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Najar wonder goal in extra time sends United to U.S. Open Cup round of 16

Andy Najar's brilliant individual move and strike in the 107th minute was the game-winner for D.C. United. United will now move into the 3rd round of the U.S. Open Cup tournament. Photo: Martin Fernandez.Andy Najar’s brilliant individual move and strike (right) in the 107th minute was the game-winner for D.C. United. United will now move into the 3rd round of the U.S. Open Cup tournament. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

On an evening where the play on the field mirrored the hot and humid conditions in regards to sloppy and lackluster play, it was the brilliance of 17-year old Andy Najar that was the difference maker in United’s 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake tonight at RFK Stadium.  Najar, on the field for only two minutes, beat both Collen Warner and Will Johnson on a one-v-one cut back and push through move and slotted the ball underneath the onrushing RSL goalkeeper Kyle Renish to send United to the round of 16 in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. This match was the last of the MLS preliminary matches that decided the final two MLS teams to join the tournament.

United and RSL both fielded mainly reserves as only Stephen King and Jordan Graye started and played the full 120 minutes. RSL had only starters Nat Borchers, Robbie Russell and Will Johnson on the field as well to start the match. The jumbled lineups produced very little quality soccer in the first 45 minutes and and only Boyzzz Khumalo’s breakaway miss in the 31st minute was the only real threat of the half. Khumalo was sent through by Jaime Moreno and he sent his shot wide left of the goal to the disappointment of the 3,074 fans in attendance.

The second half wasn’t much better but the game finally kicked into gear in the 75th minute when United was awarded a penalty kick. Jordan Graye sped down the left flank and forced a nice kick save from Renish. The ball popped straight up in the air and Santino Quaranta was just about to connect with his bicycle attempt when Collen Warner inexplicably batted the ball away. Luciano Emilio stepped up and finished into the corner and United had the 1-0 lead. That didn’t last very long as RSL was awarded a penalty of their own just six minutes later. United defender Barry Rice was adjudged to have handled a Fabian Espindola cross and Will Johnson converted the spot kick to level the match at 1-1 and send it into extra time.
Both teams looked more lively in extra time, mainly thanks to the 4th substitution rule instituted for this competition. United used theirs to great advantage as Najar was United’s last sub coming on for Khumalo to start the second extra time session. From there it only took two minutes for the Honduran youngster to place his name into United lore with his brilliant move and strike. Even though United had the lead and RSL was demoralized, the job was not done and in fact Barry Rice saved the result when he cleared a ball off the goal line in the 112th minute when Will Johnson beat Troy Perkins to a ball and at a bad angle headed it towards goal. Rice used his quickness and athleticism to throw himself towards the goal and drive the ball away just as it was about to cross goal line.

United now will face this same RSL team in league play on Saturday evening at 7:30 pm at RFK Stadium. United will need three points from this match as they face a daunting four game road trip starting in Seattle next Thursday evening.

United Notes

  • Defender Julius James was red carded on the last play of the match for violent conduct in a collision with Espindola. Didn’t seem to be much about the play, but kudos to Espindola for essentially buying the card with his play acting
  • Jaime Moreno got the start up top with Emilio and was mostly ineffective for his 63 minutes on the field. Same for Christian Castillo who continues to struggle for the Black-and-Red
  • Carey Talley, Danny Allsopp and Rodney Wallace did not even dress for the match. Juan Manuel Pena, Bill Hamid and Clyde Simms were all unused subs

United stuns AC Milan 3-2

Chris Pontius had a goal and an assist in the first half to help United to a 3-2 win over Italian giants AC Milan last night before 30, 367 fans at RFK Stadium. Luciano Emilio and Danny Allsopp also scored to stake the Black-and-Red to a 3-0 lead early in the second half only to see the Rossoneri stage a frantic comeback that came up just short. In a season that has quickly become forgetful for many reasons, last night at RFK was 90 minutes of pure happiness for the suffering fans of United. Off to the worst start in franchise history, United could almost be forgiven for their early season foibles with their performance last night.

