Ben Olsen

Disappointment can’t overshadow season of improvement for D.C. United


One year ago, D.C. United were watching the MLS playoffs from home after finishing seven points out of the playoffs. Burdening with one of the worst defenses in Major League Soccer, Ben Olsen’s club was dragging to seventh in the East, a -3 goal difference unable to compensate for their 52 goals allowed. For the RFK faithful, it was another disappointing season and another year removed from the franchise’s glory days.

It’s a testament D.C.’s 2012 accomplishment that the dour mood that surrounded the franchise is now a memory. No more talk of fading legacies. No delicate thoughts of the Bruce Arena years. This season, Olsen kept D.C. in a playoff race since March. Thanks to a late season run to second in the East, La Barra Brava had reason to believe their team a contender.

And ultimately, that belief was rewarded. Though Houston’s 4-2 aggregate victory in the Eastern Conference final left little doubt who should represent the East in the MLS Cup Final, D.C.’s presence in the conversation spoke to all the improvements the team’s made since last year:

  • A year of health from Chris Pontius plus the addition of rookie Nick DeLeon helped D.C.’s attack take a step forward, the team’s 53 goals scored ranking fourth in MLS. A near-full season of Dwayne De Rosario helped;
  • Perry Kitchen, moved back into midfield for his second MLS season, provided cover for the back line;
  • Brandon McDonald and Dejan Jakovic helped the defense shave nine goals off 2011’s total;
  • As did improvement in goal from the still-improving Bill Hamid.

But as Houston made apparent over the last week, there’s only so much progress you can make in 12 months. Over the course of 180 minutes, D.C. United — playing essentially a 4-5-1 formation that helped protect a still vulnerable defense — was a better set up to take advantage of opponent mistakes than create opportunities of their own.

It’s a formula that’s rarely going to beat a Dominic Kinear-led team. Without De Rosario and Pontius (who only played 12 minutes in the series), United was left reliant on lapses like the one that led to Branko Boskovic’s second leg goal. There were never going to be enough. Without a threat up top or any push from their two-man shield, D.C. wasn’t going to keep up with a in-form Dynamo.

But in light of how far D.C.’s come in 2012, it was too much to ask them to keep pace. Houston was a finalist last year and have since added Boniek Garcia, Ricardo Clark, and Mac Kandji (while losing Geoff Cameron). They’re better positioned to claim 2012’s title than 2011’s. It would have been an amazing accomplishment if Olsen found a way past Kinnear’s team. That he didn’t shouldn’t diminish how far D.C.’s come.

If that’s doesn’t serve as a silver lining for United fans, consider the improvements the team’s likely to see next season. Bill Hamid will be a year older and, presumably, a year better. Same can be said for Andy Najar (suspended for the final series), Kitchen, and DeLeon. If they make the playoffs again in 2013, D.C. can expect better health from their two main goal scoring threats: Pontius and De Rosario. Ben Olsen, having proved himself one of the league’s promising young coaches, will build on this season’s experience.

Positives are always elusive in the minutes after a season’s extinguished, but when D.C. and their fans are ready to move on, they’ll be able to reflect on their most successful season since claiming 2007’s Supporters’ Shield.

And the 2013 season is only four months away.

ProSoccerTalk will keep up the discussion of the chase for MLS Cup through the Dec. 1 final.

Brazil names squad to face trauma and Messi in WC qualifiers

BRASILIA, BRAZIL - JUNE 23: (L-R) Willian, Neymar and David Luiz of Brazil react after defeating Cameroon 4-1 during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Cameroon and Brazil at Estadio Nacional on June 23, 2014 in Brasilia, Brazil.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Brazil not only faces Argentina in World Cup qualifying next month but also the ghost of the 7-1 debacle against Germany in the 2014 World Cup semifinals, coach Tite said on Friday.

Brazil plays Lionel Messi’s side in the same Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte on Nov. 10. Five days later, Brazil is in Peru.

[ MORE: Neymar signs new deal ]

“The psychological work has been perfectly placed. We have to see that two years have passed. That time has brought us maturity,” Tite said at his squad announcement. “It is the same stadium, but we have to know that this is a different moment.”

There were few changes to the squad, which features the return of Bayern Munich winger Douglas Costa and Real Madrid defender Marcelo after injuries, and the absence of Chelsea midfielder Oscar.

Tite started out with convincing victories against Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, and Venezuela, which lifted Brazil from sixth position in South American qualifying to first. But his dream of coaching the five-time world champion will seem more real, he said, when they meet fifth-place Argentina and Messi.

“I am living a dream that every Brazilian coach has. To be in a Brazil v Argentina is a great honor,” he said. “To face Messi and all his virtues is such a challenge.”


