Confident D.C. United holds on for 3-2 exhibition win over AC Milan

AC Milan's Ronaldinho takes his best shot on goal in a friendly at RFK Stadium, bicycle-kick style.
AC Milan's Ronaldinho takes his best shot on goal in a friendly at RFK Stadium, bicycle-kick style. (Ricky Carioti/the Washington Post)
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By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 27, 2010

In the midst of the most dismal start in its history, D.C. United looked to a friendly against world power AC Milan as a chance to escape -- if only for one night -- the doldrums of its reality, and perhaps rediscover the enjoyment of the game.

On Wednesday night in front of 30,367 at RFK Stadium against the Italian giant, which was without seven players but still fielded several stars, United played confidently and at times little resembled the team that has struggled this season. D.C. scored twice in the first half-hour, built a three-goal lead and survived the final 25 minutes with a man disadvantage to hold on for a 3-2 win.

"No matter how many players you have in the World Cup you still have stars backing them up," goalkeeper Bill Hamid said. "This is big for us. We fixed our mistakes, I feel, we showed how we should play and if we keep playing this way we're going to be fine."

With several key players gone for the upcoming World Cup and at the end of a long season, Milan players admitted they lacked some motivation for their U.S. tour.

Lack of motivation or not, however, did not take away from United's effort and confidence. D.C. did well to build in play and find space, and the effort and movement was rewarded with two quality goals in the first half against a club that, in form or not, is widely considered among the most talented in the world.

After the game AC Milan midfielder Clarence Seedorf voiced his belief that Milan played the best it could and simply fell short after failing to put away early opportunities and allowing the first goal.

"I think we started off very well. The first 15 minutes we created three chances, I think two of them were [Alexandre] Pato, but that's the name of the game if you don't score," Seedorf said, before adding, "After one-nil, of course they got excited and got some wings and I think that they played well."

United nearly fell behind just 58 seconds into the game when Pato found himself alone inside the box, but the talented forward was stymied by the 19-year-old Hamid, who covered the attempt well.

As the game wore on, United began to push forward with more confidence, and in the 20th minute a nice sequence led to its first goal.

A long diagonal ball from midfielder Stephen King found Chris Pontius inside the box on the left side. Pontius headed the ball back across the front of the net and forward Luciano Emilio poked it in to make it 1-0.

Ten minutes later, United expanded its surprising lead. This time, forward Santino Quaranta's well curled-in corner kick found the head of Pontius, who strongly headed it in to double the advantage.

Fans were treated to some entertainment from Ronaldinho in the second half. The Brazilian star, who was passed over for his country's World Cup roster, tried a bicycle kick in the 53rd minute on a cross from Pato that hit the far post and bounced out as the crowd gasped and then cheered.

United continued to push forward as Milan began to slow. The effort paid off in the 61st minute when forward Danny Allsopp challenged goalkeeper Christian Abbiati's clearance after a lazy back pass and the ball ricocheted off his leg and into the net to expand the lead to 3-0.

But after building the comfortable advantage, United was forced to stave off Milan with just 10 men as midfielder Brandon Barklage went down with a leg injury only a minute and a half after entering for Andy Najar, and United had exhausted all of its substitutes.

That allowed enough space for Milan to push forward at will. Defender Massimo Oddo tried to nearly single-handedly bring Milan back from its deficit, first converting a penalty kick, then finishing a 30-yard strike and nearly tying it with a one-time volley from distance in the 76th minute.

United, however, was able to stave off Milan's final push for the surprising win.

"The list [of star players on the field for Milan] goes on, so in terms of how we dealt with those guys I thought was pretty good," D.C. United Coach Curt Onalfo said. "We still have a lot of work to go, and it's still only a friendly, but there's a lot of positives to build on and I was extremely pleased with certainly our first half, and in the second half there was a lot of good signs too just in terms of fight and finding a way to make sure you get a result."

United note: On its Web site, English club Portsmouth announced a North American tour that will include a match against United at RFK Stadium on July 24.

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