Luciano Emilio celebrates

Luciano Emilio got the scoring started in the 20th minute as he stabbed in a perfectly headed crossing pass from Pontius to send RFK into delirium. Then Pontius and Allsopp added one each before the Italian side mounted a late come-back. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

Luciano Emilio (left) got the scoring started in the 20th minute as he stabbed in a perfectly headed crossing pass from Pontius to send RFK into delirium. The play started when Clyde Simms got hold of a Milan clearance and shuttled the ball to Stephen King, making his first start for United since being acquired a month ago. King sent a ball diagonally to the far post where Pontius and Carey Talley were bearing down on goal. Pontius called off Talley and headed the ball across the face of goal where Emilio beat the defender to the ball and poked it in the net for his first goal with United since his return a month ago.

United weren’t finished and doubled their lead in the 30th minute. Santino Quaranta’s corner kick was headed in by Pontius and many around RFK were wondering what was going on considering United’s dearth of goals through nine MLS matches. How could they put two past AC Milan when they couldn’t be bothered to score against MLS competition? United made their way to halftime with a 2-0 lead only with a great save from Rodney Wallace in stoppage time. Ronaldinho had broken free into the penalty area and sent a deft touch past goalkeeper Bill Hamid only to see the speedy second-year man from the University of Maryland sweep the ball away just before it was about to carom in off the goalpost.

After the intermission, United made numerous changes to their lineup (unlimited subs were allowed) which would affect the outcome of the match. The visitors nearly halved the lead when Ronaldinho’s 53rd minute bicycle kick hit the right post and nearly brought RFK down to the ground had the ball gone in. United regrouped and found themselves recipients of some good fortune when an AC Milan defender’s weak back pass to goalkeeper Christian Abbital was pressured by Danny Allsopp. Allsopp’s hustle forced Abbital into a panicked clearance and the ball ricocheted off the left heel of Allsopp and into the goal for a 3-0 lead.

The match seemed to be well in hand for United until the 66th minute when Brandon Barklage went down with an apparent ACL injury to his left knee. Since Barklage was United’s last player on the bench, the home side was forced to play the remainder of the match with ten men. Just four minutes later AC Milan got on the board when defender Massimo Oddo converted a penalty kick after a United player was whistled for a handball when sliding down on the ground in an attempt to block a cross. In the 74th minute Oddo scored again with a 30 yard missile that seemed to go right under substitute goalkeeper Troy Perkins.

At this point no one in their right minds could have foreseen United holding off attack after attack from Milan but they did so as Perkins made a number of saves and substitute defenders Julius James, Barry Rice and Devon McTavish shut down all of the visitors remaining efforts and United was left with an historic win over a fabled European soccer giant.

United will now turn their attention back to MLS play when they host Chivas USA on Saturday night at 7:30 at RFK Stadium.

United Notes

  • Barry Rice made his United debut tonight as a halftime sub and did rather well in central defense
  • Jaime Moreno was seen in the tunnels of RFK after the match sporting a rather noticeable limp. It seemed to be a groin problem. I highly doubt he will be available for Chivas USA based on what was seen
  • Adam Cristman was the only healthy roster player not to appear tonight. He wasn’t even on the bench and team officials had no comment on why he was not available
  • Poor Brandon Barklage. It seems his season will be cut short again with another ACL injury, this time to his other knee
  • Santino Quaranta made his first appearance since contracting a nasty MRSA infection

Muito Obrigado Luciano…

Today we learned that Luciano Emilio will not be back for the 2010 MLS Season. United and “Lucigol” have parted ways. In his three years with United Luciano managed to score some beauties. IN the good and the bad the Brazilian striker managed to still be a fan favorite. From his singing days with Bobby to the disappointment of last season. Here’s a sampling of images from Luciano’s three years with United. Photos: Martin Fernandez.

[slidepress gallery=’luciano-emilio’]

El DC United no pudo fuera de su casa cayó ante el Real Salt Lake 2-1

No fue para menos y se dió la lógica que el fútbol casi no tiene. Real Salt Lake es uno de los equipos que a pesar que es novicio en la MLS (apenas va por su quinta temporada) camina con ritmo ganador y no ha podido ser superado en su casa, el flamante estadio Rio Tinto, en sus dos presentaciones. Esta vez batió al DC United Washingtoniano remontando marcador.

