D.C. United set to part ways with Dwayne De Rosario

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Dwayne De Rosario’s days in the nation’s capital are over. According to the Washington Post’s Steven Goff, the 2011 Major League Soccer Most Valuable Player cleaned out his locker on Wednesday, departing D.C. United shortly after the club informed him his 2014 contract option would not be picked up.

According to the Post, the club also has no intention of offering the 35-year-old a new deal at a lower salary, closing the door on the possibility of the former San Jose, Houston, Toronto and New York star returning at a reduced price. The most expensive player on D.C. United’s roster, De Rosario make $630,000 in 2013.

[MORE: Starting to clean up the roster mess at D.C. United]

Like the rest of his team, De Rosario struggled through a disappointing 2013 season, recording only three goals and two assists in 24 appearances (17 starts).  The Canadian international added five goals during D.C. United’s successful U.S. Open Cup run but wasn’t able to prevent his team from setting an MLS record for fewest wins in season (three).

From the Post:

Asked last week whether he would like to remain in Washington next year, De Rosario said he was excited about playing in the CONCACAF Champions League …. He also cited a desire to remain in the same city for the last segment of his career with his wife and four children.

United, though, had no intention of exercising the contract option. The big question was whether the club would offer a new deal at a considerably lower rate and, if so, whether he would accept both the smaller salary and a secondary role. Ultimately, United did not see him in its plans in any capacity and needed both the salary cap space and, according to one source, “the room for younger players to grow into bigger roles” next year.

Thus ends De Rosario’s two-plus year run in D.C., one that produced 23 goals in 68 appearances. In addition to his MVP award, “De Ro” won a Golden Boot and made a Best XI during his time with the black and red, having arrived from New York during the middle of the 2011 season.

[MORE: Unwanted recognition: D.C. United sets MLS record with three-win season]

Given his age, 2013 performance, and compensation, De Rosario’s future in Major League Soccer’s now particularly unclear. While any player let go by a club will have doubts about their future, De Rosario’s are more pronounced. Set to turn 36 early next season, De Rosario may not only have to accept a lower salary but potentially a diminished role. Though he was at the center of things for D.C. United, it’s unlikely another team will see him as a potential focal point.

You hate to get too speculative about these things, but was can all see where this is headed. Is De Rosario ready to switch cities, play for maybe one-fifth the money, and fight for a job with a new team? Or is it time for him to move on to the next phase of his life, contenting himself with his 103 career goals, 77 career assists, and four MLS Cup titles?

Only De Rosario knows how much he has left. D.C. United wasn’t willing to pay to find out.

Japan upsets ten-man Colombia in Group H opener

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On paper, the 61st-ranked team in the world beating the 16th-ranked team in the world is a massive upset. But considering the circumstances within the game, perhaps this wasn’t an upset after all.

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Two set pieces were the difference as Japan defeated ten-man Colombia, 2-1 on Tuesday morning in Saransk. Colombia played with ten men for nearly the entire match, after Carlos Sanchez was sent off for a handball in the box and a denial of a goal scoring opportunity.

The game took a massive turn in the third minute, as Colombia centerback Davinson Sanchez failed to control a pass and Yuya Osako found himself free on goal. His shot was parried away by Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina but Kagawa’s rebound shot was clearly blocked by Sanchez’s right arm. The referee, Damir Skomina immediately pointed to the penalty spot and went to the back pocket, sending Sanchez to the showers.

Kagawa stepped up and cooly sent Ospina the wrong way to put Japan on top.

Late in the first half, after both teams had chances on target, Colombia came back and evened the scoreline.

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Juan Fernando Quintero, starting in place of the recovering James Rodriguez, smartly took a free kick and fired it low, under the wall as it jumped. Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima reacted late and although he arrived as the ball was crossing the line, he couldn’t keep it from going over, tying the game in the 39th minute.

Ultimately, despite its efforts, Colombia began to tire and on a corner kick, the Blue Samurai took back the lead and control of their destiny in Group H. A corner kick from Keisuke Honda was re-directed past Ospina by Osako, who jumped well over Santiago Arias, to give Japan a 2-1 lead in the 75th minute.

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Rodriguez was introduced in the 57th minute but try as he did, Colombia was unable to find the final pass in the box, and Japan held on for the unexpected victory.

With the win, Japan top Group H ahead of a meeting with Senegal, while Colombia will have to regroup to face Poland.

In a World Cup full of unexpected results, Tuesday brought yet another memorable win for an underdog.

New Zealand women footballers rebel against national coach

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Wellington, New Zealand (AP) Only weeks after New Zealand Football made headlines by signing a revolutionary equal pay deal with its female players, the organization is facing a mutiny by members of its women’s team against the national coach.

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New Zealand Football confirmed on Tuesday it had received a letter signed by a number of New Zealand players complaining about the methods and tactics employed by Austria-born coach Andreas Heraf.

The complaints follow the New Zealand team’s recent 3-1 loss at home to Japan. Heraf angered his players, and fans of the Football Ferns national team, by taking an entirely defensive game plan into the rare home international.

Heraf then further angered his players with comments defending his approach.

He said there was “a big difference in quality” between the New Zealand and Japanese players and that New Zealand “will never have that quality” to compete with top teams like Japan. He said the scoreline might have been 8-0 if New Zealand had not adopted a defensive approach.

One of New Zealand’s leading players, United States-based Abby Erceg, retired after playing 132 matches for New Zealand, citing Heraf’s approach in previous international matches.

She later told New Zealand media: “I couldn’t stand to wear that (national symbol) on my chest any more when his vision was to cower in a corner and not get beat by too much.”

New Zealand Football defended Heraf against the media and public criticism but admitted his comments were “strange” and “wrong” and did not accurately reflect his views. Heraf later apologized and said he had not expressed himself clearly.

But efforts to dampen the controversy have failed. New Zealand Football said in a statement it had “received a letter from the NZ Professional Footballers Association (NZPFA) last night with a number of complaints from the players of the Football Ferns.”

The mutiny comes only weeks after New Zealand gained international headlines for a deal which gives female pay parity with their male counterparts.

New Zealand Football signed the deal which provided female players with equal match payments, travel arrangements and prize money.

At the time, New Zealand women’s captain Ali Riley said the deal meant New Zealand would “be able to compete against the top teams, to be able to do well at a World Cup and the Olympics – this is what we needed.”

VIDEO: Colombia sees red, Japan takes early lead

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The first red card of the World Cup came just moments after fans took their seats in Saransk.

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After David Ospina blocked a breakaway opportunity from Yuya Osako in the third minute of the match, Japan star and former Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa fired the rebound on goal. But his shot was blocked by the arm of Colombia midfielder Carlos Sanchez, which earned him a straight red card from referee Damir Skomina and an early trip to the locker room.

Kagawa then stepped up to the spot and calmly sent Ospina the wrong way to give Japan the shock early lead.

Colombia will play the rest of the match with ten men and no James Rodriguez, who was named to the bench for this match as he recovers from a reported calf injury.

Rodriguez out of Colombia starting XI

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Taking a page out of Egypt’s book, Colombia will be without its talismanic playmaker for its first match, Tuesday morning against Japan.

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Juan Fernando Quintero replaced James Rodriguez in Colombia’s starting Xi to take on Japan in Saransk as Colombia coach Jose Pekerman clearly hopes a few extra days of recovery for the injured Rodriguez will help him return to 100 percent fitness. Rodriguez is battling a reported calf injury.

Rodriguez scored six goals and had two assists in five games at the last World Cup in Brazil, helping guide Los Cafeteros to their first World Cup quarterfinals appearance.