First half goals from Maicon Santos and Ryan Richter and a late goal from Hamdi Salihi helped D.C. United to a comfortable 3-1 win tonight over the host Charleston Battery in their second match of the Carolina Challenge Cup. With the win tonight, United retains the Coffee Pot Cup in their annual competition with the Battery and also assured that only a draw will be needed on Saturday evening against the Columbus Crew for United to win their third consecutive Carolina Challenge Cup
Maicon Santos got the scoring started in the 13th minute as he was the benefactor of a great move in midfield from Branko Boskovic. The Montenegran midfielder easily sidestepped a pair of defenders and set Santos down the left flank. The striker drifted towards the box and unleashed his patented left-footed rocket past Battery goalkeeper Kevin Klasila for a 1-0 United lead. After the goal the hosts settled into the match and started taking the play to United and were rewarded with the equalizer in the 29th minute as United’s defense switched off momentarily. Trialist defender Jose Burciaga, Jr. got beat down the right flank by Battery midfielder Charlie Romero who raced to the end line and hit a picture perfect cross onto the head of Jose Cuevas who gave United goalkeeper Joe Willis no chance and drew the match level at 1-1
United didn’t sulk and reacted immediately as Burciaga, Jr. raced down his left flank and whipped in a cross that met the forehead of United trialist Ryan Richter and his bullet header gave United a 2-1 lead. Richter scored his second goal of the preseason and has gone a long way towards securing a valuable roster spot as his versatility has been on display throughout training camp.
After the break both teams made a number of substitutions that seemed to halt the match in its tracks. However, it picked up significantly in the 76th minute thanks to a vicious red card tackle from behind by Battery midfielder Mark Wiltsie on United midfielder Danny Cruz. Cruz lay on the ground for a few minutes before walking off with a noticeable limp as he was replaced by Daniel Woolard.
United didn’t take long to put the hammer down and finish off the match as Andy Najar took off on a nearly full-length of the pitch run towards the Battery’s end line. His give-and-go with Josh Wolff at the end line freed up the Honduran to square a ball to a wide open Hamdi Salihi to tap into the empty net for the final goal in United’s 3-1 win. Salihi has scored in both of his appearances in preseason so far and has lived up to the billing of his very high goal scoring rate in Europe.
United will now face the Columbus Crew with a chance to clinch the Cup on Saturday evening starting at 5pm . Thanks to Columbus’ draw with Charleston last Saturday and their 1-0 loss to Chicago earlier this evening, United only needs a draw to win the Carolina Challenge Cup. With head coach Ben Olsen essentially rotating his squad through the first two matches of this tournament, don’t be surprised if Olsen gives everyone in attendance a preview of his starting X1 for the home opener on March 10th at RFK Stadium.