RSL con el DC United capitalino repitió el plato, lo derrotó por 2-1 con dos furibundos goles y de sabor latino. El colombiano Jamison Olave y el argentino Javier Morales, fueron los verdugos del Monarca de Lago Salado.

Un golazo de este último que casi cayéndose sobre la media luna de la zona defensiva rojinegra consiguió el tanto que de pasada lo han considerado nominado como el gol de la semana.

Fue un partido intenso donde incluso las aguilas rojas capitalinas sorprendieron a los dueños de casa adelatándose en el marcador a los 36’ con gol de su artillero Luciano Emilio quien parece estar retornando por lo suyo…los goles.

Pero la alegría le duró muy poco al DC United porque los Monarcas se apearon con todo y en apenas dos minutos igualaron el marcador con golazo de Olave.

Luego RSL se apoderó del partido y a ritmo candente tuvo todas a su favor ante un United que retrocedió sus filas ante el acoso del RSL resultando mortal ya que faltando 10’ para el final Morales selló la victoria para los dueños de casa y algarabía de los más de 11,000 espectadores que llegaron al moderno estadio Rio Tinto.

En panorama general el RSL fue más agresivo que el DC United que intentó manejar el partido a velocidad media.

RSL fue más global en su accionar partiendo desde el fondo para en bloque intentar inflar las redes rojinegras con disparos desde todo ángulo donde Clint Mathis y Will Johnson fueron los más incisivos en la ofensiva de los Monarcas.

Igualmente el fornido ariete Robbie Findley fue intenso en su ataque. Findley venia de anotar un ‘Hat Trick’ en la fecha anterior cuando pulverizaron al poderoso campeón Columbus Crew quienes aún contando con toda su artillería liderada por el argentino Barros Schelotto, nada pudieron hacer para deterner la furia de los Monarcas en su casa.

Aqui cabe destacar la buena actuación del portero capitalino Louis Crayton que tuvo la tarde a su favor.

DC United hizo un partido meritorio ya que Christian Gómez, su mediocampista estelar, cuando se desenganchaba inquietaba y tuvo a mal traer al portero (ex-United) Nick Rimando muy atento a los disparos de media distancia de Gómez.

Chris Pontius igualmente dio trabajo a la defensa roja de RSL de hecho fue el servidor del gol rojinegro. Chris perfilado por el lateral, en jugada individual a la altura de la zona roja de los Monarcas, puso bola aérea a Emilio que en toque de cabeza al poste izquierdo infló sin problemas la red de RSL ante mala ubicación de Rimando.

RSL se volcó a fondo e hizo suyo el partido desde los dos minutos siguientes en que emparejó el marcador para irse empatados a los vestuarios.

Reiniciadas las acciones al DC United se la acabaron las iniciativas copados por RSL. Primero fue un disparo a quemaropa de Kyle Beckerman que salvó el travezaño tras estar Clayton totalmente vencido.

DC United en la segunda etapa tuvo a su mediocamista el argentino Gómez sin la puntería necesaria para intentar el balance.

A Christian le pusieron marca férrea y zonal que lograron anularlo y por ende la maquinaria capitalina quedó desconectada.

RSL dió rienda suelta a su imaginación tras colapsar el mediocampo rojinegro. Findley, -en la postrimería del partido-, enganchado por izquierda tocó largo desde el lateral sobre Javier Morales, que rondaba la media luna de las 18 aguilucha, que no dudó en disparar rasante para sellar la victoria de los Monarcas de Lago Salado.

Estadísticas del Partido

D.C. United (1-1-2) vs. Real Salt Lake (2-1-0
11 de abril de 2009 — Rio Tinto Stadium

Goles:
DC — Luciano Emilio 3 (Chris Pontius 1, Fred 1) 38
RSL — Jamison Olave 1 (Will Johnson 1,Findley 1) 40
RSL — Javier Morales 1 (Findley 2, Kyle Beckerman 1) 80

Alineaciones:

D.C. United — Louis Crayton, Bryan Namoff, Dejan Jakovic, Marc Burch, Fred (Devon McTavish 69), Christian Gomez (Francis Doe 76), Andrew Jacobson, Clyde Simms, Rodney Wallace (Santino Quaranta 82), Chris Pontius, Luciano Emilio.

