Three days after an easy win of the USA under-17s, D.C. United faced stiffer competition in their second preseason game, resulting in a 1-1 draw with the Philadelphia Union. After falling behind to a first half goal from CJ Sapong, offseason signing Jose Guillermo Ortiz netted the equalizer for United in the second half, finishing off an assist from trialist Maxim Tissot. Former USMNT center back Oguchi Onyewu was sent off for an off-the-ball incident in the first half.
As in their 6-0 victory on Wednesday, United used two completely lineups in each half, with each lineup consisting of a mixture of regulars and those looking for playing time.
In the first half, Travis Worra started in goal, with Nick DeLeon, Jalen Robinson, Bobby Boswell, and Taylor Kemp manning the back line. Jared Jeffrey, Rob Vincent, Luciano Acosta, Lloyd Sam, and Patrick Nyarko made up the midfield group, with Patrick Mullins the lone forward.
“It was a great exercise for both teams. You can’t mimic the speed and intensity of MLS unless you’re playing a MLS team,” head coach Ben Olsen told B&RU after the game. “There was some good out there for us, and some bad, and that’s normal for preseason at this point.”
United had several chances to open the scoring early on, with Robinson denied on a header from a free kick, and Mullins firing a shot over the goal from close range. Sapong then put the Union ahead just before the half hour mark, as United failed to clear a corner, and a second ball played into the box was slammed home by the striker.
Onyewu, who recently signed with the Union, was sent off for an incident involving Mullins away from the ball minutes after the goal. Given that this was a preseason game, the Union were allowed to continue with 11 players, as Ken Tribbett replaced Onyewu.
Mullins and Nyarko were denied in a goalmouth scramble late on in the first half, but the Union should have gone into the halftime with a two goal advantage. Instead, after splitting the center backs and collecting a pass, Roland Alberg’s chip over Worra landed harmlessly on the top of the goal, having beat the keeper.
A whole new group came on to start the second half, with rookies Eric Klenofsky and Chris Odoi-Atsem getting their first playing time against a MLS team. Sean Franklin played at center back, partnered with Kofi Opare, while Tissot was at left back. Chris Durkin, Julian Buescher, and Ian Harkes made up the center midfield group, with Lamar Neagle and Sebastien Le Toux on the wings, and Ortiz up top.
“It’s like a riding a bike, You never forget,” Franklin told B&RU after the game about playing at center back. “It helps when you have other players talking to you, and putting players in the right spot. That’s going to help me at that position.”
United’s goal came midway through the second half, with Ortiz applying the finishing touch to a well-worked move from United. Moving quickly from right to left, United caught the Union unbalanced. That opened up space for Buescher, who laid a pass into the box for Tissot. The left back took one touch before rolling the ball through the middle of the box, allowing Ortiz to prod home the equalizer.
“Whether it’s threatening behind, or his hold up play, his movement in and out of the box, he finds himself on the end of a lot of service,” Olsen said of Ortiz after the game. “All the things you want out of your forward. He’s going to bring competition, and that’s a healthy thing.”
Neither team would find the back of the net again, though the Union hit the crossbar in the late stages. No Philadelphia player could not capitalize on a second chance, or from a resulting corner either.
Alhaji Kamara came on late for Odoi-Atsem, playing up top, moving Ortiz to the wing and Le Toux to right back. It was Kamara’s first appearance of the preseason, after not getting any minutes against the US u17s. And after playing as a center back against the u17s, Durkin got time in midfield against the Union, playing as a number six.
“Being in the number six position is where I feel most comfortable,” said Durkin after the game. “I’m coming in confident in this preseason. At the end of the day, I want to fight to make Ben’s job hard.”
Olsen still seemed pleased about where his team is already at at this point in the preseason. With fewer players to assimilate into the team as in years past, Olsen sees this year’s version of Black-and-Red gelling faster than last season’s roster.
“We’re certainly further along than at this point last year because of the holdovers,” said Olsen. “And the group having a pretty good idea of who we are and what we are about.”