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
– 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