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Wayne Rooney, a new home and renewed belief: inside D.C. United’s remarkable turnaround

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In 2017, D.C. United finished last in the Eastern Conference, seven points behind 10th-place Orlando City and a distant 18 points out of the playoffs. The team’s minus-29 goal differential led the league as United earned just 0.94 points per game.

It seemed to represent rock bottom for one of Major League Soccer’s founding franchises, but at the beginning of 2018, someone threw the club a shovel.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

Through the season’s first 17 games, United posted just three wins and five draws to go along with nine losses. Fourteen points from 17 games, or a dismal 0.82 points per game. Simply put, the team wasn’t good enough.4

“What was lacking throughout that was killer instinct,” head coach Ben Olsen told ESPN FC. “Seeing out games on the offensive end and in transition or being able to grind out the last 15 minutes of matches. Understanding the big moments of the game that mattered. We failed consistently in those moments.”

But the thing about digging yourself into a hole is that sometimes you can do something great with all that dirt. You can be building something, even if no one is watching. United were.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

“Even during that time when we were not getting the results that we wanted, we saw a lot of good, not only in the individuals we had on the team but also how we were playing and in our ability to manufacture goals,” Olsen said.

Center back Steven Birnbaum agreed with his manager. “Toward the end of our road stretch, there was a bit more confidence,” he said. “We started to jell. We had a lot of new players and it took time for us to get to know one another.”

Alex Cobb’s debut turns into disappointment (O’s lose 10-3)

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 14: Alex Cobb #17 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches during the first inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox on April 14, 2018 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) BOSTON, MA - APRIL 14: Alex Cobb #17 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches during the first inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox on April 14, 2018 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Alex Cobb can’t be judged on one start. Signing him as a free agent can’t be deemed a colossal failure after one inning. The same patience required to prepare him for today’s debut with the Orioles is needed to grade him.

He didn’t pass today. nfl jerseys from china There will be plenty of other tests.

The first four Red Sox batters reached against Cobb this afternoon and he allowed three runs and threw 28 pitches before retreating to the visiting dugout. The storms forecast for the next two days arrived early without the precipitation.

Cobb lasted only 3 2/3 innings and was charged with seven earned runs (eight total) and 10 hits while the Orioles fell behind the Red Sox 8-0 at Fenway Park.

Pedro álvarez’s two-run homer off Hector Velázquez with two outs in the fifth reduced the lead to 8-2.

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 14: Alex Cobb #17 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches during the first inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox on April 14, 2018 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

BOSTON, MA – APRIL 14: Alex Cobb #17 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches during the first inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox on April 14, 2018 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Hanley Ramirez and J.D. Martinez homered off Cobb, who allowed his most runs since giving up eight to the Astros over three innings on July 31, 2017 while pitching for the Rays. He made only seven more starts due to a toe injury that forced him on the disabled list.

The Orioles didn’t sign Cobb until March 21 and they chose a deliberate pace for his arrival, with simulated and extended spring training games sprinkled among bullpen sessions. They got him up to six innings and 93 pitches.

Getting him through the first today was a challenge.

Mookie Betts drew a six-pitch walk to lead off the inning and he scored official nfl jerseys cheap on Andrew Benintendi’s double off the Green Monster. Benintendi moved to third on Manny Machado’s error on the relay throw and he trotted home on Ramirez’s shot over the famed wall.

Martinez singled before Cobb finally registered his first outs of the day on a 4-3 double play grounder from Rafael Devers. Jackie Bradley Jr. singled to center field, a line drive up the middle that forced Cobb to duck while raising his glove, and Sandy Leon flied out on the next pitch.

With Blackhawks core fading, Alex DeBrincat, Nick Schmaltz & Co. need to step up

Chicago Blackhawks' Alex DeBrincat (12) celebrates with teammate Patrick Sharp after scoring against the Montreal Canadiens during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Montreal, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP) ORG XMIT: GMH103 Chicago Blackhawks' Alex DeBrincat (12) celebrates with teammate Patrick Sharp after scoring against the Montreal Canadiens during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Montreal, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP) ORG XMIT: GMH103

“I let him win,” the 29-year-old Kane joked. “I was playing with [Patrick Sharp] the past couple of games, so I passed it every time. I give [DeBrincat] credit. official nfl jerseys cheap He had a great season and did his job. And he should be proud of himself.”

Chicago Blackhawks' Alex DeBrincat (12) celebrates with teammate Patrick Sharp after scoring against the Montreal Canadiens during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Montreal, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP) ORG XMIT: GMH103

Chicago Blackhawks’ Alex DeBrincat (12) celebrates with teammate Patrick Sharp after scoring against the Montreal Canadiens during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Montreal, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP) ORG XMIT: GMH103

Indeed he should. DeBrincat’s 28 goals this season marked the first time a player other than a three-time Stanley Cup winner has led the Hawks in goals since the vaunted core became a thing in 2009-10. That’s a modest distinction in the worst Hawks season of the Joel Quenneville era, but still the first tangible sign that a new era beckons. It’s about time the next generation takes a bigger step toward leading the Hawks to their next serious Cup contention instead of playing a supporting role.

With the glorious core fading — only Patrick Kane had an in-his-prime season in 2017-18 — the Hawks still have hope that Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook can have rejuvenated seasons in 2018-19 and Corey Crawford returns in top form. But unless they’re chugging from the Fountain of Youth, it’ll be up to DeBrincat, Nick Schmaltz (21 goals, 52 points), Vinnie Hinostroza (seven goals, 25 points in 50 games) reebok nfl jerseys and other relative newcomers — including defensemen Connor Murphy, Jan Rutta, Erik Gustafsson and Jordan Oesterle — to take a giant leap toward leading roles on and off the ice. The Hawks no longer can afford to be a team with a veteran core supported by a group of deferential youngsters.

It will be a challenge, though. The leadership of the core group that became a hallmark of the three-Cup run is so strong that it can be an intimidating factor for the next group. When Toews became the third-youngest captain in NHL history at 20 in 2008, the longest-tenured Hawks were Jim Vandermeer (three-plus seasons) and Keith, Seabrook, Sharp and Rene Bourque (three seasons) — none of whom had won any Cups. Even with recent departures, players such as DeBrincat, Schmaltz and Hinostroza still are looking up at Keith, Seabrook, Toews, Kane and two-Cup winners Crawford and Brandon Saad.

“Those older guys you look up to so much,” Schmaltz said. “You don’t want to — I don’t want to say steal their show — but you respect those guys so much that they’ve done such a good job of leading and taking care of the young guys. But at a certain point, the younger guys coming up need to take a step in the leadership role. Whether it’s by leading with your play or saying a few things on the bench or in the locker room. As a young group, we can definitely step up and add some leadership.”

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