D.C. United endured a difficult first match in the annual Carolina Challenge Cup in Charleston, SC Saturday night. The Black-and-Red fell 3-0 to Real Salt Lake, and suffered two red card dismissals and three injuries during the match.
The first match of the Saturday night double-header began slowly for both clubs, as possession was hard to come by in the early going. Both teams did their best to settle in but neither found the ball under its control for long stretches.
United suffered the first of many setbacks in just the 10th minute, when goalkeeper Louis Crayton tweaked his quad trying to strike a ball. He was unable to continue and was replaced by trialist Nic Platter shortly thereafter.
United’s first good chance to get on the board came in the 19th minute when Luciano Emilio collected the ball with his back to the goal, just outside the 18-yard box, and laid off a slightly bouncing ball for a streaking Clyde Simms. Simms struck the ball first time on a half volley, narrowly missing the goal to the left, past a diving Chris Seitz.
D.C.’s best chance to score developed in the 32nd minute when Francis Doe was given the ball just on the other side of half. He carried the ball deep into Salt Lake territory and chipped a ball towards a sprinting Fred on the right side of the field. From 15 yards, Fred’s first-time volley sailed wide left. The midfielder pulled his hamstring on the play and was removed for Chris Pontius.
Three minutes later, Salt Lake had an odd-man break after a turnover. The ball was sprayed left to an onrushing Chris Wingert. As the RSL defender moved towards the ball, United’s Dejan Jakovic – making his debut in black – attempted to close the angle, hesitating briefly. Jakovic laid full out in a slide tackle towards Wingert, narrowly missing the ball and clipping the sprinting RSL defender. The referee judged the play to be dangerous and gave United’s defender a straight red.
Salt Lake wasted little time getting on the board in the second half. Four minutes in, Raphael Cox corralled the ball deep in United’s left corner of the field. The midfielder lofted a cross to the near post for Luis Escalada. The forward’s diving header re-directed the ball to the far post, past a helpless Platter, striking the woodwork before deflecting into the back of the net.
In the 65th, Salt Lake’s Tony Beltran was put through on the right side by Kyle Beckerman. Beltran ensuing cross was heading towards Will Johnson, but a recovering Santino Quaranta broke up the play. Unfortunately, Quaranta injured himself on the play and had to be replaced by Rodney Wallace.
As the game approached the final 20 minutes, things began to open up. Second half sub Jaime Moreno had a chance snared by goalkeeper Nick Rimando and Christian Gomez was almost put through on a nice ball by Chris Pontius, but the pass was just out of reach and collected by Rimando.
In the 76th minute, Salt Lake doubled their lead when Clint Mathis gathered the ball near midfield and lofted a chip over the United defense to Yura Movsisyan. In alone on goal, Movsisyan struck the bouncing ball with his first touch over an approaching Platter and into the back of the net.
In the 88th minute, RSL’s Michael Osci was put behind D.C.’s defense. Anthony Peters attempted to recover and tackle the ball away, but clipped Osci and took him out of the play. Peters was the last defender and was thus ejected. On the ensuing free kick – from 22 yards – Andy Williams curled a well-hit ball into the upper left corner for the 3-0 lead and the exclamation point on the evening.
The goal would stand as the final of the night and resulted in a tournament-opening loss for United. The team is back in action on Wednesday night against Toronto FC.