United youngsters answer challenge
By Charles Boehm / MLSnet.comWASHINGTON -- From the very outset of preseason training camp, D.C. United head coach Tom Soehn has been lavishly praising his 2009 squad's depth, a product of D.C.'s lucrative SuperDraft haul as well as Major League Soccer's newly-streamlined roster regulations.United's 2-0 victory against FC Dallas in a U.S. Open Cup play-in match on Wednesday night offers compelling vindication for Soehn's outlook, as he gave opportunities to a host of youngsters and then watched them briskly disassemble their visitors with a composed performance that portends well for the club's future."I've said from the beginning that we have a deep team and it was fun to get them on the field and let them show what they're about, their character, the qualities of why we brought some of them here," said the third-year boss. "It's probably one of the deepest teams I've coached. So I have confidence in them, because they've shown me every day."With the guidance of a few veterans like Bryan Namoff, Santino Quaranta and Fred, United's kids swamped FCD from the outset, dominating possession and creating chance after chance in the first 20 minutes.Fred, nominally a left winger on this occasion but cutting inside at will, displayed a savvy understanding with frontrunners Quaranta and rookie Chris Pontius and the trio hit paydirt in the 21st minute on a rapid-fire passing sequence that rendered the Dallas backline bystanders. The Brazilian said his finishing touch past goalkeeper Ray Burse was the easy part."It was a good play between Chris and Tino, a give and go. I saw that [Pontius] had the ball so I sprinted towards the goal, and he was able to give me the ball. All I had to do was finish off the play," said Fred. "This week we trained together and we talked amongst the three of us, that the good communication on the field would pay off, and it did tonight. Hopefully it will continue this way."That lightning-fast start nearly backfired on United as they found themselves unable to maintain their breakneck tempo. But though Dallas worked their way back into contention following Fred's goal, they could do little to discomfit a D.C. lineup that performed with surprising efficiency."It didn't really feel like we played with a whole lot of young guys. We had a firm grip on the game from the first minute. I thought we let it go the last 10 [minutes of the half], because we put so much into the first 30," recalled Quaranta. "Me and Chris came in at halftime and he said, 'I've never ran that much in the first 25 minutes of a game,' and I said, 'me neither.'"The Black-and-Red reasserted themselves after halftime and the result was sealed by a well-taken goal from another rookie, Brandon Barklage. The Saint Louis University product has been somewhat overshadowed this season by the impressive performances of United's first-round draft picks, Pontius and Rodney Wallace. But he made the most of his 90 minutes at the attacking midfield spot against FCD and his crisp finish of Quaranta's layoff in the 66th minute provided the perfect cap to his first-ever professional start."One hundred percent credit goes to Tino for that ball. He placed it perfectly," said Barklage. "I stepped into the space and saw the defender wasn't stepping, so I took the opportunity to rip it. I didn't get 100 percent of the ball but I found the corner."United must travel north this weekend to face their Atlantic Cup rivals, the New York Red Bulls, on the artificial surface of Giants Stadium, but they will do so with the wind in their sails after Wednesday's display."It's still about how we build up and how we expose teams and I think every game that we play, we're looking to hopefully increase on that," said Soehn. "But it's great to have competition and you can see these guys -- a lot of them haven't played 90 minutes -- but they handled it pretty well because they train and push each other very hard during the week, so that when they get their chance it doesn't drop off. It's been pretty consistent from everybody."