D.C. United opened the 2015 preseason tonight with 1-1 draw against MLS newcomers Orlando City SC. Chris Pontius gave the Black-and-Red an early lead with a superb diving header, but the Lions would equalize via new signing Carlos Rivas midway through the second half.
Ben Olsen started the game in a familiar 442, though with a less familiar group of players. Trialist Diego Restrepo started in goal behind a back four of Chris Korb, Bobby Boswell, Kofi Opare, and Taylor Kemp. Sean Franklin played right midfield, with Jared Jeffrey and Davy Arnaud in the middle and Andrew Driver (who may or may not end up signing) on the left. Fabian Espindola was partnered by Chris Pontius up front.
After a decidedly choppy opening period, United created the first threat with a pair of corner kicks that turned a bit chaotic inside Orlando's penalty area. Unfortunately, the only shot attempt that the sequence produced was a one-time effort from Bobby Boswell that was blocked over the bar by a defender.
From there, the Black-and-Red settled in and would open the scoring in the 14th minute. A lovely sequence of one-touch passing down the middle finally saw Fabian Espindola spray the ball wide for Taylor Kemp, who fired in a dangerous cross from the left. Chris Pontius launched himself onto it, getting just enough contact with his diving header to direct the ball across Donovan Ricketts and into the lower corner of the far post.
Seven minutes later, DCU would threaten once more. Espindola was the architect again, chopping a pass with the outside of his right foot over the Orlando City back four. The ball didn't bounce optimally for Pontius - if it had, he would have been clean through on goal - but despite the attentions of Aurelien Collin he was able to direct a ball wide for Kemp. Kemp drilled another cross into the middle, this time aiming at Andrew Driver, but Ricketts was able to punch the ball clear in the nick of time.
Orlando pushed back a bit in the 24th minute, but Kofi Opare produced a timely block on Kevin Molino's shot attempt and Kemp managed to scramble the ball clear. A 28th minute cross from OCSC right back Rafael Ramos - after some great work to control the ball and get into space down the United left - saw Diego Restrepo flap on his cross, but the arriving Orlando attacker at the back post could only direct the ball wide. Later, in the 39th minute, rookie Sidney Rivera fired wide from a decent position inside the box.
As with most preseason games, United swapped out nearly the entire team at halftime.
Riccardo Anedda took over Restrepo stayed in goal, while the back four saw three trialists (Rauwshan McKenzie, Futty Danso, and Sean St. Ledger) and an unidentified trialist wearing #37. The midfield shifted into a diamond, with Dan Metzer playing as the defensive midfielder while Collin Martin played the attacking midfield role. Miguel Aguilar (right) and David Estrada (left) were the wide midfielders, while up front Conor Doyle - making his return after surgery on his meniscus - and newcomer Jairo Arrieta took over up front.
The first real chance for either team in the 2nd half came in the 57th minute as Estrada tried to clean up after something of a scramble inside the Orlando box. In the end, however, his low shot was straight at keeper Earl Edwards Jr. Two minutes later, Orlando nearly equalized after Futty Danso was stripped of the ball in a very dangerous spot, but Rivera - having done the hard work of winning the ball - weakly shot at Restrepo, who made the easy save. United drew a good save out of Edwards in the 65th minute in response.
The Lions would equalize in the 67th minute after a sloppy series of plays from United. Following an avoidable foul from Danso along United's right flank, Rivas' left footer skidded off the Florida turf and through the arms of Restrepo, giving OCSC some form of local rooting pleasure against a man who tended net for the Tampa Bay Rowdies for the past two years. Neither United trialist will look back on the moment fondly.
Danso's night ended early after he went down with what appeared to be a non-contact injury. He was replaced by Jalen Robinson, who surprisingly played left back. McKenzie moved into his more natural center back role, with Mystery Trialist switching flanks to right back. Moments after the goal, Italian trialist Riccardo Anedda took over in goal.
Play had gotten progressively more choppy and fractured as the game went on, which given the fact that the preseason has only just started is understandable. Still, United might have won the match late on. Arrieta had the best chance to win it for either team thanks to a pass from Estrada, but opted for power instead of placement in the 84th minute and ended up blasting his shot high. In the final moments, McKenzie nearly got his head onto a free kick at the back post.
United's next preseason match will be this coming Tuesday, February 2nd, as they face Swedish 2nd division side Jonkopings Sodra IF in Bradenton, FL.
We will add full highlights when they are made available. Here's the Orlando goal: