D.C. United kicked off the 2011 Carolina Challenge Cup with a 2-1 win over the Charleston Battery on Saturday, March 5 in Charleston, S.C. Chris Pontius and Josesph Ngwenya led the line for the Black-and-Red, posting goals on either side of halftime.
Ben Olsen named a captain for the first time this preseason, with midfielder Dax McCarty taking the armband to lead the club. McCarty slotted a perfectly weighted through ball past the Battery defense in the fourth minute, allowing forward Chris Pontius to round Charleston's goalkeeper. The California native placed his shot towards the far post, giving United a 1-0 advantage.
Charleston responded immediately, earning a penalty after Ngwenya was whistled for pushing in the wall during a Battery free kick. Stephen Armstrong stepped up to the penalty spot for the home side, besting Pat Onstad and drawing Charleston level at 1-1.
Winger Andy Najar kept Charleston's backline off-balance throughout the evening, earning several free kicks after being fouled on different occasions due to his speed down the flanks. In the 49th minute it looked as if the young Honduran had earned a penalty after being dragged down inside the area, but the official did not see fit to award a spot kick.
United broke through once more, as forward Josh Wolff raced down the left wing in the 71st minute, playing a driven cross across Charleston's area to Ngwenya. The Zimbabwean buried his chance in the back of the Battery net, and United held on for a comfortable 2-1 victory. Fresh off of a return from France, forward Charlie Davies entered the match in the 79th minute. Fellow substitute Santino Quaranta took the armband from McCarty following the former FC Dallas player's exit in the 83rd minute.
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United Head Coach Ben Olsen was pleased with his side's effort following the final whistle. While crediting the Battery for a strong display, Olsen also hailed his own club's ability to battle from behind, "Charleston made it very difficult for us to break them down tonight, but we stuck with it, and we eventually found that second goal."
On the penalty that was called against the Black-and-Red, Olsen commented, "Was it a penalty? I'm not sure, in the end it's probably good that it [happened] so that we had to battle back."
Olsen admitted that he is closer to finalizing his starting lineup for the club's Major League Soccer First Kick contest with Columbus on March 19. To this end, the next two Carolina Challenge Cup matches with Chicago and Toronto FC will play an important role in finalizing that process. Said Olsen, "We're starting to narrow [the lineup] down a little bit now. Over the next few games we will start to finalize that picture of who we are and what guys we need to have out there for the [regular season] opener."
- D.C. United - Chris Pontius 4' ( Dax McCarty)
- Charleston Battery - Armstrong 15' (PK)
- D.C. United - Joseph Ngwenya 71' (Josh Wolff)
Onstad; Zayner, Jakovic (Brasesco 73'), Kitchen, Woolard; Pontius (Boskovic 80'), Simms (Morsink 46'), McCarty (C) (Fred 82'), Najar (Quaranta 80'); Wolff (Davies 78'), Ngwenya
First half line-up: Wiggans; Zaher, Marples, Dugoni, Wiltse; Jackson, Armstrong, Caskey, Prince; Gueye, Massie
Second half line-up: Hannigan; Flatley, Marples, Bateau, Dugoni; Davis, Mulholland, Cuevas, Saintil; Mack, Bah