WASHINGTON — While the result wasn’t what D.C. United had in mind against Everton on Saturday night, there were important developments nonetheless stemming from the loss to the English Premier League side in a friendly at RFK Stadium.
Perhaps most significant was the return of defenders Dejan Jakovic and Marc Burch to the starting lineup for the first time in several months.
“It was nice to run around a little bit, nice to be with the team,” Burch (above) said after Saturday night’s match. “It’s been a long time, feels good to be out there again.”
It was only in a friendly, but it was still important game fitness for the duo, neither who have played in awhile — Burch last started on April 29 against the Houston Dynamo before injuring his hamstring, and Jakovic’s last appearance was on May 29 against the Portland Timbers.
Burch said the week leading up to the game was the best he’d felt physically in quite some time.
“This week’s probably been the first time in about eight weeks that my hamstring hasn’t been bothering me,” he said. “[The lay-off] gave me time to heal my foot.”
Both now will increase competition for starting spots, and give head coach Ben Olsen and the rest of his coaching staff options along the back line.
Jakovic has seen Ethan White and new acquisition Brandon McDonald man the central roles along the DC defense for the past few games, while Burch will look to wrest back the left back spot from Daniel Woolard, who has been steady since taking the job back in May.
Finally healthy, Burch knows he’s got to keep things that way and give Olsen a reason to put him in to the starting lineup.
“It’s up to the coach with the squad,” the sixth-year defender said. “I feel like I should be traveling and hopefully be pushing Daniel to play his best, or get the opportunity if we don’t get wins. That’s all up to Ben, he makes the decisions; I’ll be training hard and staying fit.”
Reserves see minutes vs. Everton
Playing their third game in eight days, Olsen trotted out a reserve-heavy lineup from the start of Saturday’s friendly, with players such as Joe Ngwenya, Stephen King and Kurt Morsink all getting rare starts against Everton.
Getting reserves minutes was one of the many objectives Olsen set out for the friendly.
“You want to get guys who haven’t got the right minutes, you want to get them in the game, you want to test them against a great club,” Olsen said.
Also coming in as a second half substitute was midfielder Conor Shanosky, a signing from DC’s Academy last year. Making his second appearance for United in 2011 — the first in the club’s earlier friendly against Ajax — Shanosky did “OK,” according to Olsen, but fared even better in a one-game loan stint for the Harrisburg City Islanders last Wednesday.
“He did great, got a call from the coach and they said he did a very good job,” Olsen said on Friday. “It’s invaluable to go get those types of games, whether you’re up a man, or you’re up a goal or down a goal, all those things he still needs for his development.”
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark.