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10-Man United hang on for 2-2 draw; take home 4th Carolina Challenge Cup

D.C. United survived a late push from the Seattle Sounders and hung on for a 2-2 draw, enough to see them through as winners of the Carolina Challenge Cup for the fourth time in five years.United needed only a draw to win the title due to goal differential through the first two matches.

Fabian Espindola’s 8th minute penalty staked United to the early lead before a blunder from United goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra leveled the match at 1-1 in the 24th minute. Both teams were playing at a very high un-preaseason like pace and United nearly reclaimed the lead in the 30th minute. Cristian Fernandez’ perfect cross from the left flank met the forehead of Davy Arnaud but his header from 10 yards out went well over the goal.

After the restart United jumped all over the Sounders and deservedly took the lead in the 55th minute when Perry Kitchen volleyed home an Espindola corner kick. United continued to pile on the pressure but Seattle soon got back into the match and in the 63rd minute  whenUnited-killer Marco Pappa leveled the match with a shot from his less preferred right foot inside the penalty area.

United had to hang on for the remaining 15 minutes of regulation after defender Cristian Fernandez was sent off for a rash tackle on Deandre Yedlin. Seattle poured forward and nearly got the game-winner in stoppage time when Andy Rose headed a cross towards the back post where Lamar Neagle somehow managed to miss the open goal from about 3 yards out.

United held on those last few minutes to take home their 4th title in 5 years. United won the tournament in consecutive years from 2010-2012 before deciding to play in Florida last preseason.

United had decided to rest both Eddie Johnson and Bill Hamid who were both carrying very minor injuries that will not keep them from the lineup next weekend.

United will open up their 2014 MLS season next week at home against the Columbus Crew at RFK Stadium at 7pm.

United concedes late equalizer in 1-1 draw with host Charleston Battery

D.C. United gave up a corner kick goal on the last touch of the match to settle for a 1-1 draw with the home standing Charleston Battery tonight at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, South Carolina

United will need to win outright on Saturday afternoon against the Seattle Sounders to take home the Carolina Challenge Cup for the fourth time. Davy Arnaud had given United the lead in the 72nd minute when he skimmed a header to the far post off a perfect bending cross from Luis Silva’s free kick. United seemed destined to double the lead and just four minutes later Eddie Johnson’s easier-to-miss-than-make goal somehow skied over the bar from just six yards out. Fabian Espindola followed up that disappointing effort with a blast that was well saved.

United were in total control of the match at this point after head coach Ben Olsen started the match with his full reserve squad. The reserves held the ball well enough but didn’t create many chances and Olsen had had enough and brought his starting team en masse into the match in the 70th minute, the lone exception being goalkeeper Joe Willis in for the usual Bill Hamid.

Unfortunately that decision would play a big part in allowing the over matched 3rd-division USL side back into the match. With literally the last kick of the match, Charleston swung in a corner that seemed to be poorly played by Willis and the game-tying goal came as a result. That goal was the first goal the starting unit for United had given up the entire preseason.

United will take on the Sounders on Saturday night at 5pm and let’s hope the stream will work for the entire game as it was constantly going out during the watching of this match (missed the game-tying goal scorer as a result).

United tops Houston 2-0 in Carolina Challenge Cup opener

D.C. United got their first win of the preseason tonight, a 2-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo in Charleston, South Carolina in the first game of the Carolina Challenge Cup. An own-goal in the 22nd minute and a Micheal Seaton goal in the 88th minute clinched the result for a United team desperate to score goals after going scoreless during their first three preseason matches in Bradenton, Florida just over a week ago.

Head coach Ben Olsen could care less how their first goal came about as the Black-and-Red gladly accepted their 22nd minute gift. Nick DeLeon, looking sharp and in much better condition than a year ago, was a handful for the Dynamo down the left flank in the first half. His cross into traffic deep in the penalty area was deflected off the head of Dynamo defender David Horst to give United their first goal and lead of the preseason.

United created a number of opportunities but could not capitalize on the lead for the remainder of the first half. Defensively there were a few nervy moments as United had to defend a number of corner kicks from one of MLS’ most potent dead-ball teams in the Dynamo. United came out of the half unscathed and in the Glass Hall Full category for United so far this preseason, the starters have yet to concede a goal.

