Needing four goals to overtake Houston Dynamo and win the Carolina Challenge Cup on Saturday night, D.C. United threw everything they had at tournament hosts Charleston Battery of the USL First Division.
Unfortunately, Charleston proved up to the challenge, resulting in a 1-1 draw at Blackbaud Stadium.
United, playing its starters for the third consecutive game of the tournament, came out in an attacking mode looking to rack up goals.
It looked like it might have paid off in the 19th minute when D.C. United's Jaime Moreno got on the end of a long through ball from Christian Gomez at the midfield line. Moreno, showed a surprising burst of speed reminiscent of his early days in the league, blew past the Battery defenders down the left flank, turning the corner inside the penalty box. Battery midfielder Ugo Okoye recklessly challenged Moreno, dropping him to the turf for a penalty kick. Moreno stepped up and, in cheeky fashion, waited for Battery backup goalkeeper Kieth Wiggan to dive right, chipping the ball down the middle of the goal.
The goal was Moreno's third in as many games, earning him the golden boot and accounting for all of United's goals in the tournament, two of which were penalty kicks.
With the lead, United took its foot off the gas somewhat, and nearly allowed the Battery to level the score in the 32nd minute. Battery forward Ben Hollingsworth connected on a corner kick, beating goalkeeper Troy Perkins. Though a diving Brian Carroll managed to get a piece of the ball, clearing it off D.C's line to safety.
"It wasn't our sharpest night," said United coach Peter Nowak. "The beginning of the first half, I thought we played pretty well, but we didn't keep it up the entire game which is something we are going to need to do."
In the second half, both teams cleared their benches, considerably disrupting the flow of play and limiting United's scoring chances.
"I wanted to give some of the guys who haven't played some time before the season," Nowak said. "Everyone needs to be ready for next week, not just the starters."
The platoon of United substitutions allowed the Battery back into the game. In the 67th minute Hollingsworth, who netted the winning goal for the Battery on Wednesday night against New York, received a ball from Jeff Matteo inside the United penalty area. Shaking off two defenders, Hollingsworth's toe-poke caught Perkins by surprise, and he could do nothing but watch it roll to the far post.
Hollingsworth nearly netted the winner for the Battery in the 74th minute with a right-footed drive from just inside the penalty area. Though the shot did beat Perkins, a scrambling Justin Moose was able to get apiece of the ball, clearing it for a corner kick, keeping the draw intact.
"We will work on some things before we play New York," Nowak said of his season opener next week. "But overall I feel we are in a good place."
Andre Mosier is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
D.C. United -- Moreno PK, 19
Charleston Battery -- Hollingsworth, 67
D.C. United: Troy Perkins, Brandon Prideaux (45 John Wilson), Facundo Erpen, Josh Gros (76 Devon McTavish), Bobby Boswell, Freddy Adu (84 Jeff Carroll), Christian Gomez (64 Rod Dyachenko, 84 Matt Nickell), Brian Carroll (84 Domenic Mediate), Clyde Simms (45 Justin Moose), Luco Filomeno (45 Aleko Eskandarian), Jaime Moreno (64 Jamil Walker).
Charleston: Keith Wiggans, Chris Brunt, Bradnon Curran, Chris Gores, Chris Corcoran, Luke Vercollone (76 Armando Romero), Ugo Okoye (59 Ian Fuller), Jeff Matteo, Troy Lesene (57 Steven Armstrong), Gavin Flinton (68 Teba McNight), Ben Hollingsworth.