D.C. 2, Seattle 1: How Long Before Davies Gets a USMNT Call-Up?

D.C. United striker Charlie Davies set up one goal and scored the other to lead his team to an important 2-1 win over Seattle last night at RFK Stadium.

The Black-and-Red were in desperate need of a solid performance after giving up four goals in each of their last two games, both (obv) losses.

They weren’t facing a cupcake, either, as Sounders FC came to the Beltway riding a six-game unbeaten streak.

After some shaky moments early on from their league-worst backline (16 goals in seven games entering last night), United settled down and delivered.

Josh Wolff scored in the 31st minute (from Davies) and Davies scored in the 52nd (from Wolff). Brad Evans scored from the spot for Seattle in the 71st minute, but the visitors could not find an equalizer.

Highlights and postmatch commentary here:

To our mind, Davies took a solid step last night toward returning to the U.S. national team fold.

He looked fast, sharp, and—as is stated repeatedly in the clips above—more prepared for the physical side of the game than he has looked yet during his comeback. He out-bodied the rugged Jhon (not a misprint) Kennedy Hurtado to win the ball on that first goal, and he held the ball up well under pressure on several occasions.

He also executed to perfection in the box, and continues to lead the league in scoring with six goals in eight games. If he keeps this up, look for him to be summoned to the U.S. team for the Gold Cup at the end of the month.

Other Things for D.C. Fans to Be Happy About:

Perry Kitchen can play. He’s extremely poised for a 19-year-old, and has great feet. He started the surge on the second goal, a nice buildup that went Kitchen to Najar to Wolff to Davies to the back of the net.

Andy Najar is coming on. Last year’s Rookie of the Year has struggled for playing time so far this season, but given a chance last night, he made the most of it. He hit the post after seemingly dribbling himself out of a chance, and he was involved in both DC goals, getting “hockey” assists on each.

Josh Wolff‘s performance was a mirror image of Davies’s. A goal and assist for both. Davies is now calling them the “Charlie and Wolffy Show.”

Bill Hamid ‘made himself big.’ Did they use that phrase enough in the video above? Sheesh, flog a dead horse, fellas. But Hamid did make himself big, both in his several fine saves, and with a confidence-building, clutch performance.

On the other hand…

Chris Pontius limped off with an injury in the 48th minute. The skillful attacker, who returned this season after having surgery on his hamstring, scored two goals against Toronto on April 16. We haven’t seen an injury report, but judging by the expression on his face, the news will not be good.

MLS Sees 60 Cards—Eight of them Red—In NHL-Style Week 4

After opening his column this morning with a nice account of how U.S.-based coaches Thomas Rongen, Bruce Arena, and Steve Nicol behaved like stand-up guys in the wake of recent losses, veteran Soccer America scribe Paul Gardner moves on to bemoan the “physical” style of MLS.

He writes that commissioner Don Garber’s preseason mandate for referees to protect skill players and encourage attacking soccer is not being adhered to:

“Even though I am in total agreement with what Garber is seeking–a more attack-oriented, goalscoring game–I remarked at the time that it would be difficult to get the referees to comply. And so far–17 games into the season–I’ve seen absolutely no convincing evidence of any change in referees’ attitudes.”

The odd thing about this—apart from it being entirely incorrect, down to the number of games played so far this season—is that Gardner clearly watched some MLS games this weekend.

From that experience, he should have noticed that referees have indeed changed their attitudes: Two weeks after issuing 40 cards in a weekend, they doled out 60 this time around, eight of them red.

They handed a penalty to D.C. striker Charlie Davies after he made a decisive move in the box and got a whisper of contact from L.A. defender Omar Gonzalez. They’re even dutifully using the spray paint to mark ten yards from the ball on free kicks, and making teams’ walls stay there, to the benefit of would-be goal-scorers. (They’re also the only refs—on the planet—currently using the spray paint, so far as we know.)

In short, they’re following Garber’s mandate pretty much to the letter. It’s the players who must now adjust to get the game closer to where the commish, and most fans, want it.

Click here to read our entire recap of a very edgy Week 4 in MLS.

Watching this Interview May Cause Dust Levels to Rise in Your Immediate Vicinity

New DC United striker Charlie Davies spoke to regional Washington network CSN following his sensational MLS debut on Saturday:

Davies entered the game in the 52nd minute and scored two goals to lead the Black-and-Red to a 3-1 win over Columbus in their home opener at RFK.

For a full recap of Major League Soccer’s opening weekend, check out our column over at the MLS site.

Preview: 2011 MLS Opening Weekend

The 16th season of Major League Soccer kicked off on Tuesday night, as the Los Angeles Galaxy clipped Seattle Sounders FC 1-0 on a rainy, chilly night in Seattle.

LA midfielder Juninho hit the winner, a knuckling 20-yard strike in the 58th minute that temporarily silenced the raucous sellout crowd at Qwest Field. (Complete highlights here.)

This weekend the rest of the league joins the party. There are eight games on Saturday, one on Sunday, and about 3,206 storylines as the league kicks off what should be its best season yet.

Let’s take a look at some of the juiciest matchups (home teams listed first; times EST):

Game Canada!

Matchup: Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs Toronto FC, Saturday, 6:30 TSN (Canada; also available on Direct Kick and Match Day Live)

Backstory: The Whitecaps are one of two expansion teams—the Portland Timbers are the other—that swell the league’s ranks to 18 this year. They will be a part of the MLS Cascadia rivalry with Seattle and Portland, but first, they host the Canada derby vs the revamped Reds.

While Vancouver is an expansion team, Toronto is practically one, having turned over most of their roster after failing to make the playoff for the fourth straight season last year.

Rivalry? For the past few years, Toronto, Vancouver and the Montreal Impact (who will join MLS next season) have been contesting the Nutralite Canadian Championship, the winner of which gets a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League. Now, they bring that tussle to MLS.

Key Players: Vancouver—D Jay DeMerit, US international; F Eric Hassli, French designated player. (No. 1 draft pick F Omar Salgado has not been cleared to play before he turns 18 in September.)

Toronto—MF Dwayne De Rosario, Canadian international and perennial MLS all-star; F Maicon Santos.

Atmosphere: Expect lots and lots of white at Empire Field.

“Char-Lee Day-Vees!”

Matchup: DC United vs Columbus Crew, Saturday, 7:30, Direct Kick, MatchDay Live

Backstory: Charlie Davies returns to Washington, the site of the horrific car accident that nearly killed him in October 2009. He’s made remarkable strides since then and has looked good in the preseason. His potential MLS debut on Saturday is the dramatic storyline of the new season.

Rivalry? They’re longtime Eastern Conference foes, and both teams are in the midst of major rebuilding projects, loaded with new faces.

Key Players: DC—F Davies, MF Dax McCarty; F Chris Pontius, back from injury; D Perry Kitchen, No. 3 overall draft pick who’s expected to start.

Columbus— F Andres Mendoza, newly minted designated player; F Jeff Cunningham, who enters the game one goal shy of the all-time MLS lead; and MFs Robbie Rogers and Eddie Gaven.

Atmosphere: DC has one of the worst facilities in the league (RFK Stadium)—but one of the best fan bases. You can bet they’ll be out in force for Davies.

Bullfight

Matchup: New York Red Bulls vs Seattle Sounders FC, Saturday 7:30, MSG, DK, MDL

Backstory: The Red Bulls are starting the season with marquee DP’s Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez, along with U.S internationals Juan Agudelo and Tim Ream, and the expectations are sky high. They have a stiff challenge in their opener, though, as reigning US Open Cup champs Seattle come to town, with high expectations of their own for 2011.

Rivalry? Believe it or not, Seattle fans make a good showing at Red Bull Arena, despite the continent separating the two teams.

Key Players: New York—F Henry, D Marquez; new Finnish signing MF/D Teemu Tainio; MF Joel Lindpere.

Seattle—F Fredy Montero, MF Osvaldo Alonso.

Atmosphere: Red Bull Arena is the best stadium in the league, and fans want a title this season.

Meet the Champs, Newbies

Matchup: Colorado Rapids vs Portland Timbers, Saturday, 9:00, Fox Soccer Channel

Backstory: The expansion Timbers will start former (and future?) U.S. international Kenny Cooper up top alongside superfast new signing Jorge Perlaza. Add recently acquired veteran midfielder Jack Jewsbury and former U.S. U-20 star Sal Zizzo, and Portland looks like a team that can compete. They’ll need to be, because they kick off their MLS experience against the defending champion Colorado Rapids. Only two expansion teams have won their first MLS games—Chicago (1998) and Seattle (2009). Both finished the season with winning records, and the Fire won the ’98 MLS Cup.

Rivalry? Not yet.

Key Players: Portland—the above-mentioned group, and goalkeeper Troy Perkins. (No. 2 draft pick F Darlington Nagbe is out after sports hernia surgery.)

Colorado—F Omar Cummings, F Conor Casey, MF Jeff Larentowicz, and new striker Caleb Folan.

Atmosphere: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park has always had a good, not great, environment. Look for that to improve with a defending champion now in the house.

Buck Shaw Showdown

Matchup: San Jose Earthquakes vs Real Salt Lake, Saturday, 10:30, DK, MDL

Backstory: San Jose, coming off a surprise run to the conference finals last year, meets a Real Salt Lake team fresh from an impressive win over Saprissa in the CONCACAF Champions League. Having played three meaningful games already, RSL is further ahead in terms of match fitness, but could they be ripe for a letdown after the pressure-filled CCL encounter? Also, can San Jose—and 2010 breakout star Chris Wondolowski—keep it going in 2011?

Rivalry? Salt Lake crushed the Quakes 3-0 in their season opener last year, a game from which San Jose midfielder Bobby Convey was pulled, calling it the most embarrassing experience of his professional career. The Quakes managed to right the ship, but you can be sure they want to avoid a similar start this year.

Key Players: San Jose—F Wondolowski, MF Convey, DF/MF Ramiro Corrales.

RSL—MFs Javier Morales, Kyle Beckerman, and Andy Williams; Fs Alvaro Saborio, Fabian Espindola.

Atmosphere: Quakes fans are encouraged by their team’s late run last season. They should fill the cozy confines of Buck Shaw.

The rest of the opening slate:

Houston vs Philadelphia, Saturday, 8:30 , DK, MDL. Dynamo Rookie F Will Bruin had a productive preseason. Will he get time up top alongside veteran Brian Ching? Philly could trot out former MLS Golden Boot winner F Carlos Ruiz.

FC Dallas vs Chicago, Saturday, 8:30, DK , MDL. Look for erstwhile winger Brek Shea to start at centerback for Dallas, which could also start recently signed 18-year-old Fabian Castillo to fill out its thin forward ranks.

Chivas USA vs Sporting Kansas City, 10:30, DK, MDL. Chivas tests its total-rebuild project after gutting its front office, coaching staff, and roster following last season. SKC will be without rising forward Teal Bunbury (dislocated elbow) but has bruising Kei Kamara and Mexican DP Omar Bravo to pick up the offensive slack.

Los Angeles vs New England, Sunday, 8:00, TeleFutura. The Galaxy will look to build on their impressive away win this past Tuesday, while New England wants to get off on the right foot after missing the playoffs last year.

Davies Has Goal, Assist as D.C. Routs Canada U-20s 5-1

Under normal circumstances, the lede (as opposed to lead; see here) for this game report would tout the hat-trick scored by United’s new striker Joseph Ngwenya, then move on to the three assists racked up by Montenegrin designated player Branko Boskovic.

But these are not normal circumstances. These are the days that D.C. is using to evaluate U.S. forward Charlie Davies as he continues his recovery from the Oct 2009 car crash that derailed his career and nearly took his life.

So we open with Davies’ goal and assist in the Black-and-Red’s romp over Canada’s U-20 national team—a performance that may have moved him one step closer to a one-year loan deal with D.C.

The ex-Boston College striker took a pass from Dax McCarty eight minutes into the game and cracked a shot on goal that was too hot for Canada keeper Robert Stillo to handle. The rebound made its way to Ngwenya, who buried his second of the game inside ten minutes.

Davies added one of his own in the 41st minute, collecting a through ball from Boskovic and finishing with authority past Stillo to give United a 4-0 advantage.

D.C. coach Ben Olsen made wholesale changes after the break, but Davies stayed on, eventually playing 74 minutes. United’s scheduled friendly against Florida International later that day was postponed.

Davies will meet with team doctors this week for a medical evaluation.

Highlights: Davies’ First Intrasquad Scrimmage with D.C.

U.S. striker Charlie Davies played all 60 minutes of D.C. United’s Red vs Black training-camp scrimmage today. He made a mark early, helping to set up the Red team’s first goal by pressuring keeper Steve Cronin into a poor clearance that Brandon Barklage pounded home for a 1-0 lead.

Davies later crossed nicely for Chinese international Yang Men, whose header was kept out by Cronin.

Highlights here:

After the session, D.C. coach Ben Olsen was predictably guarded regarding Davies, saying, “We need to see more. This was a good first day, but we will continue to look at [Davies] over the next week.”

United has two preseason friendlies scheduled for Monday. They’ll play the Canada U-20 national team in the morning, and Florida International University in the afternoon.

CD in DC: Davies talks to United Website

U.S. striker Charlie Davies spoke to the D.C. United website Thursday in advance of the first intrasquad scrimmage of his one-week trial with the Black-and-Red.

Among other topics, the former Boston College forward talks about the comfort level he feels with his new D.C. peers, several of whom he’s played with in U.S. national team camps—players such as Santino Quaranta, Dax McCarty, Josh Wolff and United coach Ben Olsen:

“I think I’m extremely lucky to come to a team like D.C. United where the guys are relatively young, and where everyone is part of a great group. Everyone has been really supportive of me coming here and working out with the team, so it’s been great. Just the confidence they are giving me already before I even get into a game situation has been unbelievable.”

Go give it a read, and check back this afternoon for a report on how Davies performed in his first practice game with D.C.