The first silverware of the new year is ours, boys and girls. D.C. United claimed preseason glory - GLORY! (or something) - Saturday night in Charleston, S.C. with a 2-2 draw against the Seattle Sounders in both sides' final match of the 2014 preseason. The result gives United the edge over Seattle on goal differential and clinches the Black-and-Red's fourth Carolina Challenge Cup title. United gave up two leads over the course of the night, but held the line for the last 15 minutes after going down a man to get a point out of the match.
United came out of the gate strong, pressing high up the field and forcing Seattle into mistakes. One such mistake led to a penalty kick for United when the referee adjudged Chad Marshall to have handled the ball. Fabian Espindola converted the spot kick to record his first goal of the preseason. Seattle would pull even later in the first half, though, after pressure from Kenny Cooper forced United GK Andrew Dykstra to flub his attempt to catch a cross, allowing Cooper to tap home the night's first equalizer.
Seattle controlled much of the first half after the opening 15 or so minutes, and several United players can bear some of the blame. Luis Silva may have been chasing butterflies for all his effect on the game, while Nick DeLeon tried to be a bit too fancy with his one-touch passing and gave the ball away on several occasions. It wasn't all bad, though, as Fabian Espindola and Christian both had strong halves, as did Conor Doyle.
Just as in the first half, Ben Olsen's unchanged XI came out of halftime as the aggressors. Luis Silva in particular came out for the second half much stronger than the first. The increased intensity paid off when Perry Kitchen first-timed a Fabian Espindola corner kick for the go-ahead goal just five minutes into the half. Of course, the lead was not to last, as Seattle again played their way into the game, eventually drawing even via Marco Pappa, who finished what has to be called a very sharp series of passes with a side-footed shot past Dykstra.
Things got really interesting, though, as the game opened up. After a couple end-to-end exchanges, DeAndre Yedlin received the ball with Seattle breaking and looked to charge past a retreating Christian. D.C.'s Spaniard was never going to let Yedlin go by unmolested and was sent off for his challenge, which appeared to consist of kicking out at his second-year counterpart. Christian was shown red, and Yedlin limped off to make way for a substitute.
A man up for the final 15 minutes, Seattle predictably bossed proceedings for the duration. After removing Marco Pappa, though, they never really threatened United's goal, instead sending in long balls over the top from inside their own half or looking for Obafemi Martins with crosses. It proved to be easy work for Bobby Boswell, Jeff Parke, Sean Franklin and Taylor Kemp, who had subbed in for Luis Silva to take over Christian's spot on the left.
Next up for United is the real deal, the season-opener March 8 at RFK.