After the break United continued their fine play and nearly scored to double the lead on a few occasions. United were most effective on the counter and in particular Fabian Espindola in combination with Eddie Johnson. The pair nearly combined for a few chances only to be snuffed out by the Dynamo defense. The best chance for the starting X1 for United in the second stanza came off the left-foot of Davy Arnaud but his shot was saved by Houston goalkeeper Tyler Deric.

Ben Olsen left his starters in the match until around the 75th minute when wholesale changes were made and United sealed the match in 88th minute with quick strike accuracy. Midfielder Jared Jeffrey spotted a run by Kyle Porter and his pass over the Dynamo defense was inch-perfect. Porter tried to slide the ball under the onrushing Deric who made the save. Seaton was quick to pounce on the rebound and after taking a touch, he slotted the ball between two Dynamo defenders into the empty net for the final nail in the coffin.

United will now face the host Charleston Battery on Wednesday evening at 7:30pm. The match will be streamed live on the team’s website at www.dcunited.com

 

 

United fortunate in 1-0 win over Chicago in Carolina Challenge Cup opener

The old adage “it’s better to be lucky than good” certainly played a major role in D.C. United’s 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire in the opening game of the Carolina Challenge Cup tonight in Charleston, South Carolina.  Hamdi Salihi’s 66th minute volley over Fire goalkeeper Jay Nolly was all United needed to start their defense of the Carolina Challenge Cup. United survived a dominant Chicago Fire first half that saw United goalkeeper Joe Willis save a 4th minute penalty kick from Mexican International Pavel Pardo. Willis, in place of first-team goalkeeper Bill Hamid who along with Perry Kitchen are away with the US U-23 team, also made a string of saves to keep the game scoreless at halftime.

United’s first 45 minutes barely produced anything offensively and was more about the number of giveaways that led to Fire counter attacks forcing saves from United’s backup keeper. After the break, United were fortunate once again not to go behind as Dominic Oduro’s 50th minute shot stung the crossbar and came down on the goal line but was ruled not over and the Black-and-Red survived to live another day. United eventually started to string some opportunities together behind the sharp individual play of Andy Najar who forced a close-range save from Nolly. Just a minute later Najar was menacing once again as his feed to Dwayne De Rosario forced a save and the rebound fell to Chris Pontius who’s shot was deflected out for a corner. On the ensuing corner, Ethan White got on the end of Najar’s service and his  20-yard volley just shaved the outside post.

Minutes later however United took the lead thanks to the efforts of their new Designated Player Salihi. Ethan White sent a ball over Chicago’s high defensive line and the Albanian striker timed his run perfectly. His angled volley from 15 yards stung the fingers of Nolly before settling into the far side of the goal. Salihi was starved of service for essentially the entire match with United’s midfield turning the ball over constantly, but Salihi at least initially proved his weight in gold by taking advantage of his only chance of the game.

United will now face the host Charleston Battery on Wednesday evening at 7:15pm at Blackbaud Stadium. The match will be streamed live on www.dcunited.com

 

United Notes

– With this being a preseason tournament, unlimited subs were used by both teams

– New players for United who made an impression were defender Emiliano Dudar, Brazilian trialist Guilherme, top draft pick Nick DeLeon and midfielder Lance Rozeboom, all second half substitutes

– Of the players who started, very shaky outings for midfielders Steven King, Marcelo Saragosa and right back Robbie Russell

 

United wins Carolina Challenge Cup with 2-2 draw with Toronto FC

Charlie Davies is congratulated by teammates Chris Pontius (13), Joseph Ngwenya (11), and Dax Macarthy(10) after scoring against TFC in the Carolina Challenge Cup. Photo Tony Quinn

United were out on the front foot early and should have led 1-0 in the third minute. Chris Pontius picked up a loose ball and sent Charlie Davies in on goal. Davies rounded goalkeeper Stephan Frei easily but retreating defender Nana Atta-Kora forced Davies into a rushed attempt at the open goal and it dribbled wide left of the goal. Davies didn’t have to wait long for redemption as he put United up 1-0 in the 12th minute. Pontius again got hold of a loose ball and sent Davies into the box on the right side. His 15-yard blast shot over the hand of Frei and just under the bar.

