each match, league protocols said. 

For its part, D.C. United announced Saturday that one player tested positive for the coronavirus during a round of mandatory testing. The player is going through “appropriate isolation protocols” and was not in attendance during the club’s field painting event for Black Lives Matter last week, team officials said.

United has begun team workouts today (June 15), at Audi Field. Players must complete a physical and undergo additional coronavirus testing. The club said its training would follow a league-approved plan and follow city health policies. 

Regionwide restrictions forced United to hold off its individual exercises until May 29 at Segra Field in Leesburg, Virginia. Most MLS teams began single-player workouts in early May, advancing to small group sessions on May 28. The club finally returned to Audi Field for group workouts on June 4. 

Before the three-month break, United (1-1-0, 3 points) defeated Inter Miami 2-1 on March 7.  

The Bad Hombres FC – Episode Eight: D.C. United response to protests in Washington, D.C.

Featuring  José Umaña and Mario Amaya

Tune in for The Bad Hombres Podcast every week on Thursdays at 8 p.m. as soccer journalists José Umaña and Mario Amaya talk on the main topics dealing with D.C. United, Washington Spirit and any soccer news in the DMV.

The Bad Hombres FC Podcast – Episode seven: MLS Is Back!

Featuring  José Umaña and Mario Amaya

Tune in for The Bad Hombres Podcast every week on Thursdays at 8 p.m. as soccer journalists José Umaña and Mario Amaya talk on the main topics dealing with D.C. United, Washington Spirit and any soccer news in the DMV.

The Bad Hombres FC – Episode Six: NWSL IS BACK, Europe and Mexico’s response to COVID-19 and Higuain to DCU rumors

Featuring  José Umaña and Mario Amaya

Tune in for The Bad Hombres Podcast every week on Thursdays at 8 p.m. as soccer journalists José Umaña and Mario Amaya talk on the main topics dealing with D.C. United, Washington Spirit and any soccer news in the DMV.