Once again it was Bolivian legend Jaime Moreno who was the difference as he scored a sublime goal in the 63rd minute for his third goal of the tournament. Having scored all DC’s goals, he has almost singlehandedly put DC United in position to win its first ever Carolina Challenge Cup in the team’s fifth attempt in this delightful little tournament hosted by the Charleston Battery.
The goal was a typical piece of Moreno magic as he collected a long diagonal from right back Julius James in the box and toyed with two or three defenders before freezing the keeper with a tantalizing shot placed elegantly into the back of the net. Making Stefan Frei merely the latest in a long line of MLS keepers left shaking their head ruefully at a perfectly placed shot that left them no chance to even reach for it.
The crucial goal came in the second half, but in many ways the match was decided in the first half as a very sloppy opening 45 for both teams reached a head in the 28th minute as TFC midfielder Amadou Sangyang wildly clattered studs up into United’s new striker Danny Alsopp, who understandably took exception to the unseemly advances made towards his shins. Leaping up, Alsopp was met with further unexpected abuse as he took a haymaker from Sangyang and was yellowed apparently for failing to get his face out of the way. Still, justice prevailed as Sangyang was tossed leaving TFC down to 10 for the final 60 minutes.
Unfortunately, that lively scrum was pretty much the most decisive action of an exceedingly shoddy first half. DC had a few half-hearted attempts at threatening TFC’s goal, but always the last pass or touch was a dismal failure. United’s closest attempts were a long hopeful shot by Alsopp and a corner kick to Cristman both hammered well over the bar.
TFC did manage some promising attacks mainly through direct passing right down the heart of DC’s defense that rattled DC a few times, but newly signed developmental player Lyle Adams cut out some dicey moments very well as did Barry Rice and Julius James with some timely saving tackles.
Still, with a slightly more slapdash DC failing to really threaten and allowing an almost equally careless TFC to stay in a the game, the Canadians nearly pulled off a killer goal in the 37th minute as former league MVP DeRosario slipped a lovely through ball to Ibrahim bursting through the middle behind DC’s mesmerized defense. But Perkins was off his line like a shot to snuff out the danger and keep DC’s fans from hitting the concessions a bit early.
However, in a nice change of pace, with the tournament right there for the taking, Onalfo went for the jugular in the second half inserting nearly his entire starting lineup and the game was essentially over as TFC never threatened again for the rest of the match.
Early in the second half, DC should have gotten a PK as a lovely ball sent in to Quaranta breaking into the box was simply slapped away by a dejected and soundly beaten Toronto trialist Zamperini. It seemed the infraction clearly took place inside the box, but ended up as a FK just outside the area that Castillo and Quaranta wasted spectacularly.
Sensing a clear weakness and going at it like a shark, Moreno sent another diagonal pass into the same area leading Boyzzz Khumalo into the area where he cut inside the hapless Zamperini for a leftie curler that Frei just managed to corral at the far post before it could be tapped in. So, Moreno apparently figured it was time to stop fooling around and decided the match himself with his sublime effort.
DC had plenty of chances to extend the lead, but woeful finishing by Quaranta particularly prevented a much more lopsided scoreline. Barklage sent Q perfectly in on goal only to see Tino’s shot/cross sail wide well out of the reach of the crashing Alsopp at the far post. At the death, Santino missed another sitter as again Castillo found Q busting in behind the inadequate Garcia, but Q hurried his shot well wide as Frei challenged well off his line.
So, for the first time ever DC United has the Carolina Challenge Cup well within its grasp. At least a tie in the Coffee Pot Cup match between DC and Charleston Saturday night clinches the CCC for United. But, DC could claim the title even with an unthinkable loss and would know that prior to the kickoff of their match with the Battery. Since RSL takes on TFC in the opening match of the doubleheader and the defending Cup champions are the only team that could possibly overtake DC for the title, an RSL loss or tie would clinch the title for DC regardless of its result with the Battery.
DCU: Perkins; Adams (Jakovic 45), James, Rice (Pena 45), Woolard (Graye 18 (Wallace 45); Shipalane (Castillo 45), DiRaimondo (Morsinck 45), Yates (Quaranta 45), Khumalo (Barklage 60); Cristman (Moreno 45), Allsopp
TFC starters: Frei; Harden, Cann, Zamperini, Attakora; Joseph, DeGuzman, Sanyang, Ibrahim; DeRosario, White