Youth Experiment Brings Mixed Results for D.C.

Valuable experience for young players despite a 2-0 loss to Philadelphia
by Peter Muller   |   Monday, August 12, 2013

United Capitol – column on DC United (DCU) & the Washington DC/DMV area soccer scene.

With their MLS playoff hopes having faded long ago, D.C. United has 2 remaining objectives this year: win the U.S. Open Cup and build a more competitive team for next season.

United booked a place in the cup final with last week’s victory over the Chicago Fire and now have an opportunity to achieve something significant this year.

The remaining regular season games will be used to determine the best starting XI for the cup final and to sort out which young players can be counted on for 2014.

On Saturday, United went all-in on the youth front, fielding the youngest starting lineup in club history and featuring 5 graduates of United’s youth academy.

The lineup was partly out of design – United wants to take the measure of their young players.

But more experienced players, including Luis Silva, Nick Deleon and Chris Pontius, were all ruled out with injuries while Dejan Jakovic and Dwayne De Rosario started the game on the bench.

The experiment resulted in a 2-0 defeat to the Philadelphia Union, D.C.’s 16th loss of the season. But the result was secondary to the opportunity for the young players to play against a playoff-caliber club.

“It’s a learning experience for a lot of people out there, a lot of guys” said manager Ben Olsen.

Conor Shanosky, for one, learned a little something about playing against a physical striker like Conor Casey. 

After an encouraging opening half-hour for United, Casey got enough separation from Shanosky in the box to collect a ball flicked-on by Sebastian LeToux and poke it into the net.

United was able to see out the rest of the first half, but it was clear the young team needed a stabilizing presence.

Olsen brought De Rosario off the bench to start the 2nd half and the captain’s leadership helped to settle the young squad. United created some good chances and it appeared the tying goal might come.

De Rosario charged into the Philadelphia box in the 57th minute and as he tried to go through 3 defenders the ball fell to an onrushing Collin Martin, whose left-footed shot was headed off the line by Sheanon Williams.

“We almost leveled it at 1-1 (and) our hope was to get that back and hold but they made a big play clearing that off the line,” said Olsen.

Instead Casey struck again the 75th minute, off a cross from Fabhino, to seal Philadelphia’s victory.

But Conor Doyle, Jared Jeffrey, Taylor Kemp, Ethan White and Shanosky all played 90 minutes and continued to gain first-team MLS experience.  

Michael Seaton, 17, made his MLS debut as a late substitute and Martin, just 18 himself, made a positive impression in his first professional start.

“The problem with Collin going forward is we have to find him a position,” said Olsen, “but I love his starting point; he’s a great soccer player and I was happy that he had a pretty good performance today.”

United has 11 MLS games remaining this season. As long as Martin and his cadre of young colleagues continue to bring the energy and commitment that Olsen demands, expect to see them have ample opportunity to show him what positions best suit them.

DCU Notes

To the surprise of many, D.C. United apparently retained the rights to Charlie Davies when he returned to Denmark last year after a season in Washington. Davies scored 11 goals for United in 2011but ended the year in Ben Olsen’s doghouse. 

Last week, Davies returned to MLS but because United retained his rights the New England Revolution had to send them late round MLS SuperDraft pick to acquire the striker.

D.C. will travel to Montreal on Saturday, just 2 weeks after they stunned the Impact with a 3-1 win at RFK Stadium. After a hot start to the season Montreal sits in 4th place in the Eastern Conference and need to improve their form if they are going to secure a playoff position.

NEXT UP: August 17 – D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact, Stade Saputo, Montreal, 7 p.m. EST, Comcast Sportsnet.


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Peter is a government relations professional in Washington, DC, and Los Angeles, CA. He has been a DC United season ticket holder since 1997 and has attended every MLS Cup except one – in 1998 when he was busy helping his boss get re-elected to Congress.