United continued their dominance but was falling prey to a number of counter attacks that was catching the United back line playing a bit too high. In the 19th minute they paid for their aggression as Dwayne DeRosario easily got behind defender Daniel Woolard and centered a ball that was initially bumbled by Toronto midfielder Gianluca Zavarise. As he was about to compose himself for a straight look on goal, United midfielder Dax McCarty clattered into the trialist and the referee correctly awarded TFC a penalty kick. Dwayne DeRosario easily beat Pat Onstad to level the match at 1-1.

Toronto was not done by any stretch and in the 28th minute a rookie mistake by defender Perry Kitchen gifted TFC the lead. Goalkeeper Stephan Frei sent a booming kick over the United back line, again playing too high, that Kitchen was in good position to clear. However, he hesitated in his clearance and allowed the veteran Brazilian striker Maicon Santos to muscle the rookie off the ball and clumsily slot the ball into the side netting.

United, trailing for the first time in the entire preseason, became a bit unraveled and their usual clean passing and switching of the ball became poor touches and rushed balls over the top. However, late in the first half  Toronto gave United a lifeline when trialist defender Mikael Yourassowsky picked up back-t0-back yellow cards and was sent off. Andy Najar easily beat the defender and was grabbed around the waist for the first yellow and two minutes later Chris Pontius pulled off the same move resulting in the same punishment and United was up a man for the remainder of the match.

Unlike Wednesday nights match against the Chicago Fire when United was one-man up in the first match also, United took advantage of the situation and created a number of opportunities to tie the match. Kurt Morsink’s 30-yard bomb was tipped over the bar by Frei in the 52nd minute and Joseph Ngwenya’s 8-yard header scorched just over the bar just a minute later. In the 62nd minute, United would finally cash in on their pressure with a well-worked goal against Toronto’s bunker defense. Branko Boskovic sent a diagonal ball from the left flank over the defense hitting Santino Quaranta in stride. The Baltimore native easily chested the ball down and got behind the defense. With Frei coming out to challenge Quaranta, a simple square pass to a wide-open Ngwenya was deposited in the net to draw the match level at 2-2. With the draw in hand, United played out the rest of the match with little threat from Toronto and claimed their second consecutive Carolina Challenge Cup.

Carolina Challenge Cup Wionners. Photo: Tony Quinn.

D.C. United players celebarte their second consecutive Carolina Challenge Cup at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, South Carolina. Photo: Tony Quinn.

United Notes

  • United’s starting X1 for this match seems to be an indicator of what coach Ben Olsen’s lineup might look like next weekend against Columbus – Onstad, Woolard, Kitchen, Jakovic, Zayner, McCarty (C), Boskovic, Pontius, Najar, Ngwenya and Charlie Davies
  • United made 8 changes at the start of the second half bringing on Quaranta, Brettschneider, Morsink, King, Korb, White, Bresesco and Burch. Barklage and Shanosky made late appearances with only Onstad playing the whole 90 minutes

DC Virtually Clinches Carolina Challenge Cup as TFC Sees Red

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.

Lineups:

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

DC Dreams of Collecting Carolina Challenge Cup

In their final few matches before the (god willing) MLS opener in ten days, DC United leads the CCC after knocking off defending Challenge Cup winners (oh, and MLS Cup winners too, BTW) Real Salt Lake last Saturday 2-1. Since TFC and Charleston played to a 0-0 tie, United has a two point edge over both those sides sharing second place after the first round. So, a DC victory over TFC would mean United virtually clinches the Cup likely only needing a tie at most in their last match.

After a somewhat less than expected pre-season overhaul, winning this title would certainly be a big boost to morale heading into a season where DC United desperately wants to get back into the MLS elite. But the title itself might come with an unexpected bit of magic in United’s favor if the amazing run of this Cup predicting MLS success continues.

Since the Charleston Battery started this charming competition back in 2005, the winner of the tournament has gone on to win either the MLS Cup or the Supporter’s Shield an incredible 5 out of 6 times. Only SJ in 2008 won the Cup, but failed to collect any MLS hardware that year.

Even finishing second in the tournament is a decent result for United, as DC finished in second place 3 straight times from 2004-6 and went on to win the MLS Cup in 2004 and a SS in 2006, only failing to collect a trophy in 2005. After a two year hiatus, DC returned to the CCC last year and finished third, then went on to a dismal season missing the playoffs altogether. Clearly, if history is any guide, the message about a good showing in these last two games is loud and clear.