Goalkeepers: Alisson (Roma), Weverton (Atletico Paranaense), Alex Muralha (Flamengo).

Defenders: Dani Alves (Juventus), Fagner (Corinthians), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Miranda (Inter Milan), Gil (Shandong Luneng), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain), Rodrigo Caio (Sao Paulo).

Midfielders: Casemiro (Real Madrid), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Giuliano (Zenit St. Petersburg), Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan), Paulinho (Guangzhou Evergrande), Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool), Lucas Lima (Santos), Willian (Chelsea).

Forwards: Douglas Costa (Bayern Munich), Gabriel Jesus (Palmeiras), Neymar (Barcelona), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool).

MLS weekend preview: Four playoff spots, Supporters’ Shield on the line

SANDY, UT - MARCH 12: Jordan Morris #13 of the Seattle Sounders FC and Chris Wingert #16 of Real Salt Lake try for the ball in the first half at Rio Tinto Stadium on March 12, 2016 in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
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First and foremost, for the unclear, our own Andy Edwards has put together a complete list of possibilities for MLS teams on Sunday’s final match day.

Read that here.

There will be a quick turnaround in on-field fortunes for some of Sunday’s competitors, and a nightmare of logistics for those remaining.

[ MORE: CONCACAF Champions League quarters set ]

As of right now, only three teams know their next match after Sunday; The Red Bulls, Colorado, and FC Dallas will get a full week to plan for whoever wins the knockout round matches.

The West remarkably still has three playoff spots on the line amongst four combatants. The remaining Western playoff team, LA, only knows that it will be home for one of the those four.

Over in the East, Philadelphia is likely to claim the final playoff spot barring a wild loss and a wild win for New England. But both Toronto and NYC are still up for first round byes, with the loser hosting a knockout game. DC and Montreal could still host knockout games as well.

It’s going to be a fun Sunday for the league, as every game has at least one opponent who needs a result. The marquee matches see a Cascadia Cup deciding match between Portland and Vancouver, a potential playoff decider between Seattle and RSL, and a tone-setter between LA and still Supporters’ Shield seeking FC Dallas.

Toronto FC vs. Chicago Fire
Vancouver vs. Portland
LA Galaxy vs. FC Dallas
Orlando City vs. DC United
Sporting KC vs. San Jose
New York City vs. Columbus
Seattle vs. Real Salt Lake
Colorado vs. Houston
Philadelphia vs. New York Red Bulls
New England vs. Montreal

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks: Score predictions for all 10 games

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Christian Benteke of Crystal Palace celebrates scoring his sides third goal with his team mates during the Premier League match between Sunderland and Crystal Palace at the Stadium of Light on September 24, 2016 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
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Week 9 of the 2016-17 Premier League season is here.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Click play on the videos below to hear my score prediction and preview of each game.

[ VIDEOS: Preview all 10 games ]

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


West Ham 2-0 Sunderland – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Arsenal 3-0 Middlesbrough – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Hull City 1-3 Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Swansea 2-0 Watford – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]


Chelsea 1-1 Manchester United – (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Burnley 1-2 Everton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Manchester City 2-1 Southampton – (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Liverpool 3-2 West Brom – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]


Leicester City 1-2 Crystal Palace – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Bournemouth 1-1 Tottenham – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Premier League preview: Bournemouth vs. Tottenham Hotspur (video)

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  • Spurs won both matches in 15-16
  • Cherries unbeaten in three overall
  • Spurs 2W-2D on road this season

Tottenham’s treatment of new boys Bournemouth was downright disrespectful last season, and the improved Cherries would love a measure of payback (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports).

Spurs handled Bournemouth 3-0 at home last season after belting the Cherries 5-1 at Vitality Stadium in October.

[ MORE: USWNT’s Holiday has tumor removed ]

Almost exactly one year later, Bournemouth sits 11th with 11 points and is closer to the top of the table than the bottom.

Meanwhile, Spurs are again in a title race despite the continued absence of striker Harry Kane, who is back training but won’t be available for Saturday’s contest.

What they’re saying

Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe on facing Tottenham“I think we’re better prepared for these kind of games. We’re more hardened to Premier League football and our belief and confidence levels are better than what they previously were, but we have to prove it on the pitch. It’s going to be a real test for us. They have an outstanding manager who in my opinion is up there with the very best. The intensity at which his sides play makes them difficult opponents. They are general title contenders.”

Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino on Vincent Janssen“Always we need to give time. He’s young, he’s come in from the Netherlands and always the players that come from outside need time. He’s a striker that brings to the team different characteristics but I am happy with his behavior, his professionalism and how he is playing.”


It’ll be far from easy, and Howe certainly has a motivated team in form. Spurs’ quality will be on display as well, and both managers like to see their teams play free. Call it 2-2.