D.C. United Starting Lineup: Bill Hamid; Akeem Ward, Frédéric Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, Leonardo Jara; Chris Durkin, Júnior Moreno; Zoltán Stieber, Lucas Rodríguez, Ulises Segura; Wayne Rooney
D.C. United kickstarted their 2019 campaign with a preseason friendly against United Soccer League (USL) side Bethlehem Steel FC on Feb. 2 at 2 PM ET. The exhibition match gave players their first taste of action and was an opportunity for the players to gel and work on their on-field chemistry.
A few offseason signings got their first taste of action in the Black-and-Red with Lucas Rodríguez, Leonardo Jara, Akeem Ward, Donovan Pines, Earl Edwards Jr., and Antonio Bustamante all featuring in the match.
Friendlies at this stage of the season are used primarily to integrate new players and work on overall game fitness. Despite it being only the first game of the season, United had plenty of bright flashes throughout the match with promising signs of cohesion between players.
Newly signed defender Akeem Ward started on the left side of the backline and forged a good partnership with Hungarian international Zoltán Stieber. The two combined multiple times in the first half which resulted in a handful of dangerous attacking crosses.
On the other side of the field, Leonardo Jara and Ulises Segura created plenty of opportunities between them with the Costa Rican midfielder having a couple of sights at goal.
Lucas Rodríguez got his first action of the season and showcased his playmaking ability. Wayne Rooney came off after 18 minutes after picking up a minor knock and is expected to be fit for the friendly on Feb. 7 against FC Cincinnati.
At the other end of the field, Bill Hamid recorded his first shutout of the year. Despite Bethlehem only registering a shot on goal, Hamid was vocal throughout and helped the Black-and-Red play out of the back.
The second half saw a flurry of substitutions as academy players and trialists looked to impress Ben Olsen and the rest of the coaching staff. An unnamed trialist scored the game-winner in the 57th minute as he curled the ball into the bottom right corner of the goal.
Homegrown duo Jalen Robinson and Donovan Pines paired up at center back and allowed few sights at goal for the Bethlehem attack. Former Orlando City SC goalkeeper, Earl Edwards Jr., stepped in for Hamid in the second half and brought the clean sheet home for United.
It was a promising start to the 2019 campaign for the Black-and-Red and the team will continue their preseason training on Monday, Feb. 4 ahead of their friendly against MLS expansion side FC Cincinnati on Feb. 7 at IMG Academy with kickoff slated for 7 PM ET.