DC United played much better but still fell 2-1 to Toronto FC in the Carolina Challenge Cup. United plays the Charleston Battery in the final match of the tournament Saturday night. While the Tournament is now impossible to win, the much more valuable Coffee Pot Cup is still on the line in that match.
Playing pretty much their best lineup, at least the best they had ambulatory, DC United fell behind 2-0 in the first half before making dramatic changes in the second half and nearly pulled off an improbable tie. Unfortunately, their nice comeback only pulled them to within one, as the potential tying goal was denied by the crossbar in the 90th minute.
Without Fred, Quaranta, Crayton, and Namoff, DC United trotted out three rookies and a player coming off nearly a year long concussion problem to fill out the rest of their otherwise first team lineup. United’s top three draft picks, Chris Pontius (left midfield), Rodney Wallace (left back), and Milos Kocic in goal all started the match, while third year utility player, Domenic Mediate filled in for Bryan Namoff at right back.
Still, the rest of United’s lineup was all money. Emilio, Moreno, Gomez, Olsen (a pleasant surprise), Simms, Janicki, and Jacovic are all expected to be in the opening day lineup for the Black and Red.
Unfortunately, Toronto, playing pretty much their best XI, was not impressed and essentially thrashed DC for most of the opening 45 minutes. Outside of a lone opportunistic play by Emilio to force a mistake in the Toronto penalty area, and scramble the ball across to Moreno with the goal mouth yawning, only to see Marvel Wynne bolt in to poke the ball away from a sure goal, Toronto owned the first half.
In a grim reminder of last season, Toronto seemed to spring Barrett behind DC’s defense almost at will. However, in a positive note, Barrett picked up right where he left off last year in the finishing department, and Milos Kocic made some very nice saves including one lovely reaction dive right out of Rimando’s highlight reel.
Still, it wasn’t enough as DC was on their heels and eventually caved in. After a failed clearance, the ball was knocked out to Toronto’s Dewayne DeRosario who set up Barrett for a header right out front that even he couldn’t miss, which put United down 1-0 in the 21st minute.
Toronto doubled the advantage in the 34th. Toronto winger Rohan Ricketts, who was mercilessly toying with United’s rookies down that left side, slid a lovely pass in to Guevara behind Greg Janicki, and the Honduran former league MVP dropped like a sack of dirt as soon as he felt the merest hot breath on his neck as Janicki tried to recover and he was awarded a penalty. DeRosario sent Kocic the wrong way and it was 2-0.
Still, down two was not as bad as it could have been, and DC re-grouped very nicely for the second half. Soehn virtually trotted out a whole new team and formation as he sent Moreno, Gomez, Simms, and Mediate to the bench for N’Silu, McTavish, Jacobson, Khumalo, and Burch respectively. With Wallace moving up to play the left wing, and McTavish, Jacobson, and Pontius playing centrally, the formation became more of a 3-5-2, or 3-4-3 depending on your point of view.
Either way it was a brilliant move as it negated Toronto’s midfield advantages and took advantage of the fact that Barrett was really a lone forward as Toronto’s Vitti was a non-factor, which meant Janicki playing the center of the three man backline could pretty much concentrate on one player.
United scored almost immediately, too. Three minutes after the half, Emilio sprung Khumalo romping down the right side behind Brennan, and as he drew the defense to him, Boyzzz fed a perfect pass to Pontius alone at the penalty spot. The rookie calmly chipped the charging keeper and halved the lead.
Khumalo was to remain a thorn down the right side, but United just could not break through for the equalizer. Pontius had a very nice shot slide over the bar, and McTavish whistled a shot wide, but that was it until a bolt out of the blue in the very end almost pulled off the tie for DC.
Francis Doe collected a ball just outside the Toronto area, beat a Toronto defender cleanly to the inside and stroked a shot that Sutton was barely able to swat at. Unfortunately, the ball clanged off the woodwork and Khumalo’s followup shot went well wide.
DC has never won the Carolina Challenge Cup, but has also never failed to win at least one match which puts even more emphasis on the final match of the tournament against the Battery. Look for a preview with some Coffee Pot Cup info as well tomorrow.
TFC – Chad Barrett (Dwayne De Rosario) 21
TFC – Dwayne De Rosario (penalty) 34
DCU – Chris Pontius (Boyzzz Khumalo, Luciano Emilio) 48
DCU: Milos Kocic; Domenic Mediate (Marc Burch 45), Greg Janicki, Dejan Jakovic, Rodney Wallace; Ben Olsen (Boyzzz Khumalo 45), Clyde Simms (Andrew Jacobson 45), Christian Gomez (Devon McTavish 45), Chris Pontius; Luciano Emilio (Francis Doe 62), Jaime Moreno (Ange N’Silu 45)
TFC: Greg Sutton; Marvell Wynne, Jim Brennan, Adrian Serioux, Kevin Harmse; Rohan Ricketts (Souleymane Mamam 76), Sam Cronin, Amado Guevara, Dwayne De Rosario; Chad Barrett (Danny Dichio 78), Pablo Vitti (Fuad Ibrahim 72)