Out of the two Washington DC based teams with tournament games tonight, I think many of us probably would have preferred the other one to win. But DC United gave the nation's capital something to be hopeful for with their Open Cup play-in game victory over FC Dallas 4-2.
In a battle of two winless teams, United made their presense felt from the opening whistle, and for the first time this season were able to keep that pressure on for the entire match.
Is this finally the start of something good? Follow me down below the break for player ratings and conclusions. I'll keep it short since I'm only working off of highlights, your own previous comments, and the thoughts of a trusted colleague.
The team played well as a unit, but there were two players that stood out in this match more than any other United players all season. Adam Cristman and Andy Najar combined on two of the team's goals, and Cristman added one more with the help of the recovering Clyde Simms. Najar's hard work was evident, and now has the national MLS blogosphere singing his praises. Cristman's clean finishing on both goals gives DC something they were lacking in their first four league matches.
Maybe the very most important thing that came out of this match was Christian Castillo's goal. It wasn't pretty. I don't think it was even meant as a shot. But hopefully this tally will give Castillo the confidence he's been sorely lacking in his previous appearances for us. Castillo seems to be well suited for the 4-2-3-1 lineup that United used in this match.
It was difficult to get too much of a read on the defenders based on the highlights, but I put a lot of faith in my commenters, so I'll take your word for it that Devon McTavish was rather solid. Not that its a big deal, but I was surprised to hear that Talley, in only his second month with United, was wearing the captain's armband ahead of McTavish, who is in his fifth year with the club and typically wears it for reserve matches.
I think we've all got some mixed feelings on Rodney Wallace right about now. We've been desperately hoping to see him continue to make progress as a left back. During the first four regular season games, he was arguably the most consistent defender on a backline thats given up more goals than any other MLS team. So maybe thats not saying much. But he seems to have taken a step back in this one. Hopeully it was just one bad game and not too much cause for concern.
Jordan Graye on the other hand didn't really have many redeeming qualities. Onalfo giving Graye the start on the right ahead of Lyle Adams wouldn't have been my choice. Fortunately for United, they were able to score enough goals in this match that giving up two soft ones didn't matter too much.
Advancing through the first play-in game of a tournament that's traditionally taken pretty lightly shouldn't be seen as a monumental victory. But goddamn its good to finally see some positive signs from this team! Its been over a month since I've had the chance to write anything optimistic about DC United. Thankfully we have another match just three days away to try to continue this momentum.
And suddenly Curt Onalfo is going to have some tough decisions to make. Its not highly likely that newly reacquired Luciano Emilio will be ready to start, but I can see a debate coming on the merits of Cristman versus Emilio, with a little Allsopp thrown in there for good measure.
Also, how about that 4-2-3-1? A formation that may sound familiar to avid followers of the DCU|FM Challenge, it seemed to work in this setting, giving Najar and Castillo a bit more freedom with two more defensive minded midfielders behind them. Is this viable though long term?