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DC loses first preseason friendly 1-0 to Columbus

There's not too much information about today's scrimmage against the Crew, but here are some quick links to what I've read:

DCU's Twitter

Behind the Badge's brief account

A shorter write-up from The Black & Gold Standard

Soccer Insider post (even though Goff is covering basketball tonight)

You should click over to all those places, but if you are super-lazy, I've done the reading for you.

The short version is that the game's only goal came off of Devon McTavish's knee, Hamid and Kocic both made big saves, and there were as many subs as you'd expect from a preseason game. Past the jump, I'll take a look at how we lined up and what, if anything, can be gleaned from today's loss.

Starting lineup:

------------------ Moreno --- Cristman

Wallace ----- Simms ---- DiRaimondo -- Najar

Burch ----- McTavish ---- Jakovic ----- Vaughn

-------------------------- Hamid

Given the available players, there are no real shocks in this group. With James out (shoulder), McTavish or Burch were the most likely players to be looked at alongside Jakovic, and that's fine. Onalfo does need to get a look at both of them in that spot so he can have a complete profile of both in mind.

Elsewhere, DiRaimondo gets the first crack at proving himself as the best partner for Simms in central midfield, and Academy starlet Andy Najar got some time on the right wing. With Pontius (national team camp) and Allsopp (just barely arrived from Australia after his visa delays) unavailable, Moreno and Cristman were the most logical starting forward pair.

On the other side, here's the team Columbus sent out:

---------------- Herrera

---------------- Schelotto

Duka ----------------------------------- Ekpo

--------- Bredun ---- Moffat

Padula ---- Iro ---- Brunner ---- Hejduk

---------------- Hesmer

That's much closer to their best possible team than ours was, but it's important to note that Columbus is less than a month away from hosting Toluca in the first leg of their CCL quarterfinal. They need to be closer to a fine-tuned machine than we do at this point.

It's hard to analyze a game based on a few tweets from the club and some very brief blog posts, but apparently Columbus opened up as the aggressor, with Hamid called on to make a big stop before the own goal from McTavish put us down 1-0. We are said to have gotten better as the half wore on, especially in midfield, but Hamid had to come up with another strong save in the 37th minute. Cristman apparently had our best chance of the half, with a shot just wide in the 14th minute.

After halftime, we stayed in the 442 but made 3 subs: Adams for Vaughn, N'Galula for DiRaimondo, and Khumalo for Moreno (Kocic may have come on at halftime, but that's somewhat unclear from DCU's tweets); he either got on at this juncture or with the gang of subs that came a few minutes later). The Crew, on the other hand, changed virtually their entire team; per the Black & Gold Standard article, the only players that went past halftime were Ekpo and Brunner (with Ekpo coming off in the 55th minute, to boot). Just before the hour mark, we made several more subs, leaving me with some guess work as to the formation. Here's my best shot:

------------- Khumalo -- Gumede

Barklage - Wasson - N'Galula - Shipalane

Graye ----- Burch ----- Jakovic ----- Adams

---------------------- Kocic

Onalfo said in his pre-game Q&A that Burch would spend time in the middle, so I'm confident about that. Adams and Graye could have been swapped, but were definitely the outside backs. Similarly, Barklage could have been in the middle with Wasson on the left (Wasson played both holding midfield and left back for Colorado, so it stands to reason he could also play left midfield...I admit that's a guess, though).

With the volume of subs from both teams, the game very likely got choppy. The tweets indicate that DC attacked the wings well and put Columbus under some pressure by playing high up the field. Kocic, meanwhile, came up with a stop right on his doorstep in the 73rd minute. Both keepers, Burch, and Cristman drew praise on BTB, where Onalfo was quick to emphasize that these games are about evaluating what we have rather than ringing up a great record.

Obviously there isn't much to take from our perspective as fans, since the details are sketchy. However, I think it's not too bad that we played an apparently close game against a team that a) was better than us last year, b) should be closer to their best than we should be at this stage, and c) played more regulars. It's encouraging to read Kocic and Hamid getting high marks, and pretty much everyone with questions hanging over them got significant minutes to prove themselves.

I do have to wonder why Castillo played no part in today's game. Is he carrying a knock? Did Onalfo just want to see what his potential Plan B would look like on that side? I realize it's not that important, but it does leave me a bit curious. From the list of players in camp, he's the only guy there that didn't play without a known reason.

In any case, I hope to see Castillo get some time against Toronto on Wednesday, and hopefully by then Allsopp will be able to play as well (he had only just arrived from Australia, and was left out of today's squad). It would also be nice to hear about guys on the bubble stepping up and staking their claim to a spot on the roster.