All you need to know about D.C. United‘s lineup in Wednesday night’s friendly against Honduran club Olimpia was the age of the MLS team’s most season-tested player: 18.
With regulars in need of rest before the final playoff push and others hampered by injury, midfielder Chris Durkin was the only ordinary selection for a 1-1 draw before an announced crowd of 7,083 at Audi Field.
Only three players had started for D.C. this regular season: Durkin (14 starts), Ian Harkes (four) and Jalen Robinson (four). Goalkeeper Travis Worra had no previous first-team appearances this year, and three others had logged fewer than 12 minutes.
Three starters were borrowed from United’s second-division affiliate team, the Richmond Kickers, and did not arrive until earlier in the day. All five available substitutes were guests: four from Richmond and veteran goalkeeper Chris Konopka, who is available to all MLS teams in emergency situations.
Dane Kelly, United’s goal scorer, gave way in the 72nd minute to Richmond’s Koby Osei-Wusu, a DeMatha High and George Washington University graduate.
“It was a bit of a crash course” integrating the guest players, Coach Ben Olsen said.
The upside of the night: Players who normally watch from the bench — or, for that matter, from the stands — gained competitive minutes against Honduras’s most decorated club, one that leads Liga Nacional with a 5-0-4 record and started a strong lineup Wednesday.
“They went about it in a real way, which helped a lot of our players prepare for what’s to come” in the regular season, Olsen said. “If they are called on, this game will help them get ready for real minutes in MLS. It was a perfect game for a lot of those guys.”
It was a good night for Worra, United’s third-choice goalkeeper, who made several quality saves. “We’ve got a lot of guys looking for minutes,” he said. “Our job is to want to be on the field every game for the MLS matches. It’s a good chance for us to push our minutes up and make the case to get into the first team on the weekends.”
The other purpose of the match was to build bonds with the Central American community in the D.C. area and continue showing off a new stadium that remains unfamiliar to many fans. United had also proposed a friendly against the Salvadoran national team Oct. 3, but, amid the team’s stressful pursuit of a playoff berth, the organization scrapped those plans. El Salvador is likely to visit next spring instead.
The Olimpia exercise fell three days after a 3-3 draw with the New York Red Bulls and early in a 13-day pause before the next MLS match, Sept. 29 vs. Montreal. After a hectic stretch, Olsen had no intentions of playing any of his regulars. Besides the 14 resting players, five are nursing injuries.
Durkin gave an assertive performance. Kevin Ellis, an eight-year MLS veteran who signed with United two weeks ago, was a notable presence in central defense.
United went ahead in the 17th minute when forward Kelly (three minutes in league play) tracked Ellis’s long ball and snapped a running one-timer under goalkeeper Edrick Monjivar.
Olimpia drew even two minutes later when Diego Reyes split the defense and beat Worra on a partial breakaway. Worra got the better of Reyes in the 61st minute with a one-on-one save. Later, he made diving stops on Rony Martinez and Alejandro Reyes.
“It wasn’t so much about the score, although you always want to win,” Olsen said. “We found a way to get something out of it.”
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