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RECAP: D.C. United reserves lose 3-0 to Fulham reserves in far-flung hinterland, or possibly in my imagination

When a game devoid of meaning at kickoff somehow becomes even more meaningless as it goes on, does anyone win or lose? Well, yes: Fulham won, and D.C. United lost. The less-famous Moussa Dembele scored a hat trick, with each goal requiring a defensive catastrophe for United, or so we're told.

This is the Moussa Dembele that scored a hat trick. The other one plays for Belgium.
This is the Moussa Dembele that scored a hat trick. The other one plays for Belgium.
Charlie Crowhurst

No one was pretending that today's friendly between D.C. United and Fulham was an important match for either side. United has clinching an MLS Cup playoff spot and getting out of their CONCACAF Champions League group to think about, while Fulham is weeks away from actually playing competitive games in the English Championship.

Nonetheless, everything about United's 3-0 loss - the lack of TV or streaming video coverage, the lineups chosen by both teams, the far-flung venue, the nature of all three goals against, and the fact that the game was the opening act for a pop-country music performance - left fans with no choice but to embrace the void. French teenager Moussa Dembele scored all three goals for the Cottagers, while United struggled for long periods to turn a possession advantage into goals.

United's lineup in Jacksonville, FL should have been an indicator of just how seriously the Black-and-Red were taking this game. Ben Olsen chose a starting lineup consisting of Andrew Dykstra in goal; a right-to-left back four of Kyle Porter, Bobby Boswell, Conor Shanosky, and Taylor Kemp; a midfield featuring Alex Caskey, Jared Jeffrey, Lewis Neal, and Collin Martin; and a forward pairing of Conor Doyle and Michael Seaton.

Removing Boswell and Dykstra from the equation, United's remaining 9 players have combined for 1,240 total minutes played in MLS this year (or just short of 138 minutes per player). 588 of those minutes are Neal's.

As there was no video of the game, it's difficult to give much of a detailed description of the action. Instead, dear reader, you will have to rely on brief impressions left by the announcing crew (who were often more focused on reading facts from the media guide rather than describing the game) and the occasional tweet from the two teams involved and one eyewitness.

After a brief feeling-out period, Fulham created the game's first real chance as midfielder Chris David hit the post with a shot from...well, somewhere. When given a chance to get a word in edgewise, the color commentator noted more than once that United was carrying the edge in terms of possession, but after David's effort there was a long spell in which chances either weren't created or weren't discussed.

Fulham would take the lead in the 22nd minute through Dembele. Apparently Dembele was put through for a 1v1 following this Kemp turnover. Or at least, there are indications that that's what happened. I heard things. I don't know if that's 100% true, but for the sake of this recap continuing, we'll just assume that's what actually occurred.

The game was almost aggressively forgettable at this point, but an injury to Porter provided a reminder that it still had real consequences. The winger returned to action briefly, but eventually came off in the 32nd minute for Christiano Francois. Olsen moved Caskey to right back and slotted Francois in on the right wing, where he drew some praise from the announcers as the game wore on.

Minutes later, United finally got something going on the attacking end. A shot from either Doyle or Martin (depending on who you ask) was blocked out for a corner kick in the 40th minute. Seaton broke past a defender to force a save from Fulham keeper Jesse Joronen two minutes later.

Unfortunately, the Black-and-Red's threat was squelched moments later. A cross from the left wing was either scuffed or missed entirely by Boswell, leaving Dembele with a sitter that he didn't waste. Or at least, it was probably Boswell. Fulham tweeted that it was Boswell, but they misidentified United players throughout so who knows?

After a halftime that involved radio commercials for a men's rights-friendly law firm, United may have been expected to make a slew of substitutions. Instead, Steve Birnbaum coming in at center back for Boswell was Olsen's only change, and the game continued to play out in largely the same manner: DC held the edge in possession but were largely unable to get in behind the Fulham back four.

In the 52nd minute, United were again given a reminder that mid-season exhibition reserve games like this still can leave a lasting mark. Dykstra picked up an injury of some sort, leaving Bill Hamid to hurriedly suit up and take the field. It's worth noting that Dave Johnson's game recap for CSN Washington - which involved a word with Olsen after the match - also notes an injury to Caskey. Hooray mid-season friendlies!

Following the sub, United finally started to create something more than a sporadic threat. Kemp became a more frequent participant on the attack, first hooking in a cross for Seaton to head wide at the near post in the 56th minute. Ten minutes later, he found the same man at the back post from an apparently rehearsed corner kick routine, but United's young Jamaica international could only glance the ball wide again.

Almost like clockwork, United gave up another poor goal in the 72nd minute. This one got the same, shall we say, spare description from the announcers, though apparently it involved a giveaway that could be called "horrific." As I saw no mention of the guilty party in any other recap nor on Twitter, I'm going to blame this goal on a poltergeist.

The game more or less petered out after Dembele got his hat trick, though Francois went on a solo raid that nearly became a goal roughly three minutes after Fulham had gone up 3-0. If there is any good note from this game, it may well be that Francois created some danger, or was at least credited with doing so by people who were apparently at the game, which may or may not have happened.

Next up for United is an infinitely more important game Wednesday night at home against Toronto FC. Given the absurd nature of this entire recap, I'd like to close with this picture from a different game: