Tampa Bay Sports Day

DC United advance 2-0 in Open Cup

The match was close and unnecessarily difficult but DC United escaped with a 2-0 victory against the PDL’s Ocean City Barons Tuesday night to advance to the quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at the Maryland SoccerPlex just outside of Washington, DC.

United will now take on the Harrisburg City Islanders (USL2), who upset the New England Revolution 2-1 in extra time Tuesday in Connecticut. That game will be played next Tuesday at the SoccerPlex.

United coach Tom Soehn fielded a primarily reserve starting XI in hopes that someone would seize the opportunity to earn more minutes in upcoming games or a spot on a gameday roster. Some impressed and some didn’t in the definitively underwhelming team performance.

United finally broke down the heavily bunkered Barons, an amateur side from the New Jersey shore, earning a penalty kick in the 74th minute. After a darting run from some 30-yards out, Christian Gomez scooped a ball into the left side of the penalty area for a dashing Ange N’Silu, drawing goalkeeper Tunde Ogunbiyi off his line.

Although N’Silu did not get a clean shot, Ogunbiyi arrived on the scene a split-second late sending the Congolese striker spinning wildly to the wet turf. Gomez, who came on in the 68th minute, promptly stepped up and calmly slotted the ball inside the left post to open the scoring.

“They dropped everybody back in. They played with one forward and I know those situations are tough to break down,” said Soehn. “We talked about it at the half on how to do that and I thought we did better at it but that is part of the learning process. We had a lot of new guys on the field and they have to grow into the game.”

“We are green, very green,” added assistant coach Mark Simpson.

The Barons, three levels below United on the U.S. soccer ladder and the only amateur side remaining in the competition, are made up primarily of off-season college players with only forward Byron Carmichael having any previous higher level experience, spending some time with the Wilmington Hammerheads. Carmichael, a school teacher in Trenton, NJ, is the team’s all-time leading scorer and coaches in the club’s youth academy.

N’Silu added the clincher in stoppage time, finishing off the second rebound left by Ogunbiyi from a hard free kick from Gomez. The Boston College keeper got down quickly to his right to save the initial shot and got a piece of Clyde Simms’ rebound before N’Silu slotted the loose ball into the open net to finalize the scoring.

Greg Janicki patrolled the middle of the United backline flanked by Devon McTavish on the right in favor of Bryan Namoff and Marc Burch on the left. Veteran Ben Olsen donned the captain’s armband, playing the first half before being replaced by Chris Pontius in a pre-planned move by Soehn.

Olsen was surrounded in the midfield by Rodney Wallace and reserves John DiRaimondo, Andrew Jacobson, and Brandon Barklage with N’Silu paired with Boyzzz Khumalo up top.

“Several guys did well and there were other guys who didn’t do enough to make a gameday roster,” said Soehn about some of the individual performances. “I think we are still learning things about some of our guys. There were some positives and negatives to take away from today.”

Despite having a hand in both United goals N’Silu was ineffective at holding the ball to create numbers in the attack and working off the ball in tandem with Khumalo.

“I thought Ange struggled in the first half. He really didn’t hold the ball for us; he really didn’t move off of Boyzz’s runs,” said Soehn. “Boyzzz gave us a lot of energy-when Boyzz checks you have move into the space that he creates. Ange didn’t do a good job at it. He did a little bit better the second half but he still has got to make some progress.”

The energetic Khumalo maintained his status as a viable pace-changer off the bench sprinkled with the occasional start. Though his work rate and energy are magnetic and compelling he still needs work.

“The great thing about Boyzzz is that he gives you energy and sometimes the bad thing about Boyzzz is that he gives you the energy and you’re not sure what to do off of him. But we know what Boyzzz brings, he brings a lot of heart every time he plays,” said Soehn.

United as a team forced way too many balls into traffic in the attacking third and repeatedly worked their way into situations with only one viable option, hence making them very easy to defend.

While McTavish did nothing to increase his status within the team, Janicki performed well enough to potentially earn a start at the suddenly resurgent Columbus on Saturday in another mid-season test for first place United. With Dejan Jakovic away at the Gold Cup with Canadian National Team, Janicki may be called upon to fill that crucial role in central defense.

“Greg had a good handle on the game in the back. It was important to get Greg some minutes with Dejan gone and he showed signs of what he did last year,” said Soehn.

Pontius secured his standing as a future National Team candidate with a calm yet menacing performance in his 45-minutes of action. He had an immediate impact on the match, nearly forging United ahead 10-minutes into the second half but his uncontested header off a corner slipped just wide from inside the 6-yard box.

He slipped in behind the Ocean City defense again in the 68th minute after a nice exchange with N’Silu, but his first touch got away from him allowing Barons defender Jimmy Davis to stop him harshly near the penalty spot.

“He was unfortunate not to score,” said Soehn about the burgeoning California native. “He created a lot of havoc right away; held the ball; beat guys on the dribble and he showed why he is having such a successful season for us.”