Everton comes to Washington

A longtime reader attended Saturday’s soccer match between Everton and DC United at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. He filed this report:

All things considered, Everton turned in a good performance in defeating DC United 3-1. The home team, in the middle of tough stretch of MLS matches, fielded a side of mostly reserves. Everton, in the middle of its pre-season, fielded a mixture of its top players, its veteran reserves, and some promising youngsters.

The crowd was of modest size, well-below the expected 13,000, I believe. There was a decent contingent of Everton supporters from up and down the East Coast. They were in good voice, and I learned a few new chants.

Everton dominated the first half and quickly went up 2-0 on goals from the oft-maligned duo of Victor Anichebe and Diniyar Bilyaletidinov. Everton eased up in the second half (who can blame them given the 95 degree heat and dreadful humidity) and DC United brought in quality attackers Chris Pontius and Dwayne DeRosario. As a result United had the better of the play. However, a late goal from young Magaye Gueye restored the two goal lead after Pontius had scored from DeRosario early in the second half.

Jack Rodwell, controlling play from central midfield was excellent for Everton in the first half. In the second half, Jermaine Beckford was perhaps Everton’s most impressive player. His insertion at about the 70 minute mark revived Everton as an attacking force and, though he’s definitely a shoot-first forward, Beckford assisted on Magaye’s goal.

Jan Mucha, who took Tim Howard’s usual place in goal, was excellent throughout. Word is that Mucha, who was Slovakia’s keeper at the last World Cup, wants to leave Everton. I can’t blame him; he looks too good to sit on the bench, and Howard almost never misses a match. It may be heretical for an American Evertonian to say so, but Mucha may be Howard’s equal and is younger.

Anichebe put in a strong shift in attack, and at times tracked back imposingly to help a struggling Seamus Coleman cope with Andy Nahar, United’s tricky young winger. At times, Big Vic made Nahar look like a rag-doll (to use the Washington Post’s description).

Of the young Everton players trying to break into the first team, midfielder Ross Barkley was the most impressive. Magaye had his moments, including the goal, and forward Conor McAleny was lively. Well-regarded forward Apistolos Vellios was so-so. With no new players in sight, Everton may need a break-out season from young Rodwell and the emergence of another youngster or two this year.

The Everton players proved to be reasonably fan-friendly. Before the pre-game warm-ups, Mo Fellaini, who is out due to injury, ambled over in flip-flops to the Everton supporters and signed a few autographs before returning to his cell phone. After warm-ups, Leighton Baines left his teammates, as they headed back to the cool of the dressing room, to visit for a few moments with the supporters.

After the match, Sylvain Distin spent a little time with the fans, while Phil Neville and Johnnie Heitinga, both of whom had played for the last 20 minutes, did some running. Everton won’t be lacking for leadership with a captain (Neville) and a World Cup finalist (Heitinga) willing to put in extra training following a match in 95 degree heat. When they were done running, Neville and Heitinga both came over to the Everton supporters and gave away their shirts (Heitinga kept his sports bra [!] though).

So it was a good night, one in which we Evertonians could take our minds off the fact that, while the Premier League competition adds quality players, our club is too skint even to generate a decent transfer rumor.

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