Precious few TV viewers watched D.C. United lift its third Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup trophy Tuesday night in Sandy, Utah.

MLS Preview: D.C. United vs. Chicago Fire

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• All of D.C. United’s wins in the 2013 Major League Soccer season have come at home, against Real Salt Lake, the San Jose Earthquakes and Montreal Impact, as have 11 of its 17 all-time victories against Chicago.

• Chicago Fire leading scorer Mike Magee has only scored two goals at RFK Stadium in his career: in 2003 with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars and in 2011 with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

• D.C. has conceded 16 goals in the final half-hour of games this year, while Chicago has scored 14 in that time frame. However, the Fire has also given up 22 goals in the last 30 minutes of games in 2013.

Back to reality.

D.C. United hosts the Chicago Fire on Friday (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN or NBC Sports Live Extra) after its biggest victory of the season on Tuesday, which saw it win the Open Cup and its top-ranked 13th trophy in league history. Three days after being on top of the heap, United goes back to the bottom, nine points below any other team in the MLS standings.

United is in the midst of an eight-game winless streak in MLS play, although Chicago has only won once in its last six attempts. Despite its poor run of form, the Fire is still just two points adrift from the fifth-placed Philadelphia Union in the Eastern Conference, and only four points behind the Houston Dynamo in fourth.

This is the third and final meeting between the teams this season, with Chicago winning the previous two at Toyota Park by a combined 6-1 score. Going on the road will likely be a trickier proposition, though, as Chicago has a 2-8-4 record away from home.

Despite all of D.C.’s wins coming at home, RFK Stadium is hardly a fortress this season, with visiting teams managing eight wins and three ties.

What they’re saying

Chicago midfielder Jeff Larentowicz on D.C.’s likely confidence: “I think you have to just assume they’re going to be confident after winning the biggest game of the year. They have that taste for winning and feeling good again. Teams realize to feel that way, you have to win games, and they’ll probably want to do that again. That’s what our assumption has to be going into Friday.”

D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid on the U.S. Open Cup win in Salt Lake: “Now, we know that we can go into any environment and get a win. This is our first away win of the season except for Chicago in the Open Cup. Now we know, we have that belief, we have that faith in ourselves that we can go and get a result anywhere we want. As long as we believe and come with that mentality, we can do it.”


A good cup run can define a season, and D.C. will take its trophy as salvaging an otherwise dreary 2013 campaign. But its atrocious league form this year, regardless of positive Open Cup results midweek, point to only one possible outcome in this match. Chicago is still fighting for playoff relevance, while D.C.’s season effectively ended on Tuesday. The Fire should ease this one, even with its terrible road record.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.