United in Charleston: Sunday notes
Some follow-up notes in the aftermath of United’s first preseason win of 2012, a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire in the opening match of the Carolina Challenge Cup on Saturday night.
OH MY GOAL
For the first two-thirds of Saturday’s showdown against the Fire, freshly-inked designated player Hamdi Salihi went all but silent. Unable to link up with his teammates - mostly because they were all defending against Chicago’s relentless attack - Salihi looked like a forgotten man up top.
Then came the 66th minute, and a loping long-ball in from United’s back line. The build-up itself didn’t seem all that threatening, until Salihi slipped behind Chicago’s defense. Even then what was developing was little more than a half-chance, an opportunity most players would have passed on, choosing to collect the ball and distribute rather than try and score from such a narrow angle.
But Salihi isn't most players, and as the video proves his daring attempt was worth the risk. As caught off-guard as former United goalie Jay Nolly looked on the play, Salihi's teammates were even more surprised by the ambitious effort.
"Just for him to try that shot … I was happy for him," De Rosario told Andrew Wiebe of MLSsoccer.com. "For him to finish the way he did was good. It’s nice to see someone have those instincts in front of goal."
"It's amazing, not a lot of people think to even shoot that ball and he puts it in the back of the net," added Chris Pontius. "It's a great finish and that is why we brought him in here."
Perhaps the best reaction to Salihi's goal came from Head Coach Ben Olsen. When asked about the strike, Olsen flashed a rare smile and said 'that's why we're paying him'.
RELATED: Watch Salihi's goal
DOUBLE THE DEPTH
As we told you last night, a pair of second-half subs made a big difference in getting United back on track following a difficult opening 45 minutes. But Emiliano Dudar and Ethan White weren't the only guys who made a difference coming off D.C.'s bench.
Rookie Lance Rozeboom has impressed throughout camp, but without a contract yet in hand, the University of New Mexico product is still playing for a job. After the match, Olsen singled out the supplemental draft pick for his calming influence on the ball.
"Rozeboom came in and really was a big key in why we were successful in that second half," said Olsen. "He [was playing] at the right speed. The first half was too slow on the ball, I thought in the second half [the subs] did that."
D.C. selected Rozeboom in the second round of the 2012 MLS Supplemental Draft, with the 26th overall pick.
While United's first team took Sunday off, D.C.'s U-18 academy side took on the Chicago Fire U-18's in an early morning match at Blackbaud Stadium. With Ben Olsen and his technical staff looking on, United played Chicago to a scoreless draw. A few tidbits from the game:
— D.C.'s depth at goalkeeper seems to extend down to the youth ranks. In the 31st minute goalie Sam Legg (Broad Run High School - Ashburn, VA) made the play of the day, denying Chicago forward Kellen Gulley - a 17-year-old who has already been signed to a first team contract by the Fire - from point-blank range.
— Jalen Robinson, a Wake Forest commit who recently returned from U.S. U-20 camp, showed versatility by opening the game at central defense before moving up to the center of the midfield for the second half.
— Andy Najar's younger brother Denis entered in the 80th minute as D.C. went in search of a late game-winner. The younger Najar wore the familiar #14 jersey and occupied his brother's spot on the right flank.