WASHINGTON — It’s becoming commonplace for D.C. United academy players to get a chance in MLS Reserve matches. But it’s not every day they get to play a prominent role.
Turns out Tuesday wasn’t just any ordinary day. Not only did five academy players see significant time in DC’s 2-2 draw against New England, but academy midfielder Collin Martin scored the tying goal, and Brad Volv managed to hold his own at the back.
Martin, the leading scorer of D.C. United’s U-16 side and a rising prospect in the area, scored a second-half equalizer in his second reserve game of the year. U-18 player Volv did a solid job in defense, going 90 minutes as a center back in his first experience with the reserves.
The duo was joined by midfielders Cody Albrecht, Mikias Eticha and defender Tyler Rudy on the field at various times, and they all drew collective praise from reserve coach Chad Ashton.
“I thought they all did well,” Ashton said. “I was very happy with all of them — we finished with four guys on the field at the same time, and they still had a lot of energy on a pretty hot day.”
Martin, 16, played his second straight reserve game, coming on as a sub and energizing the team with the tying goal, a well-taken shot from the top of the box. Ashton was pleased with Volv’s effort at the back, especially since he gave up a good amount of size to Revolution striker Alan Koger and had never played at this level.
“He wasn’t afraid to throw his body around in there, he wasn’t afraid to get into tackles and did a good job of working with guys he hadn’t played with ever before,” Ashton said.
It did take time for the younger players to settle in, but the opportunity to expose players to another level served as a confidence builder, at least on this occasion.
“It’s a good exercise for them to get to see bigger, stronger, faster and they get used to the speed of play,” Ashton said. “They always start out a little tentative and not sure, but you can see them grow in confidence as the game goes on. As they get more touches and get into tackles and things like that, they figure out that they can hold their own out there.
“The more opportunities that we can get them to play in this environment, the more it’s going to help their growth over the long haul.”
Jed Zayner, who has been battling a hamstring injury since the opening game of the season, went 45 minutes in the first half, coming off as a sub at the break. Charlie Davies started and came off holding his hamstring in the 43rd minute, but Ashton said he’s fine.
“He just took a knock,” Ashton said. “We were about ready to get him out anyway, so we didn’t want to mess with it anymore.”
After missing the last two league matches with a groin injury, captain Dax McCarty came on as a sub and played 45 minutes in the second half.
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark