BOYDS, Md. – Twenty-two minutes into D.C. United’s first appearance in the 2017 US Open Cup, an amateur team from Baltimore stunned the MLS side, as Christos FC midfielder Mamadou Kansaye converted a free kick just outside the 18-yard box to put the underdogs up 1-0.
It took 10 minutes and midfielder Julian Buescher to get United back on track. In the 35th minute of play, Buescher used some fancy footwork to dribble past two Christos defenders before rocketing the first-half equalizer just inside the post and into the back of the net, paving the way for a 4-1 win for the MLS side on Tuesday.
“[Christos] obviously comes with a bunch of momentum and energy,” coach Ben Olsen said after the game. “I thought we didn’t get it in the first half. A few guys were off the pace for one reason or the other.”
But Buescher's first goal of the night gave the team a lift and ensured they didn't enter halftime down a goal.
“It definitely makes it easier. We had a positive vibe after we got the goal in,” Buescher said. “We said, ‘Ok guys, we can do this. It is our responsibility to calm down.’”
Buescher made 20 MLS regular season appearances in 2016 for United, but has seen a bit of a sophomore slump so far this season. Of United’s 14 MLS games, the German midfielder has only contributed in three matches, with just two starts.
For MLS teams, the early rounds of the Open Cup can be a time for players not getting regular playing time to show what they can do. Buescher maximized his chance against Christos, scoring not only the equalizer, but also a second goal and assisting in goals by Lloyd Sam and rookie Ian Harkes.
“Ideally we all use this game to get confidence, to get goals in,” Buescher said. “It is a chance for the guys who don’t play that much in the regular season.”
Despite Buescher’s high-production game, Olsen said he still expects more from the young player.
“He made the plays in the end that mattered,” Olsen said. “But he can play a lot better than that from a tempo standpoint and making the right decisions.”
Buescher needs to take his goal production from Tuesday and add it to a full 90-minute performance “from 18 to 18,” Olsen said.
“He can produce goals and assists, but I already know that,” Olsen said. “I am looking for complete games.”
United and Buescher have a quick turnaround to take both the positives and negatives from their Open Cup performance and convert it back to MLS play against high-flying Toronto FC on Saturday (8 pm ET | MLS LIVE, TSN1/4 in Canada).
Buescher was given a chance to start against Christos and turned that opportunity into a multiple-goal performance. Will Olsen give him a shot to put in that complete game?
“I am glad I could use that chance,” Buescher said. “Now we try to take that feeling into next week and look at Toronto.”