The 0-0 opening half was expected, but the result was never in doubt. D.C. United dominated possession as they have many times this year, but this time they were able to get their first shutout victory of the season.
It would be easy for a casual MLS observer to look at United's lineup for this match and see names like Luciano Emilio and Jaime Moreno and assume that the team was going all out in search of a win. But that would be false. This was a reserve lineup for United. The only best eleven players that started for United tonight were Dejan Jakovic, Stephen King, and Andy Najar (out of position).
D.C. United didn't take this match any more seriously than the New York Red Bulls and Chicago Fire did in their losses to USL teams yesterday. But they worked hard, they played well, and they prevailed.
It was unfortunate for Emilio that he collided with Richmond's goalkeeper and had to leave the match due to injury. But it was fortunate for United fans. Because Emilio's departure meant that Santino Quaranta could enter the match, and it didn't take him long to take over. The team immediately started getting more quality chances. Quaranta set up Moreno's goal at the start of the second half, and scored one of his own to seal it.
Tony Limarzi made a comment that Dejan Jakovic seemed like a man among boys when compared to Richmond's attackers, and I can't disagree. It seemed like every time things were setting up well for the Kickers, or every time things were breaking down for United defensively, Jakovic stepped in. He stepped in, and he also often dribbled the ball up the field and out of danger. He was excellent tonight.
To round out the defense, Andy Najar, Devon McTavish, and Barry Rice did well enough to preserve the shutout. And Bill Hamid, while mostly untested, did all that was asked of him to keep the Kickers off the board. Najar proved to be an adequate stand-in at right back. I'm not saying that I think he should be starting there in regular season matches, but it's good to know that he can be called in when necessary due to our frequent injuries. McTavish's performance on the left was better than we've seen from Jordan Graye recently. Rice cut out several challenges with quality tackles, but also took a few too many risks for my liking.
There were times in this match that Jaime Moreno looked like his old self. And then there were other times that he looked like... well.. his OLD self. Moreno was the only creative force on the field for the first quarter of the match prior to Quaranta's insertion, and his goal was well-taken and well-deserved. We're all just glad that his ugly miss at the end of the first half didn't come back to haunt the team.
Since David Stokes has all but lost his relevance, I'm strongly considering using a picture of Kurt Morsink for my "Two" banner when he is off the team next season. Just too many giveaways and ugly passes.
The Open Cup is shaping up nicely for United again this year, as they'll match up against the Harrisburg City Islanders Wednesday July 21 in the quarterfinal round. Last year, United beat a PDL team, a USL-2 team, and a USL-1 team in route to the Final. This year we could be getting lucky again.
The biggest risk though is that the team will lose all focus when Curt Onalfo returns. Perhaps Kris Kelderman can stay on as head coach for just the rest of this tournament? Or maybe we can get U.S. Soccer to extend Onalfo's suspension from two games to five?