I managed to catch the first half of the DC United reserve match earlier today as they took to the RFK training grounds against minor league club Crystal Palace Baltimore. Unfortunately a 1:00 meeting back at the office kept me from watching more than that. It was a beautiful day, and it was probably better off that I didn’t stay too long because it may have been hard to explain if I had to go back to work with a sunburn when I didn’t have one this morning.
The United Reserves ultimately prevailed 5-2 after carrying a 1-0 lead into the half. You can read the full match writeup over here, but below are my thoughts on each player, since this was my first chance to see many of them in person. I’ve never written player ratings for exhibition matches and I never will, but here is a quick rundown of who I think can contribute for the first team this year, and who is not yet ready. So if you're interested in hearing how any of the following players performed, please read on!
Assuming that the starting lineup that DC United used on Saturday is basically our top team (scary as that may seem), here’s what I think of the reserves.
Players who can step in and start when necessary:
Central defender Barry Rice was the man of the match from the 45 minutes of action that I saw. He played a sort of sweeper role and was able to break up several challenges. His distribution down the field was decent, but not spectacular.
Just behind Rice in my notes was Andy Najar. At first I was disappointed to see him much less involved in the offense than Drew Yates, but then I realized that he was actually playing as a central defensive midfielder! Yeah, apparently the kid can play ANYWHERE. He had several great tackles and was able to stay on his feet and absorb some very physical challenges from much larger opponents.
Almost every attack that United created flowed through Boyzzz Khumalo. When he was playing on the left (as he did most of the half), United attacked more from the left. And when he switched with Shipalane and moved out to the right, United began utilizing the right.
I left at halftime thinking that Danny Allsopp will be a great asset as a forward who can be a defensive outlet, control possession, and lay the ball off to the midfield, but that he was never going to be a successful scorer. Then he scored two goals in the second half. So I guess the verdict is still out?
Julius James was adequate, despite being overshadowed in my mind by Rice. It’s becoming evident though that he is a better center back than a right back.
Players who can be substitutes in an emergency:
Adam Cristman and Tiyi Shipalane combined for the only goal that I got to see, but neither added much other than that. Both players had turnovers on plays that should have been scoring opportunities. Cristman sent a poorly weighted pass straight to the CPB goalkeeper when he had Allsopp streaking and open for a through ball that would have resulted in a shot on net. And later in the half Shipalane had the ball on a 3v3 counter after a CPB corner and failed to recognize the speedy Khumalo open on his right, instead holding onto the ball too long and passing it to Allsopp in an offside position after he’d already finished his run. Dude can hit a real nice cross though.
I didn’t have any complaints about either fullback Devon McTavish or Lyle Adams. McTavish didn’t get very involved too often, which is generally fine for a defender still recovering from injury. Adams is tall and quick, and is able to switch fields well.
Players who probably don’t have a future with United:
I don’t think that Drew Yates is the answer to our problems in central midfield. Although he did convert a penalty kick towards the end of the match, I didn’t see too much out of him that impressed me. Good to see that he cut his hair though.
United would be silly to cut Josh Wicks when he’s healthy and keep Andrew Quinn on the roster. I wouldn’t want Quinn in an MLS match even in an emergency. Quinn gave away one corner kick on a ball that was heading out of bounds and would have been a goal kick had he not tried to collect it. And there was another instance where he came out of his box to chase a defender towards the sideline unnecessarily, leaving his goal exposed.