DC United hoping to test themselves vs. EPL's Everton
WASHINGTON — Getting to face a team from Europe is always an experience D.C. United look forward to, and Saturday night will be no exception as the club takes on English Premier League side Everton at RFK Stadium (7:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer).
“Any time our players get a chance to play against some of the better teams in Europe, it’s a great experience for us,” head coach Ben Olsen said.
While the friendly doesn’t come at an ideal time in the season for DC — coming off a frustrating 1-0 loss against New England at home — players and coaches alike are eager to test themselves.
“It’s exciting, something to look forward to,” rookie defender Perry Kitchen said.
The game will be put to good use by DC as it will allow players coming back from injury to earn minutes. Defenders Marc Burch and Dejan Jakovic, both back in training after long layoffs, are set to play and could see at least 45 minutes of action.
Still, that doesn't DC will be taking this game lightly.
“We always take these fairly seriously, and want to test ourselves against the better teams in Europe,” Olsen said. “Saying that, we realize what these games are for them — it’s preseason.”
Everton are coming off a 1-0 loss against the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday. On Friday morning, the EPL side trained under grueling conditions on the RFK field, with temperatures well over 100 degrees.
While it bothered the players, most admitted it is good preparation for the upcoming season.
“This is pretty impressive heat and I suppose we’re just going to soak up as much of the rays and get as much fitness out of it as we can,” Everton midfielder Tim Cahill said.
One player DC won’t go up against is US national team goalkeeper Tim Howard, who will be in attendance at RFK but won't partake in the proceedings.
“He won’t play tomorrow,” Everton coach David Moyes said. “Because of his long commitment to the USA national team during the summer, we’ve had to make sure he has had some holiday time with his family. He’ll be here to say hello, but unfortunately won’t play.”
Olsen anticipates having a good number of bodies to call on, and with a week break after the game against Everton, he isn’t worried about the problem of fixture congestion.
“If this fell in a game a week where we had a Wednesday night game, I’d be concerned, I’d be scrambling a little bit,” he said. “But we have a week, and 45 minutes to 60 minutes a lot of these guys need, and it’s obviously against a high-caliber team that we want to show well against.”
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, college and youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark.