The regular season starts in six days. Since December 10, 2013, we signed 12 brand new faces, six of which started last night’s match against the Seattle Sounders. It has been a preseason full of learning new names, creating relationships and finding rhythm. And last night, there were glimpses.
“I thought at times we looked on the same page,” said Assistant Coach Chad Ashton. “That’s starting to come; that rhythm part, that cohesiveness.”
Consistently through preseason, that chemistry was missing on the offensive side of the ball, but in last night's match there was good movement on and off the ball, quick one-two touch play and several opportunities were created, two of which DCU capitalized on—Fabian Espindola converted a penalty kick in the 8th minute and Perry Kitchen volleyed an Espindola cross home in the 53rd.
“Since we’ve gotten to Charleston, we’ve talked about creating a winning attitude and a winning environment,” explained Ashton. “We knew what we had to do to walk out of here with a trophy.”
And D.C. United did just that. Now the Black-and-Red are leaving Charleston with the Carolina Challenge Cup for the fourth time in our history. Though the Cup was earned, there is still a lot of things United must improve upon before opening the doors to RFK on Saturday.
“I thought we started well, then midway through, we started to make some poor decision and it cost us possession,” said Ashton. “Our shape was good defensively, but we need to not give up that goal— it’s a little bit of a soft goal.”
Overall, though, Ashton was pleased with the defensive effort, especially after Christian Fernandez left the game due to a red card.
“It was a good test,” Ashton stated. “It was a good exercise to go down a man with 12 minutes left and get out of there without conceding a goal. So from a coaching standpoint, you couldn’t have drawn it up any better.”
Now, United look to use the momentum created in preseason heading into Saturday match against the Crew.
“We’re very proud of this trophy. Now we can maintain that winning attitude going into the home opener,” said Ashton. “The guys just need to just get away for a couple days. Get home, see their families and friends. Then, we just continue to try to piece it together a little bit at a time.”
And the first piece that needs to come is a clean sheet at home.
“I think if we can not give up soft goals and do a good job on the defensive side, we’ve got guys that can create goals,” Ashton explained. “The big thing we’ll be focusing on will be not giving up any goals at home.”
United’s Home Opener is Saturday, March 8 at 7 p.m. Buy your tickets here.