United's preseason continued yesterday with a scoreless draw against Toronto FC in Bradenton, FL. Milos Kocic and Bill Hamid combined for the shutout, while Danny Allsopp made his first match appearance of any kind in a United shirt. Clyde Simms, trialist Quiarol Arzu, and academy product Andy Najar went the full 90 minutes, while Curt Onalfo also got more of a look at several of the guys in camp that can be considered "on the bubble".
Meanwhile, one imagines that Onalfo's plans are being interfered with to some degree by the lengthy list of players unavailable. Troy Perkins and Chris Pontius are still with the national team; Bryan Namoff, Danny Szetela, and Josh Wicks are still some way from being able to practice at all; Santino Quaranta and Julius James are nearing full fitness but are not game-ready yet; Cristian Castillo was held out due to a minor problem with his knee (apparently not a surgery, as goes the rumor); and Brandon Barklage was given the game off (presumably in an effort to keep from putting too much strain on his still-healing ACL). The club is still waiting on Jermaine Taylor's arrival, while there's no word on why John DiRaimondo and Daniel Wasson (guys you'd think Onalfo would want to spend a lot of time looking at) didn't get in.
Formations, notable incidents, and some thoughts on the whole thing after the jump:Both sides came out in a 442, though United changed to a diamond rather than the flat four used against Columbus (trialists and all non-roster players in italics):
------------ Moreno --- Allsopp
Wallace ------------------------- Khumalo
Burch --- Jakovic --- Arzu --- Vaughn
Considering the players available, this is probably the closest thing Onalfo had to a real starting eleven. Najar is the only real exception, and his inclusion begs a question: Is he impressing enough that the club is thinking about pushing to sign him out of the academy? Consider the fact that Wasson and DiRaimondo, guys that are definitely on the edge of either being on or off the roster, got no time in this game. Why would you play an academy player unless you are actually looking at him as a prospect? I'm not trying to rumor-monger or read way too far between the lines, but I can't come up with a good reason to play Najar unless he's done well enough that he's actually being looked at as a guy on this year's roster.
Toronto's team was similar in featuring a lot of known quantities and a few trialists:
---------- De Rosario --- Dickov
Kayizzi --- Saric -- De Guzman --- Cronin
Brennan --- Harden --- Garcia --- Gargan
From the Twitter accounts of United and Luke Wileman (TFC announcer), it would appear that the first half was a bit sloppy and edged by the Reds. The only DC attack that witnesses found worth noting was a Vaughn through ball for Moreno that was flagged for offside, while TFC had a 38th minute near miss from De Rosario. Ugandan trialist Vincent Kayizzi also appeared to be involved often, forcing Vaughn into an important tackle early.
After halftime, there was the predictable wave of subs, and the teams reconfigured thusly:
-------------- Gumede --- Cristman
Shipalane - N'Galula - Simms - Najar
Adams --- McTavish --- Arzu --- Graye
No real surprises in that group. I would have really liked to see what Shipalane did on the left, since any true versatility would increase his chances of sticking this season. This changed slightly in the 57th minute, when Graye had to come out with an undisclosed injury. Wallace returned to the fray, which probably saw him at left back and Adams switching to the right. That also would have made for fascinating viewing, but alas I am not ballin' enough to turn preseason into a vacation.
For the record, TFC's second half team was:
--------------- Bajic --- Dickov
Kayizzi ----------------------------------- Gala
Joseph --- Gomez --- Attakora --- Gargan
If you're like me, you have been moderately interested in the Finnish national team since seeing Jari Litmanen in his Ajax days. That means you have seen Alexei Eremenko's name before. I'm not sure if Toronto is really in need of more midfielders (since it's their one strong suit), but Eremenko has 40 caps for Finland and is the #10 at Metalist Kharkiv, who currently sit in 3rd place halfway through the Ukrainian season (behind the two dominant clubs, Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk). Frankly, if he turned up on trial for us, I would not be too upset about it, given our need for an experienced, proven attacking midfielder.
Anyway, TFC apparently seized control of the match as time wore on. McTavish hacked a ball off the line in the early going, trialist Kosta Bajic hit the crossbar, and Hamid had to make two point-blank saves to keep the game level. DC's sole notable chance was a Wallace shot midway through the half that was saved by the remarkably named former Cleveland City Star Hunter Gilstrap.
The positives on the day were that Onalfo got a full 90 minute look at Quiarol Arzu, while Hamid and Kocic both seem to be sharp (at least as far as shotstopping goes). The downside, naturally, is that we've gone 180 minutes without a goal. To add to this, Preki had this to say about looking at his goalkeepers:
The best thing about it is that our goalkeeper never touched the ball throughout the game. He didn't have to make a save.
That's not a good sign, even if it apparently ignores the Wallace shot reported on DC's Twitter page. It's natural that, playing without Quaranta, Castillo, or any non-teenage attacking midfield presence in the center of midfield, an unfamiliar group would struggle with the intricacies of attacking play. However, this is the same TFC team that drew 1-1 with the University of Central Florida. It's not like we were up against Chelsea or Inter Milan. It's very far from time to start getting angry or upset, but I'm sure we'd all like to avoid hearing the opposing coach say that he couldn't really look at his trialist keeper because he was never under any kind of pressure at all.
At the very least, it leaves me more eager than before to see how Castillo does once incorporated into game situations. Given the fact that playing 2 holding midfielders appears to be a very real possibility, it seems to me that Castillo is going to have to adjust very quickly to his new teammates and to MLS, or we're going to struggle to create goals. Of course, there's a long time yet in the preseason to make moves, so I might be chomping at the bit a touch too much.
On the bright side, the best cure for any kind of scoring slump is to play the New York Red Bulls, and that's exactly who we face this coming Saturday in Bradenton. There has been a lot of turnover at both clubs, but I truly hope Onalfo and the rest of the coaches have emphasized the importance of always being better than NY and the joy of humiliating them at every opportunity. Hopefully, the dam breaks this weekend and we have more positive things to talk about than trialists simply playing a full game.