Everton finished its U.S. preseason tour tonight with a definitive 3-1 win over DC United on a very hot night in front of almost 13,000 fans. Those in attendance (about half of whom were Everton faithfuls) got to see some of the EPL team’s biggest names on the pitch, including Phil Neville, Leighton Baines, and Tim Cahill. Both teams were coming off disappointing and draining losses on Wednesday, the Toffees to Philadelphia and DC United to New England.
The big story coming into the match was the absence of Tim Howard, who was not playing this week with the team’s permission. Unlike Wednesday’s game, Howard did show up to RFK tonight and was involved in the action off-the-pitch. Howard, who had recently played at RFK in the U.S. mens national team Gold Cup win over Jamaica in June, not only took the field for the pre-game ceremonies, but signed autographs before the game and participated in a scholarship program at halftime.
On the field, Everton jumped on the Black-and-Red early when Victor Anichebe received a pass from Leighton Baines on the wing and, and muscling around Brandon McDonald, fired a shot past Bill Hamid in the fourth minute. Twelve minutes later Everton midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, after being kept onside by Chris Korb, took a pass over the top and beat Hamid one-on-one to make it 2-0 for the visitors. DC did have some chances in the first half, particularly when Andy Najar in the 30th minute almost guided a shot top shelf that beat Mucha but hit the woodwork. However, the Toffees controlled the action and were by far the better team on the pitch. “The first half I was extremely disappointed in several players that just didn’t get that you don’t just walk onto a field…and play 60-70%,” said DC head coach Ben Olsen after the match. “I was very disappointed”
The second half started with a bang for the home team as newly substituted Dwayne De Rosario found Chris Pontius with a long pass over the top which he converted to cut the Everton lead to one. Despite improved play from DC and the players off the bench, however, it was Everton that had the better chances. Magaye Gueye finished off the Black-and-Red in the eighty-second minute when he volleyed a pass from Jermaine Beckford past Steve Cronin.
As mentioned, the crowd was small for tonight’s game, as less than 13,000 fans were in attendance. With temperatures in DC over 100 degrees for a good part of the day, the weather may have played a factor in these numbers. Everton captain Phil Jagielka noted the crowd after the game when he said, “unfortunately [RFK's] not full”. He did recognize the local fans, saying “We looked around in the stands today and the majority of the shirt colors we saw were blue… we hope we gave them something to shout about”.
Everton gaffer David Moyes had nothing but kind words for MLS and the teams, joking after the game that he knew the sport was growing in the US because the number of press in the press conference was larger. “MLS is growing, I think it is moving forward, I think the stadiums are improving, [and] I think your country’s big enough to have more teams.”