Real Salt Lake — Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran (Raphael Cox 59), Nat Borchers, Jamison Olave, Chris Wingert, Clint Mathis (Ned Grabavoy 74), Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Will Johnson, Robbie Findley (Andy Williams 89), Yura Movsisyan.

Amonestaciones:

RSL — Javier Morales (amarilla) 15
RSL — Chris Wingert (amarilla) 25
RSL — Nat Borchers (amarilla) 35
DC — Christian Gomez (amarilla) 39
DC — Marc Burch (amarilla) 75
DC — Devon McTavish (amarilla) 91+

Árbitro: Kevin Stott
Asistentes: Philippe Briere; Peter Balciunas
Cuarto oficial: Tyler Ploeger

Chicago Fire saca empate a un DC United washingtoniano todavía tibio

La escuadra “Roja” del Chicago Fire sacó un honroso empate -a un gol-, ante el DC United capitalino en partido disputado en el RFK Stadium, en lo que fue el encuentro inaugural del equipo washingtoniano y dentro de la segunda jornada de la MLS estadounidense .

Fue en el marco de una noche de llovizna persistente con asistencia de unos 15,000 aficionados. Una cifra interesante y superior a lo que se registró en el partido inaugural del 2008.

El brasileño Luciano Emilio anotó al minuto siete por el equipo capitalino, con potente tiro desde la banda izquierda al primer poste del arquero Jon Busch, quien no pudo controlar el balón que iba al ras del suelo y terminó incrustándose en el fondo de las redes.

DC United fue más poductivo y balanceado en la primera parte del partido e hizo suyos los primeros 45′. La oncena rojinegra fue más compacta en el medio sector donde se destacó el accionar de su mediocampista estelar el argentino Christian “Gomito” Gómez recuperado desde las filas del Colorado Rapids donde jugó la temporada 2008.

Por Gómez pasaban todas pelotas que en toque raudo y con precisión se apoderó del medio sector del coloso de Anacostia.

Gómez tuvo como contraparte a un efectivo Ben Olsen que para bienes mostró total recuperación de su seria lesión que lo tuvo alejado de las canchas virtualmente toda la temporada 2008.

Hasta allí las mejores noticias para el DC United que por lo mostrado, al margen de la eficacia de su artillero Luciano Emilio, realmente proyectó una carencia que le puede resultar mortal si es que intenta acariciar nuevamente la Copa emelesera.

DC United no tiene el hombre gol efectivo. Luciano sigue en recuperación de su efectividad, de pronto por su lesión que no le permite el apretón final para el martillazo certero.
Preocupantre porque no se ve en la banca la opción de artillero que necesita DC United aunque una buena opción la vimos en Chris Pontius en el partido frente a LA Galaxy con un golazo de pintura.

De allí paremos de contar, el ‘Tico’ Rodney Wallace tiene movilidad y tiene ritmo para desarrollar con efectividad, esperemos que su acoplamiento se dé pronto para proyectarse mejor en la ofensiva y permita al DC United contar con una opción positiva si quiere seguir sumando.

Por lo demás, el partido se trabajó en el medio campo y ambos conjuntos fabricaron opciones que realmente nunca prosperaron para romper las redes contrarias, el más solicitado fue el portero Jon Busch, quien tuvo un par de atajadas oportunas.

En el segundo tiempo se tornó trabado y con acciones que lindaban guerra más que fútbol. DC United se enredó en su parsimonia y el Fire ordenó mejor sus filas.

Una asistencia del colombiano Wilman Conde al ghanés Patrick Nyarko que sacó un disparo de pierna derecha rasante al centro desde el lado derecho del área, estableció el empate al los 53′.

Fire barajó las revoluciones y el partido se tornó calmo bajando la intensidad de las hostilidades, aunque el técnico Denis Hamlett hizo cambios al meter al mexicano Cuauhtémoc Blanco para buscar abrir la delantera a 20 minutos del final, Blanco sencillamenete no apareció repartiéndose los puntos ambas escuadras.

