IMAGE: Mattocks v. Malmo

The Black-and-Red opened preseason play on Thursday against top-tier Swedish side Malmö FF in a friendly at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. While United fell 2-1 to the Swedes, the friendly capped off a strong first preseason camp and gave the Black-and-Red the opportunity to test new players and lineups.  

The starting XI featured plenty of new faces, including Jamaican striker Darren Mattocks, Costa Rican midfielder Ulises Segura, Venezuelan midfielder Júnior Moreno, and French defender Frédéric Brillant. As the newcomers worked to assert themselves in their first match with the Black-and-Red, the squad as a whole focused on communication and better learning each others' styles of play in order to continue improving team chemistry and organization. 

Malmö FF tested United early on with strong build-up play and offensive pressure, but the back four remained disciplined, with goalkeeper Steve Clark and center backs Brillant and Kofi Opare serving as the vocal leaders. Like Malmö, United found their fair share of chances in front of goal—Segura nearly headed home a Zoltán Stieber cross, and Mattocks was taken down in the box for what could've been deemed a penalty kick. Neither side was able to convert, though, leading to a scoreless match entering halftime. 

The Black-and-Red found their breakthrough in the 56th minute when Mattocks netted his first goal for D.C. Stieber played a long ball from the midfield line toward Mattocks, who was making a run on goal. Stieber's ball took a deflection as Mattocks slipped behind Malmö's last line of defense, collected, and cooly finished to give the Black-and-Red the lead. 

Shortly after the score, United's coaching staff made a slew of substitutions to continue assessing different areas of the lineup. While D.C. conceded two late goals to Malmö FF, the second half gave the Black-and-Red a chance to test new and less-tenured players—including recent acquisition Oniel Fisher, 19-year-old Bruno Miranda, and 18-year-old Chris Durkin—in a competitive setting. 

The Black-and-Red now return to the District for a few days before heading back to Clearwater, Fla., for their second preseason camp on Feb. 14. Ben Olsen's squad will face the Philadelphia Union and Jacksonville Armada in the Tampa Bay Rowdies Suncoast Invitational during second camp before traveling to Las Vegas to play USL newcomers Las Vegas Lights FC for their final preseason match. The 2018 MLS regular season kicks off on March 3 when United take on Orlando City at Orlando City Stadium.