Youngsters Shine in United's U.S. Open Cup Victory Over FC Dallas

D.C. United rookie goalkeeper Milos Kocic, center, gives a soaring performance in his first start, shutting out Dallas.
D.C. United rookie goalkeeper Milos Kocic, center, gives a soaring performance in his first start, shutting out Dallas. (Photos By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
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By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 23, 2009

D.C. United's Brandon Barklage was heading back into position after scoring a sensational goal last night, a 22-yard smash midway through the second half of a 2-0 victory over FC Dallas in a U.S. Open Cup preliminary match. When he reached midfield, goalkeeper Milos Kocic, his Alexandria roommate and a fellow rookie, was waiting.

"I saw him coming and he said, 'Good shot, man,' " Barklage said afterward, mimicking Kocic's Serbian accent.

It was a fitting encounter, for on an evening when Coach Tom Soehn rested several starters and explored his roster depth, Barklage and Kocic performed admirably in their first professional starts.

In place of injured veteran Christian Gómez, Barklage capped an influential performance with the goal in the 66th minute. Kocic was not particularly busy but held steady during a few anxious moments to help defending champion United advance to the second stage of qualifying for the 95-year-old tournament.

"I've said from the beginning we have a deep team, and it was fun to get them on the field and let them show what they are about," said Soehn, whose club will face San Jose or New York next month. The winner of that match will earn a berth in the tournament's round of 16 this summer.

With Soehn balancing the desire to win with the need to test young players, Gómez, Ben Olsen, Clyde Simms, Louis Crayton and Luciano Emilio were given the night off while Jaime Moreno and Rodney Wallace entered as reserves.

Barklage, a third-round pick from Saint Louis University, had appeared for just four total minutes in the first five league matches and Kocic, a second-rounder from Loyola in Baltimore, had yet to play. Greg Janicki returned to the starting lineup after missing most of the past month with a head injury, and Santino Quaranta and Fred, slowed by hamstring injuries much of the spring, received extended playing time.

Fred scored in the 21st minute before the announced crowd of 5,163 at RFK Stadium. Rookie Chris Pontius directed a pass through a central channel and into the path of the Brazilian midfielder, who protected the ball from defender Michael Dello-Russo and calmly struck a low shot past goalie Ray Burse.

Dallas countered with 10 minutes of pressure -- crosses and high balls that tested Kocic's decision-making -- but no solid chances on net. Kocic was called upon to make his first difficult save early in the second half, punching away a 30-yarder that Alvaro Sanchez targeted for the far upper corner.

Overall, "it was easy because the defense played great," Kocic said.

United's pressure intensified, and after Burse made two superb saves, Barklage doubled the lead. From the left side of the penalty area, Quaranta crossed back to the top of the box for Barklage, who cracked a one-timer into the near corner.

"I saw the defender wasn't stepping [up], so I decided to take a rip," he said. "I felt like I was in la-la land. It took me a while to get back in the game. My mind was somewhere else."

Dallas had a chance to respond in the 87th minute, but after Janicki was called for a handball in the box, Kenny Cooper's penalty kick hit the left post. The tall striker knocked in the rebound, but because no one else touched the ball before his second attempt, the goal was disallowed.

United Notes: Forward Francis Doe was not included on the game-day roster, an ominous sign as the club prepares to make room for veteran defender Avery John. Doe's $80,000 contract, considerably higher than most reserves, might become a factor. . . . Midfielder Thabiso Khumalo, another player in danger of being let go, made his first appearance in a month and played all 90 minutes.

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