Estadísticas del Partido:

Chicago Fire (1-0-1) vs. D.C. United (0-0-2)
Locación: RFK Stadium de Washington DC

Goles:
DC — Luciano Emilio 1 (unassisted) 7
CHI — Patrick Nyarko 1 (Marco Pappa 1) 53

Alineaciones:

Chicago Fire — Jon Busch, Tim Ward, C.J. Brown (Dasan Robinson 14), Wilman Conde, Daniel Woolard, Marco Pappa (Cuauhtemoc Blanco 70), Logan Pause, John Thorrington, Justin Mapp (Chris Rolfe 80), Brian McBride, Patrick Nyarko,

D.C. United — Josh Wicks, Bryan Namoff, Dejan Jakovic, Marc Burch, Chris Pontius, Christian Gomez (Brandon Barklage 86), Ben Olsen, Clyde Simms, Rodney Wallace, Luciano Emilio, Jaime Moreno (Francis Doe 65),

Árbitro central: Mark Geiger
Assistentes: Thomas Supple; Bill Dittmar
4to official: Andrew Chapin
Tiempo de juego: 1:50
Asistencia: 15,895 espectadores
Clima: Nublado, 51 grados F

Galería

[sspdc album=48 style=matrix]

DC United: “This is Your Team!”

With Hoosiers on my mind (Thanks a lot Mike Wise, you catch that Wake game BTW?), I can’t help but think of that gym scene from the movie when the school is chanting “We want Jimmy!”, until Coach Dale silences them with that emphatic remark I used in my title. I can envision DC United’s Brainstaff pointing at the competent, but possibly underwhelming group they have assembled this off-season and saying the same thing to some skeptical fans after last season’s debacle.

Anyway, with the signing of Dejan Jakovic over the weekend along with yesterday as the first roster compliance day, it appears DC United is filled out to the gills, bar that one last lonely bottom slot that isn’t likely to play much if at all. So, let the games begin in deciding if DC United has what it takes to win another Cup or two with their off-season moves this time around.

Now, every pre-season is full of the usual glass half full or half empty, but what I will try to do avoid my usual homerism and actually analyze United’s roster in comparison with notable rosters of last year’s elite teams just to see how it stacks up and let the cards fall where they may.

Now, given the complexity of task and the ideas rampaging through my mind right now as well as my typical long-windedness in conjunction with being pressed for time this week, I think this will break down into a few articles over the next few days starting today with just the forwards.

So, to begin with let’s see what United has signed to date at forward: Luciano Emilio, Jaime Moreno, Francis Doe, Ange N’Silu, Boyzzz Khumalo, Chris Pontius.

This is as classy as it gets in MLS, bar none, especially if you throw in Quaranta as he’s really a better forward than the midfield he may be forced to play. Moreno and Emilio are both former league MVPs (and are re-united with another MVP in Gomez, but more on that later) and flat out proved they can make a difference in this league on a regular basis.

Sure, point out Jaime is old and Emilio is Mr. Summer, but the fact remains these guys have put up equal or better numbers than any other forward pairing in MLS the past two years. Emilio has scored 31 goals since he came here for 2007 (only Angel has had more with 33 over that span) and Jaime has had 17 goals (10 last year) the past two years. That’s 48 goals over two seasons for those of you keeping score at home.

Those numbers easily trounce the likes of the highest scoring forwards on the best teams the past few years. The Crew with Alejandro Moreno and Schelotto have only notched 28 goals the past two years, Houston with Ching and Jaqua/Ngwenya only 31, NE with Twellman and Cristman/Noonan 37 goals. In fact, only Donovan and Buddle have tied United’s pair with 48 goals the past two years (35 of them last year), while Angel and Altidore/Magee have managed 47 (most of them in 2007). Chivas with Razov and Galindo/Alecko, Dallas with Cooper and Cunningham/Ruiz, and RSL with Movsisyan and Brown/Findley, etc. don’t even come close these type numbers.

