CHARLESTON, S.C. – D.C. United closed in on third straight Carolina Challenge Cup on Wednesday night, dispatching the pesky Charleston Battery 3-1 by virtue of goals from Maicon Santos, trialist Ryan Richter and a late tally by Hamdi Salihi, his second goal in two games with the club.
Following a 1-0 victory against the Chicago Fire on Wednesday in the tournament opener, United have six points from their first two games. Even if D.C. drop their final game against the Columbus Crew on Saturday and the Fire defeat the Battery to move to six points, United will be in the driver's seat based on goal differential.
(UPDATE: The original version of this story claimed that D.C. United had won the Carolina Challenge Cup based on the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Fire. That was incorrect. Tiebreakers, in order of importance, are points, goal differential and goals scored.)
Dwayne De Rosario didn’t play after logging 58 minutes on Wednesay, but Designated Player Branko Boskovic played the firt half and Salihi played the final 20 minutes for Ben Olsen.
Unsurprisingly, it was Boskovic who unlocked the Charleston defense with a nifty pass that found Santos in position to turn and take on his defender. The Brazilian did the rest, finding space to strike the ball with his left foot and creating an angle to beat the goalkeeper at the near post.
But despite trailing in the early going for the second time in two games, the Battery never put their heads down. Their speed and direct play put the D.C. backline on its heels at times and the equalizing goal eventually came 15 minutes from halftime after some spectacular play by right back Mark Wiltse. After picking up a head of steam, Wiltse carried the ball into the area, shook off a tackle and cut the ball back across the six-yard box for Jose Cuevas to head past Joe Willis much to the delight of the home crowd.
But before they could celebrate for too long, D.C. were back in front thanks to some shaky goalkeeping by the Battery’s Kevin Klasila. In the 31st minute, Richter got on the end of fellow trialist Jose Burciaga Jr.’s seemingly innocuous long ball behind the Charleston defense and put a header on frame. Klasila was in position to make the save, but the ball slipped through his hands and into the back of the net.
Olsen made wholesale changes to the backline at halftime, sending Dejan Jakovic and Ethan White on for Emiliano Dudar and Brandon McDonald and inserting Andy Najar at right back as Chris Korb moved to left side of defense. Andrew Dykstra entered in the 61st minute to tend net against his former team, making his first appearance with D.C. United since signing.
Salihi and Chris Pontius both entered the game in the 70th minute, but neither side mustered much going forward as United sealed their third consecutive Carolina Challenge Cup title.
Olsen was forced to make one final substitution when Danny Cruz was forced off after a reckless studs-up challenge by Wiltse that resulted in a straight red card for the Battery defender.
DC – Maicon Santos (Branko Boskovic) 13
CHA – Jose Cuevas (Mark Wiltse) 29
DC – Ryan Richter 31
DC – Hamdi Salihi (Andy Najar) 88
CHA – Mark Wiltse (ejection) 76
D.C. United – Joe Willis (Andrew Dykstra 61); Chris Korb, Emiliano Dudar (Ethan White 46), Brandon McDonald (Dejan Jakovic 46), Jose Burciaga Jr. (Andy Najar 46); Danny Cruz (Daniel Woolard 78), Branko Boskovic (Stephen King 46), Nick DeLeon (Chris Pontius 70), Lance Rozeboom (Conor Shanosky 61); Maicon Santos (Hamdi Salihi 70), Ryan Richter (Josh Wolff 61)
Charleston Battery – Kevin Klasila (Mitch Hildebrand 46); John Wilson (Luca Bellisimo 46), Colin Falvey, Kyle Hoffer (Sean Flately 46), Mark Wiltse; Taylor Mueller (Sean Bateau 61), Charlie Romero (Fuad Ibrahim 46), J.C. Mack (Ben Sippala 73, Jose Cuevas; Dane Kelly, Salieu Bundu (Zach Prince 46)