DC United is in the driver's seat to win their first ever Carolina Challenge Cup, having now earned a full 6 points from 2 matches, with only a match against the lower division Battery remaining.
United took a slightly different approach in this match, choosing to feature a lineup consisting mainly of reserves in the first half, and something close to their best eleven in the second. Our starting lineup looked something like this:
With Jordan Graye coming in for Daniel Woolard at around the 20 minute mark. You would have assumed that this lineup would get dominated by Toronto's team that included most of their starters, but that really wasn't the case. Mostly due to TFC's red card midway through the first.
In the second half, United went for the kill and may have given teams a preview of their First Kick starters by rolling out this lineup:
With Brandon Barklage replacing Boyzzz Khumalo in the 70th.
United is in preseason form, and so am I. So please allow me to get warmed up for the 2010 season by doing some modified player ratings, after the break.
Players who impressed me:
First of all, Jaime Moreno looked like the best player on the field. His winning goal (his 4th goal in 3 matches) was typical Jaime brilliance. He eluded three Toronto players at the top of the box and then patiently knocked the ball into the upper corner of the net.
This was my first chance to see Danny Allsopp in action and I'm now starting to appreciate what he brings to the club. He's good at drawing fouls and finding players to run on to the ball. He's going to have a lot of assists this year, and will give Onalfo another excellent option up top.
Of the reserves, it was the two fullbacks Lyle Adams and Jordan Graye who stood out to me. Adams made a couple of nice tackles, and Graye was often able to get involved in the attack. He plays like a taller version of Rodney Wallace. He was very aggressive in this match, and luckily didn't really have to do much defensively. With Adams now signed to a developmental contract, Graye's chances of making the team have thinned. But he fits well into Onalfo's style, so I still think he could make it if he can beat out Barry Rice, who wasn't too involved in this match.
Players who did NOT impress me:
Obviously Daniel Woolard is an easy target since he was removed after just 20 minutes of action. But a bigger surprise was the disappointing play of Santino Quaranta. He didn't really look comfortable in the middle. He was as likely to set up a nice play (like his great through ball to Allsopp to create a free kick immediately after Moreno's goal) as he was to turn the ball over. On a better day, Quaranta would have left with two goals if he'd been able to convert.
I liked the idea of playing Julius James as a right back in the second half, as the coaching staff was apparently testing a possible starting lineup of James-Jakovic-Pena-Wallace. But James didn't really set himself apart from Adams to me, and gave De Rosario a great chance midway through the second half before Jakovic had to step in. In the first half though, he was adequate as the lone non-rookie in the backline.
And finally, for all the time that I've spend advertising Brandon Barklage this offseason, he let me down a little in this one. Only got about 20 minutes of action, but had a couple giveaways and one open shot clear over the bar.
Players who I'm not quite sure about:
I don't want to go overboard here and elicit a comparison to "The Short One", but John DiRaimondo does have some similar qualities to the ABMOD. He's very pesky, and does well at positioning himself to break up the opponent's attack. In this match though he was mostly terrible at keeping possession and distributing.
Similarly, newcomer Drew Yates had his ups and downs tonight. He was certainly very active and made a few good plays, but didn't do much to create many scoring opportunities as the more attacking partner in this midfield. Developmental roster slots are fading fast, so Yates is going to have to step up and impress in the final match of the CCC.
Juan Manuel Pena didn't actually get too involved in this match, as United controlled possession for much of the second half. Pena played more of a "last line of defense" role, allowing Jakovic more freedom to roam up field and cover for the fullbacks when necessary.
And to close things out... What to do with those darn South African wingers? Boyzzz Khumalo and Tiyi Shipalane each had some good moments, but neither really stood out. Khumalo was awful in the first half, frequently cutting the ball from the left wing to the middle of the field, after apparently having taken lessons from Fred. But he was much better in the second half when moved to the right, which makes you wonder why Shipalane would be a necessary part of the roster if Khumalo can play a similar style on the right wing but do it much better.
It's important to remember here that this is still just the preseason. But it sure is good to see United dominating against a team that some were calling to finish ahead of them this year. If you watched the match, please feel free to add your own comments below.