Bottom line is that Emilio is in the prime of his career and should still hang good numbers, certainly at least in the teens in goals. Moreno is a bit riskier, but does anyone seriously think he can’t steal 6 or 7 goals even if he doesn’t manage his usual 9 or 10? The fact he had 10 last year on a struggling team shows he should still be a force throughout this year barring injuries. And injuries are a crap shoot anyway. Twellman and Angel have both missed more games than Moreno the past two years, but no one is questioning their production as much as Moreno is seemingly always perceived as one step away from his rocking chair.

Even if either Emilio or Moreno is forced out for a long spell, DC still has some very decent options with Doe, Khumalo, Pontius, or even Quaranta. Few teams have a third or fourth forward that really makes a huge contribution. Doe and Khumalo had 3 in essentially half a season last year. The Crew got 7 from Lenhart and Garey, Houston 5 from DeRo and Kamara, NE 7 from Dube and Mansally. So, DC is still well in the mix especially if the reports out of pre-season camp that Doe and Pontius are both playing very impressive continues to play out into the season.

In fact, DC does have some extremely promising backups at forward overall. Doe has steadily progressed from a bull in a china shop to a pretty heady fast and powerful forward with a good sense for the goal. Khumalo is a nice addition of speed and skill dead set on running at and around defenders. The Congolese Frenchman N’Silu is a wild card right now, but certainly looks intriguing, while Pontius is considered the best non generation Adidas forward from the draft as well as a guy who has been lighting up camp.

Now as for the downsides. It is true Emilio has not started or finished seasons very well. He’s nuclear hot in the summer, but not so much in the early days or more importantly in the money games. However, his first year, he had the adjustment to MLS which is always hard and in his second, he had a bit of a contract controversy that may well have preyed on his mind and his off-season conditioning. None of those are a factor now starting this season. In fact, well paid and used to MLS, he’s reported to have come into camp raring to go and looking sharp. All reasons to think he will start a bit stronger than usual.

As for finishing seasons badly, Emilio has been hideously overused the past two years given the staggering amount of big games DC has played the past two years and has been seriously banged up come playoff time. One good thing about United’s collapse last year is that this season will be starkly streamlined and focused on MLS success as CONCACAF might only be a two game distraction, so Emilio should be well rested and healthy come crunch time this year.

Now for all you Jaime doubters out there, I will just say that while it is possible he gets hurt or drops like an anchor into old age, it is far more likely he continues in his usual role as most feared opponent in the league. Donovan is fast, Angel is deadly, etc. but Jaime can embarrass a defender out of his shorts with almost criminal ease. He hasn’t relied on physical skills since he blew past Agoos in a friendly in RFK in 1996. He has the skill and knowledge to glide past younger players like they were anchored to the ground and there is no question in my mind he still has at least one more year before the defenders in this league manage to combine enough athleticism and brainpower to negate his advantage.

Besides there’s questions about every forward in the league. Angel’s back, Twellman’s recklessness, Ching’s disappearing acts, Donovan’s consistency, etc. If any of those players hit a bad patch, their teams are toast. That’s the nature of MLS. So, if you’re expecting the worst from DC’s forwards and not from everyone else’s than obviously the glass is half empty. But, it seems far more likely DC has one of the better forward pairings in the league.

Even if the bottom falls out, there’s still reason to hope. Doe could be another Dube or Mansally, Khumalo another Ngwenya or Kandji, Pontius could be another Movsisyan in effectiveness and has already been compared to a young Pat Noonan by none other than DC general manager Kevin Payne. N’Silu could be the kind of lightning in a bottle player that befuddles MLS defenses into apoplexy, you never know. But, clearly these guys are no worse than anyone else in the league is trotting out on opening day at any rate.

So, there you have it. DC made few changes to their forward ranks, but also didn’t really need to except to add talent for the future which they did. Tomorrow we’ll look at the changes to DC’s midfield and see how well they might mesh with the forwards as well as the offense overall, then the fat will really hit the fire as we take a gander at what was done to shore up the second worst defense in the league last year, especially in comparison to the other elite teams, and see where that leaves DC United overall by the end of the weekend.