D.C. United departs the Lowcountry on a high note.
No parades out of Chucktown, aka Holy City. Just a preseason tournament trophy. And a shot of confidence. And good vibes heading into the season opener.
United won the Carolina Challenge Cup with a 2-2 draw against the Seattle Sounders (goal difference: +2 vs. +1). DCU was okay in the first half, exceptional early in the second half and just good enough before and after Cristian Fernandez‘s red card for chopping down DeAndre Yedlin.
“There were some really good portions of that game where, if we could put them together for longer stretches, we will be in good shape,” Ben Olsen said. “There were some stretches where we struggled to get a hold of the ball. The ideas were there; the execution wasn’t. Overall, we are a group with a lot of new starters and they’ve come along.”
*Injury update: Bill Hamid (ankle) and Eddie Johnson (hamstring) were held out as a precaution and will be ready, Olsen said, for the opener against Columbus next Saturday night at RFK Stadium. Nana Attakora was in uniform after recovering from a bone bruise and Lewis Neal has recovered from a leg ailment but Chris Korb remains out with a leg problem.
Chris Pontius (hamstring recovery) is a few weeks from regular duty. Jared Jeffrey sat out after suffering from illness much of the week. Jalen Robinson, destined for assignment to third-division Richmond this season, is out for several weeks with a hamstring injury suffered against the Charleston Battery on Wednesday. Michael Seaton is on Jamaican national team assignment for two friendlies. He too might end up in Richmond to play regularly.
*Barring injury or other issues, Olsen seems almost certain to field this starting lineup against the Crew: Hamid in goal; Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Jeff Parke and Fernandez along the back; Davy Arnaud on the right flank, Nick DeLeon on the left flank, and Perry Kitchen behind Luis Silva in the middle; Fabian Espindola and Johnson up top.
Primary reserves: Kyle Porter, Jeffrey, Conor Doyle, Steve Birnbaum.
*Midfielder Victor Munoz, the second-round draft pick from UCLA, was the only trialist to play against the Sounders, an 85th-minute entry. I would weigh his chances of making the team at 50-50. Midfielders Reuben Ayarna and Abel Sebele have no hope. I also wonder whether defender Conor Shanosky, a fourth-year homegrown center back, will remain with the club. He is behind Boswell, Parke, Birnbaum and Attakora on the depth chart.
*Has Andrew Dykstra supplanted Joe Willis as the No. 2 goalkeeper? Seems like it. Willis was sent to Richmond for this weekend’s scrimmage against the University of Maryland while Dykstra remained in Charleston and played all 90 minutes against the Sounders. He should have done better on Seattle’s first goal, getting beaten to a high ball, but was not at fault on the equalizer. Olsen said Hamid is the No. 1 keeper and Dykstra and Willis will battle for the back-up role. He also said, however, both will spend time in Richmond this season in order to gain competitive minutes.
*Fernandez is no stranger to red, something that should concern United. Signing Fernandez was a wise move — he gets forward, which allows DeLeon to pinch inside, and offers experience. But in his final four appearances in Spain, he received five yellows (two reds). An ejection in the last preseason game does not come with a suspension for the regular season opener … unless MLS reviews the play and deems it egregious.
*Speaking of Fernandez, his legal first name is Cristian. So why is the name on the back of his jersey — like other Spaniards, he chose to use his first name — spelled “Christian”? According to club officials, upon birth, his parents disagreed about the spelling. His father won out. So to honor his mother, he has always used the “h” on his jersey.
*United has won the Carolina Challenge Cup each of the last four times it has entered. DCU has also finished second three times and third once. Club officials have not decided whether they’ll return next year; it’s much too soon to address such a topic. If they do come back, they might arrange for a different practice field. They’ve used The Citadel’s football stadium in recent years, but the width and crown are problematic.
*Winter will return to Washington with a fury Monday, promising to drop several inches of snow. What is an outdoor athletic team to do? If conditions warrant it, United will practice on the artificial turf at Long Bridge Park in Arlington or train indoors, Olsen said. The RFK training grounds include both grass and turf fields, but given the wet weather, the grass surface will not be in prime condition. United does not practice on RFK’s artificial field, which is in poor condition. As for the main stadium field, Willie Leak and his crew have work to do.