Photograph by Brad Smith/ISIphotos.com
By THOMAS FLOYD
WASHINGTON – Saturday's friendly between D.C. United and Everton at RFK Stadium wasn't exactly the match organizers may have envisioned when scheduling it several months ago. But despite the notable player absences and sweltering heat, the sides treated the 12,789 in attendance to a lively, open affair that ended as a 3-1 Everton triumph.
Victor Anichebe and Diniyar Bilyatletdinov provided Everton all the goals the English club would need in the opening 16 minutes. Chris Pontius then cut United's deficit in half shortly after the break before substitute Magaye Gueye sealed the result for the Toffees late in the second half.
Both teams compiled quality scoring opportunities aplenty throughout the contest. United struck a post and the crossbar, while Everton also hit woodwork and had one shot cleared off the line. When all was said and done, the two sides combined to take a stunning 46 shots.
"All credit to both teams for trying to make it as entertaining as they possibly could," Everton manager David Moyes said.
Everton rested U.S. national team goalkeeper Tim Howard, left injured midfielder Mikel Arteta off the game-day roster, and limited high-profile defenders Phil Neville and John Heitinga to cameos off the bench.
And United, playing its third game in eight days, maintained just four starters from its 1-0 midweek loss to New England. But coach Ben Olsen did start regulars goalkeeper Bill Hamid and centerback Brandon McDonald along with defenders Dejan Jakovic and Marc Burch, two starters returning from long injury layoffs, giving D.C. fans a glance at what United's first-choice defense may look like going forward.
The unit was humbled early. Anichebe opened the scoring in the fourth minute when he latched onto Leighton Baines' lofted ball down the left flank and chipped Hamid. Fourteen minutes later, precise combination play from Everton's Jack Rodwell and Ross Barkley sprung Bilyatletdinov, who slotted his finish into the back of the net.
"When you score a goal so early on, it creates confidence," Everton defender Phil Jagielka said. "And I think you saw that."
As Burch put it, "It was a little bit of a miscommunication" with him and Jakovic playing alongside the recently acquired McDonald for the first time.
The lackluster first half prompted Olsen to make five substitutions at halftime in addition to the insertion of Pontius, which came in the 36th minute.
"In the first half, I was extremely disappointed in several players," Olsen said. "They just didn't get that you don't just walk on the field, any field, and play 60, 70 percent. … But in the second half, guys showed up, and I was proud of that."
Two minutes after the break, United substitutes Dwayne De Rosario and Pontius combined to pull one back as Pontius connected with the Canadian's over-the-top ball and poked a shot home. But Everton put the match away when Gueye met Jermaine Beckford's cross with a tap-in at the far post in the 82nd minute.
Everton is scheduled to fly to England on Sunday and resume preseason ahead of its Aug. 13 English Premier League opener. United, on the other hand, will take two days off after playing three consecutive games in temperatures that neared or passed triple digits and regroup ahead of next weekend's trip to San Jose.
"We need two days off. I need two days off," Olsen said. "It has been a long week and a half, and I think everybody needs to get away from the game for two days, the staff included, and come back Tuesday and make sure we're committed to the rest of the season. And I have no doubt we will be."