For a cobbled together side, DC United showed remarkable maturity in withstanding a strong comeback bid by FC Dallas and seeing the game out with a poise and patience not seen too often in the 2009 version of the team.
Tino Quaranta, who entered in the second half explained how it worked out, “Guys understood we had to get that win. I’m another year older. Clyde’s another year older. ….It’s a good mixture of guys (young and older) and we just try to come in and slow the game down and do what we have to do to win.”
Carey Talley, who played the entire 90 minutes, elaborated, “It’s gotta be addressed as a group. It’s gotta be the older guys with the balls that they give, in the right spots that enable us to get the ball and just make it easier on the young guys.”
The younger players picked right up on the idea. “We were helping set each other out. It wasn’t, ‘I’m just gonna play it into a guy and wherever it lands, I hope he does well with it.’ We were actually thinking about things.”
The play of two particular youngsters set up and then helped hold together United’s well-executed game plan. Coach Curt Onalfo wanted his players to come out hard and seek the early goal. Sure enough, it came in the 4th minute through the aggressive play of 17 year old Andy Najar topped off by a clever chip of the solid veteran Adam Cristman.
Najar earned his first goal for DC United in the 51st minute when he positioned himself perfectly to finish a fine cross from Cristman who displayed similar energy and initiative all night. Each used his own particular talent to unbalance and surprise the Dallas defense all night.
Najar gave them no rest, demonstrating that he is learning fast how to handle the physical challenge of older players. His own strength with the ball and also in challenging for it continue to improve at a phenomenal rate.
Cristman used his own physicality and guile to alternately pressure or slip into good locations as the flow of the game presented him opportunities.
Meanwhile, Jordan Graye made his first start for DC and it went about as one would expect for a rookie. Quaranta described the feelings from his own now long past experience, “You get very nervous your first game, especially at RFK. It’s not easy, but he’s done well. He’s young and he’ll have a lot of years here.”
Talley pointed out how Graye quickly adapted after being beaten several times by the fast and athletic Brek Shea, “A couple of us said something to him, ‘Hey, you’ve got to be closer to us. Don’t stand out there on the sideline because then he’ll get in behind you. If you’re closer to us, he’s going to the corner. I think he figured that out and put it to use.”
The rookie agreed and explained, “With long balls over the top, he kinda caught me on my blind side a little bit. I’m a pretty fast player, so I like to gauge how people are. He kinda caught me by surprise that first time. But I adjusted well to that.”
Graye grew increasingly confident as the game went on and he moved more often into attack, “As I get more comfortable I start to play more of my game.” To his credit, he joined his teammates in the judicious control of the ball in the final fifteen minutes as they saw the game out.
Clyde Simms entered the game in the 56th minute as Kurt Morsink took a knock. His 34 minutes were a perfect reintroduction to competitive play as he comes off a hamstring strain. He played effectively, but feels that he is not quite where he wants to be.
He is not yet at full speed because, “I did my knee in pre season and only had a week and a half until I did my hamstring. So, it’s been a while since I played.” It is common to get an injury to another limb coming off surgery as the body compensates with unexpected imbalance. He is focusing on taking this rehab at a good pace and expects to see action in the following 10 days as United has three more closely spaced games.
Like his predecessor, Brian Carroll, he believes in preparing his mental game as well, by reviewing game tapes. “I’ve always been good at remembering every play in my head, but it’s different on film. I’m good at that, learning from my mistakes.”
He went on to echo Curt Onalfo’s idea that players should not overanalyze, “Every team is different, every game is different, so when you watch the film, you don’t want to put too much into that. You can psych yourself out a bit.” He observed that learning the general principal was where the value is found.
DC United will take on the Red Bulls on Saturday at 4:00 PM as part of a doubleheader with the Washington Freedom. With important members of the already stretched roster playing just enough minutes to stay sharp, United has cause to hope for continued solid team play and good results.
FC Dallas vs. D.C. United, April 28, 2010 — RFK Stadium
U.S. Open Cup play-in game
DC — Adam Cristman (Andy Najar) 4
DC — Christian Castillo (unassisted) 39
DC — Andy Najar (Adam Cristman) 51
DAL — Bruno Guarda (unassisted) 52
DAL — Dax McCarty (penalty kick) 57
DC — Adam Cristman (Clyde Simms) 59
FC Dallas — Kevin Hartman, Ugo Ihemelu (George John 46), Anthony Wallace, Edson Edward, Zach Loyd, Eric Alexander (Dax McCarty 46), Bruno Guarda, Brek Shea, Atiba Harris (Heath Pearce 65), Eric Avila (Andrew Wiedeman 76), Jason Yeisley. Substitutes Not Used: Jeff Cunningham, David Ferreira, Dario Sala.
TOTAL SHOTS: 15 (Brek Shea 5); SHOTS ON GOAL: 7 (Dax McCarty 2); FOULS: 13 (Eric Avila 3); OFFSIDES: 3 (3 tied with 1); CORNER KICKS: 1 (Heath Pearce 1); SAVES: 1 (Kevin Hartman 1)
D.C. United — Troy Perkins, Jordan Graye, Devon McTavish, Carey Talley, Rodney Wallace, Andy Najar, Kurt Morsink (Clyde Simms 56), Brandon Barklage (Santino Quaranta 63), Christian Castillo (Jaime Moreno 75), Adam Cristman (Tiyi Shipalene 86), Thabiso Khumalo. Substitutes Not Used: Lyle Adams, Barry Rice, Bill Hamid.
TOTAL SHOTS: 9 (Adam Cristman 3, Andy Najar 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Adam Cristman 2, Andy Najar 2); FOULS: 15 (6 tied with 2); OFFSIDES: 3 (Adam Cristman 2); CORNER KICKS: 3 (Christian Castillo 3); SAVES: 5 (Troy Perkins 5)
DC — Kurt Morsink (caution; Reckless Tackle) 21
DC — Rodney Wallace (caution; Reckless Foul) 28
DAL — Anthony Wallace (caution; Reckless Foul) 67
DAL — Edson Edward (caution; Reckless Foul) 72
Referee: Chris Penso
Referee’s Assistants: -Adam Wienckowski; Corey Parker
4th Official: Bryan Roslund
Time of Game: 1:53
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-57-degrees