Depth has been one of the key talking points of D.C. United's 2012 preseason, and during Saturday night's 1-0 win over Chicago in the Carolina Challenge Cup, it was on full display. After an opening 45 minutes that saw the Black-and-Red pinned in their own end, a pair of substitutes made the difference in United's much-improved second half performance.
Emiliano Dudar and Ethan White came on to start the final period and immediately injected a sense of calm to a D.C. defense that had been exposed by the pace of Chicago forwards Patrick Nyarko and Dominic Oduro.
"I thought Dudar in particular, his composure on the ball really changed us up in the second half," United coach Ben Olsen said after the win. "I didn't think it was a great first half. I think defensively our shape was ok, we just defended too much."
Though United defended less in the second half, the Fire did push forward in search of an equalizer following Hamdi Salihi's 66th minute goal. But contrary to the first half, when Chicago seemed to easily find their way behind D.C.'s high-playing back line, the Fire were kept largely at bay thanks to the communication provided by Olsen's subs.
"Emiliano and I were talking on the sideline about making sure that we were communicating more than what we heard on the field," said White, now in his second year as a professional. "We kept the guys in front of us and kind of just contained."
"Communication on the field is of the highest importance, especially at defense where one has the chance to see the whole field," added Dudar in a post-match Spanish interview. "One has to try to more or less keep things organized. Ethan and I spoke before hand about talking more and it seemed to work."
Beyond communication, the duo also added an imposing physical presence at the spine of D.C.'s defense. In the final ten minutes, Chicago sent in multiple aerial balls only to see Dudar and White win header after header.
"I thought on most of the balls whipped in we did pretty well today," said Olsen. "It has been a bit of an achilles heel with us so we are always looking to improve in that way."
United returns to play Wednesday with a match against the host Charleston Battery. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. and the game will be live streamed at dcunited.com.