United lock up reserve division title
The D.C. United reserves captured the inaugural reserve division title on Sunday morning when they defeated the Columbus Crew reserves by a 2-1 score at the RFK Stadium Auxiliary Field. Jamil Walker led the way for the Black-and-Red by scoring his ninth goal with the reserves, while Jason Thompson provided the eventual game-winner which netted the club a $20,000 prize. The D.C. United reserves ended their season with a record of 8-4.
"Throughout the season, we didn't call in a lot of [guest] players," said United assistant coach Mark Simpson. "We stuck with the bulk of our guys and though it wasn't always pretty today, the guys persevered and got the needed result."
Walker got the hosts off to a good start when he opened the scoring after only eight minutes. Midfielder Nana Kuffour found Nick Van Sicklen on the right side of the field and the rookie curled in a cross that Walker pounded home with a forceful header.
Thompson then extended D.C.'s lead with a half-hour to play. Kuffour connected with Freddy Adu on the left side and the 16-year-old laid the ball off to Tim Merritt. His first-time cross found Thompson in the box, and an easy finish put Simpson's side up by a pair.
"I was just in the right place at the right time," said Thompson. "I've played in the midfield a lot this season, but it's the role of the forward to score goals, and when I get the chance to play up top I want to put it in."
The Crew reserves made the end exciting, though, when they pulled one back in the 70th minute. United goalkeeper Troy Perkins miscued on an attempted clearance, Crew striker John Wolyniec getting a touch on the ball and Knox Cameron supplying the final touch by chipping the ball over Perkins. The 2-1 score was as close as Columbus would come and the D.C. reserves held on and celebrated their victory after the final whistle.
The United reserves captured the championship with their third consecutive win, which also completed a home unbeaten season for the Black-and-Red. They were a perfect 6-0 in the nation's capital, securing home victories against Chicago, New England, Kansas City, FC Dallas and the MetroStars before Sunday's victory.
The reigning MLS Cup champions used the reserve division well this season, as several players who shined for the reserve team also made impacts with the first team. Walker, who will likely finish the season as the top scorer in the reserve division, also saw action in 22 games for United head coach Peter Nowak's first team, scoring two goals and adding seven assists. Striker Santino Quaranta started the season as a reserve and a first-team substitute. He now is a regular starter for the first team and a regular contributor to the U.S. men's national team. United also used the reserve division to hone the skills of many younger players.
"The reserve division was great, because it allowed players who wouldn't normally get games to further develop themselves," said Simpson. "Throughout the league, it's important for guys to get time on the field. Guys who wouldn't normally get a lot of games have an opportunity to further develop themselves."
The MLS reserve division ends Sunday with three other games on the schedule. The FC Dallas reserves play host to the Kansas City reserves, the Los Angeles Galaxy reserves entertain the San Jose Earthquakes reserves and the Chivas USA reserves will play host to the MetroStars reserves on Sunday evening. None of those teams will catch United atop the standings though, as their 24 points is enough to secure the title.
Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.