- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 27, 2009

D.C. United just passed the midway point of the season, making this a good time to look at some of the most intriguing moments so far.

The Eastern Conference leader has a bye week and returns to action Tuesday against the Ocean City Barons in Round 16 of the U.S. Open Cup at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds.

In the meantime, here are the highs and lows of a season in which half United’s games have ended in a tie, ownership has changed hands and the future of a soccer-only stadium for the club has become murkier than ever:

The rookie scores - Forward Chris Pontius introduced himself to MLS with a stunning goal in his debut in the season opener at the Los Angles Galaxy. With four goals and two assists, Pontius is a strong candidate for rookie of the year honors.

The collision - The season opener was bloody. With a 2-0 lead in the 75th minute, United was cruising to victory. Then, teammates Devon McTavish and Greg Janicki banged heads as they went for the ball, creating a blood-splattered scene that would make Quentin Tarantino proud. The Galaxy scored a goal while the pair received treatment and eventually tied the game.

The water bottle incident - Luciano Emilio let his frustration boil over after being substituted in a 2-0 win over the Red Bulls at RFK Stadium on June 4. As he took his seat on the bench, the Brazilian threw a water bottle holder onto the field, causing play to be stopped. He was red-carded and suspended for a game.

Olsen returns - Ben Olsen missed all but 15 minutes of last season because of an ankle injury, and he was sorely missed. Olsen returned this season, providing a big boost to morale. In his best performance, he scored a goal deep into injury time to seal a 1-1 tie with the New England Revolution in April, preserving United’s unbeaten record at home.

Wicks takes control - After rotating his three goalies, coach Tom Soehn finally settled on Josh Wicks as his starter. Wicks solidified his grip on the job when he earned his first career shutout in a scoreless tie with Real Salt Lake on May 23 at RFK, making eight saves. Three weeks later, he stopped a Brian McBride penalty kick to help United down the conference-leading Chicago Fire and take the top spot in the East.

The great escape - Trailing 2-1 in the last minute, United scored twice in a span of 1:44 to seize a victory at Giants Stadium in April. Strikes from Emilio and Pontius propelled United past the struggling Red Bulls 3-2.

The game that became an event - After Real Madrid signed Brazilian ace Kaka and Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo in the space of three days, United’s meeting with the club on Aug. 9 at FedEx Field suddenly took on a whole new meaning.

Mr. 100-100 - The league’s greatest player never stops making history. Jaime Moreno earned his 100th assist when he set up Olsen’s goal in the tie with the Revolution. With the assist, Moreno became the first MLS player to earn 100 goals and 100 assists. The Bolivian striker is the league’s all-time leading goal scorer, with 127.

Stadium blues - Talk about a slap in the face. Just two weeks after a lavish March function at National Harbor to kick off United’s bid to build a stadium in Prince George’s County, the county council voted unanimously to oppose a measure permitting negotiations for a stadium. A month later, United co-owner Victor McFarlane sold his stake in the club to Will Chang.

Taming the Red Bulls - The roller-coaster 5-3 win over the Red Bulls in the U.S. Open Cup at RFK on May 20 was a delight for any neutral fan but heartburn for the United coach. United led 4-1 at the break only to allow the Red Bulls to crawl back into the game.

Note - Michael Jackson, who died Thursday, had a connection to soccer. The “King of Pop” was the honorary director of Exeter City FC back in 2002 when his psychic celebrity pal, Uri Geller, became co-director of the English club. Jackson visited the team located in Exeter and gave a seven-minute speech to the fans.

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