Unfortunately, as much as I’d love to break this game down like I normally do, that’s impossible since it’s tough to guess who will actually play for either side. Still, there are some indications of form as United played TFC to a 0-0 draw a few weeks ago in Bradenton, and there’s even some recent news that may show that TFC could be wrenching through some ugly growing pains under their new taskmaster, Preki the pitiless.

Already having serious concerns about TFC’s lack of scoring, the long suffering Red Badgers got the news today that Preki banished lumbering Canadian forward Ali Gerba from Charleston for “time away from the team”. Now, this could mean Gerba has gotten himself outside of too many bowls of Chicken Captain and sweet teas and needs to jog back to the Canadian border to slim down, or just maybe Preki 2.0 has exiled another star player like he famously did with Guevara at Chivas.

Either way, it’s not promising news for TFC. Especially given the sour grapes Serioux has been strewing to the winds since being shipped to Houston for a bag of balls, as well as Preki’s well documented contentious coaching tenure at Chivas. So, it will be interesting to see how Chivas responds to this latest whiplash from their new coach.

Outside a spectacular result in Mexico, DC has not really been lighting up the scoreboard this pres-season, nor has TFC. Plus, Preki has shown he is a defense first type of coach who expects shutouts and superhuman efforts from his attackers to score without support, and Onalfo has made it clear DC’s leaky defenses are to be a thing of the past. So, goals will likely be at a premium in this one if the form book holds.

DC will also most likely be shuffling its lineup given this being the second of three games in seven days. Almost certainly, DC’s two aging Bolivians will be given the night off. Moreno who scored the two goals versus RSL will likely be replaced by Pontius who has yet to play in the tournament. It also seems pretty likely Julius James will play a longer stint for the aging Juan Manuel Pena who is on trial.

But, for the first time in quite a few years, DC is young enough and athletic enough that they could easily play most of the rest of their “starters” if they choose. Santino, Barklage, Castillo, Wallace, Jakovic, and McTavish shouldn’t be bothered a bit by this schedule should Onalfo want to see how ready his young core of players is for the rigors of the MLS season. Even Alsopp is considered a workhorse and shouldn’t be bothered a bit by the schedule.

However, with roster decisions to make, it seems much more likely that some trial players will be run out to see if they stick. Lawson Vaughn, Lyle Adams, Daniel Woolard, Barry Rice or maybe draft pick Jordan Graye could see time in the defense in this match. John DiRaimondo should play as he has to be on the bubble given his senior roster status, while other possibles are Boyzzz Khumalo and Ty Shipalane in midfield. It’ll be interesting to see how much Alsopp plays at forward too, if any.

So, it should be a pretty interesting match for a lot reasons, both for some hopeful players and for an even greater horde of hopeful fans. There hasn’t been very many reasons to really expect great things from the solid, but unspectacular collection of players DC is apparently going to start the season with. But, with the mystical Charleston Cup in their grasp, possibly predicting subsequent MLS glory heading into the season, maybe there’s reason to hope after all.

United Retains Coffee Pot Cup

DC United managed to avert a pre-season debacle by finishing up the Carolina Challenge Cup with a 2-0 win over host Charleston Battery and in the process retains the coveted Coffee Pot Cup.

After an uneventful and scoreless first half, United began to pull away behind a much more lively performance in the second half.

United’s first goal was the result of a lovely play by first year player, Ange N’Silu controlling a long ball and laying it off to Emilio who slotted it perfectly into side netting past the charging Charleston keeper for the 1-0 lead.

United put the game away as rookie Andrew Jacobson buried a long shot that deflected and skipped past the helpless Charleston keeper to pretty much seal the game for DC. Brandon Barklage also deserves a lot of credit for digging out a loose ball and making something out of nothing by slipping the ball across the area for Jacobson to fire away at goal.

With the win, United retains the Coffee Pot Cup, a private Cup between DC United and the host Charleston Battery. United also manages to avoid last place in the tournament with the win as the Battery end the tournament winless. Real Salt Lake won the tournament in the first match of the doubleheader by defeating Toronto FC 2-1.