D.C. United concluded their first Florida leg of the 2019 preseason with a 1-1 draw against FC Cincinnati tonight at the IMG Academy. An apparently dominant first half was capped off by Luciano Acosta’s goal, but after halftime the MLS expansion side asserted themselves before getting a late equalizer from Nazmi Albadawi.
Ben Olsen unsurprisingly set his team up in a 4231, but this time with some big names added to the mix. Paul Arriola, Russell Canouse, and Joseph Mora returned from international duty, while Luciano Acosta was included after sitting out last week’s win over Bethlehem Steel FC. Wayne Rooney, having needed a couple days to get over a shin bruise suffered in that game, started on the bench, with unconventional choice Ulises Segura getting the start as the lone forward.
It appeared to be a gorgeous night in Florida as the teams warmed up:
United took charge straight away, creating multiple chances in the early going. Acosta was involved right away, dummying a pass for Arriola that Cincy goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton managed to stop inside of two minutes. Tyton made a couple more saves, none bigger than a 16th minute stop after Segura broke through alone:
16'- SAVE Titi. Kick save and, wow, what a stop.— Pat Brennan (@PBrennanENQ) February 8, 2019
D.C. was apparently in very good form, and took what sounds like a deserved lead in the 21st minute. It’s not entirely clear what happened, but we know that Acosta picked out the corner from the top of the box:
Cincinnati began pushing back after the goal, mostly via former FC Dallas winger Roland Lamah. First, his pass from the endline went untouched in the goalmouth:
26' - Chance FC Cincinnati. Roland Lamah dribbles to the DCU end line in the 18, plays across face of goal but no one gets touch to it. Still 0-1 DCU.— Pat Brennan (@PBrennanENQ) February 8, 2019
Soon thereafter, Canouse was called into action to shut Lamah down inside the area, putting in a tackle that was deemed fair by the referee:
34' - Roland Lamah dribbles a defender, then hauled down in the 18. Ref says play on.— Pat Brennan (@PBrennanENQ) February 8, 2019
In the middle of all that, Fanendo Adi fired off a shot that went just wide, while Bill Hamid was called into action on a Cincy free kick that he claimed before anyone could get a touch to it. Overall, though, the vibe from IMG Academy’s stadium was that United was bossing play, including having some success playing out of the back, which is something Olsen has said he wants to see more of this year:
DC is playing out of the back fast and getting numerical advantages by the time they hit midfield. That's a little disappointing from FCC.— Pat Brennan (@PBrennanENQ) February 8, 2019
United made five changes at halftime, with Chris Seitz getting his first action in a DCU jersey in goal. Donovan Pines and Jalen Robinson came in at center back, while Akeem Ward replaced Mora at left back and Chris Durkin stepped into the midfield for...someone (most likely either Canouse or Junior Moreno).
Cincinnati appeared to be sharper in the second half, producing a shot from Victor Ulloa straight away. Minutes later, Costa Rican midfielder Allan Cruz nearly got to a through ball, before Emmanuel Ledesma — one of FCC’s holdovers from their final USL season — nodded a corner over the bar.
FCC corner coming. They have the momentum now.— Pat Brennan (@PBrennanENQ) February 8, 2019
Seitz was seeing far more work than Hamid, and produced a close-range save on Adi just before Cincinnati made numerous substitutions:
61' - Adi! Denied on the doorstep. Good kick save.— Pat Brennan (@PBrennanENQ) February 8, 2019
And now a mass substitution coming for FC Cincinnati... We'll get it sorted out. This was in line with plan to play two groups 60/30 minutes tonight.
Rooney entered the game in the 63rd minute, replacing an unknown player, but the expansion side kept producing most of the second half chances. Nazmi Albadawi’s deflected shot forced Seitz into a save shortly after the line-change substitution, and the goalkeeper had to punch away the ensuing corner as well. Clearly, the tables had turned a bit:
FC Cincinnati really knocking it around here. Pretty easy on the eyes, this.— Pat Brennan (@PBrennanENQ) February 8, 2019
United was forced to scramble another free kick away shortly thereafter as the FCC pressure began to tell:
DCU clears from danger again. FCC has consistently had solid set pieces so far this preseason. pic.twitter.com/0NhPXYTOYz— Pat Brennan (@PBrennanENQ) February 8, 2019
Rookie Logan Gdula combined with Ledesma to free Corben Bone up for Cincy’s best chance up to that point. Bone got the ball past Seitz, but couldn’t keep it on frame as United escaped:
Gdula chipped up to Manu, who played Corbs in. Silky smooth.— Pat Brennan (@PBrennanENQ) February 8, 2019
FC Cincinnati's done everything in this half but score. https://t.co/Y1T6WZo54T
The Black-and-Red were stuck on the back foot, and Cincinnati finally broke through in the 81st minute. Albadawi, so often a scorer from midfield during FCC’s days in the USL, struck the equalizer, with Gdula, Bone, and Ledesma once again reportedly combining to create the opportunity.
From this video, we can conclude that trialist Peabo Doue, third round pick Geo Alves, and academy prospect Bryang Kayo came in at some point, though no information about when or for whom was available at the time of publication.
The chance might have woken United up, as they very nearly took the lead back just moments later. Someone wearing black — a trialist could mean draft picks like Alves or Shinya Kadono, or an invitee like Kyle Murphy, or even someone that the team has not announced yet — forced a turnover from FCC goalkeeper Spencer Richey in the box before firing two shots. Richey stopped the first, while the wookwork kept the follow-up out:
That was the game’s final chance, or at least the final chance anyone present deemed worthy of a tweet.
United will be back in preseason action Saturday, February 16, as they face the Tampa Bay Rowdies in that club’s annual Suncoast Invitational tournament. That game is thankfully taking place at Tampa’s Al Lang Stadium, which has streamed plenty of games over the years, and is slated for a 7:30pm kickoff.
Highlights of this game will be added should they be made available.