In many respects tonight’s match between MLS cellar dwellers D.C. United and financially strapped Portsmouth FC shouldn’t have been played. Portsmouth, relegated to the English Championship in part because their team went into financial administration at the end of their Premier League season this past Spring, has endured a nightmarish week of games and travel across the United States and Canada. Bringing only a handful of players, it wasn’t expected to be a match to miss on the tail end of their journey. Flight delays, long travel and logistical nightmares have marred the trip for the 2008 FA Cup winners. How long ago that must seem as their team were soundly thrashed 4-0 by D.C. United, MLS’ worst team.
Honestly it really wasn’t a surprise to anyone that Pompey had nothing to offer a United team looking to regain any kind of spark to reignite their MLS campaign. Danny Allsopp may have made a case for more playing time as he scored three goals to lead United to a comfortable win. Heading into the match the temperature outside was a huge factor as it hit over 100 degrees during the day. What we didn’t know was that the temperature on the field at times was even hotter and the match boiled over in the second half. Three red cards were handed out in the match with Santino Quaranta and Julius James getting their marching orders in the second half. Haydon Mullins was ejected along with Quaranta as the players traded spits at each other in full view of game official Jorge Gonzalez. Julius James saw his red card late in the match for shoving a Pompey player down to the ground.
The fireworks on the field started midway through the first half with a number of hard tackles that mostly found the skilled left-foot of United newbie Pablo Hernandez. At halftime United head coach Curt Onalfo and some of his staff had to be separated by the fourth official and MLS officials as they openly questioning the Pompey coaching staff about their cynical tactics. This was a friendly after all.
Meanwhile to the actual match itself it was the home side who despite a slow and methodical start, got on the board first in the 21st minute. United won a free kick on the right side of midfield and Hernandez swung in a beautiful ball right to the temple of Allsopp who scored easily past Pompey goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown for a 1-0 lead. United doubled their lead with a bit good fortune in the 31st minute. United worked the ball down the left flank and Santino Quaranta’s pass met the foot of Allsopp at the top of the box. The Australian strikers first touch was poor and he won the ball off the sliding tackle of a Portsmouth defender and then deftly flicked the ball with the outside of his right foot into the side netting for a 2-0 lead that held until halftime.
After the break United made a few changes to the lineup, one of which was to bring on Junior Carreiro, the 18-year old brother of former United midfielder Fred. Junior immediately gave life to United’s attack with a number of slick moves to break free of defenders and his quick moves easily unbalanced the Pompey defense. His skill was a big part of United’s most fluent and best goal sequence of the season in the 56th minute. Pablo Hernandez dropped deep into midfield to win a ball and made a fantastic spin move in between two Pompey defenders and broke free. He sent a pass down the left flank where Jordan Graye whisked past his defender. Graye’s cutback move into the box saw Junior open at the top of the penalty area. Graye’s pass was one-touched by Junior between two Pompey defenders to a wide open Branko Boskovic on the right heading towards goal. With goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown coming out to challenge Boskovic, the Montenegran calmly squared his pass across the goalmouth to Hernandez who simply tapped into the empty net for a 3-0 United lead. With United’s scoring woes so far this season in MLS, it was nice to see an exchange between three players who weren’t even on this team three weeks ago.
United finalized the route in the 65th minute with another sublime goal from Allsopp. Junior again was a key component as his perfectly weighted pass between the last two Pompey defenders sent Allsopp through alone on goal. Allsopp waited for Ashdown to commit and he calmly slotted the ball into the goal to give United it’s most decisive win of the season. United kept the beleaguered visitors from England off the score sheet with having to make only two saves all night long. Troy Perkins started the first half for United and Bill Hamid finished the match and made probably his best save of his young career to keep the game a shutout. Pompey were awarded a free kick after the ejection of United defender Julius James in the 90th minute. Pompey defender Matthew Richie saw his goal bound kick swerve around the United wall only to see the acrobatic 19-year old keeper at full stretch parry the ball to safety.
That was the last play as the Black-and-Red now turn their attention back to league play when they go visit MLS Cup Champion Real Salt Lake next Saturday evening. Let’s hope United’s new found confidence can start to translate to much needed MLS wins.