(Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Ross Barkley had an absolute fantastic first half before being pulled for Leon Osman. The youngster look calm on the ball and provided a creative spark and fantastic first touch that few Everton players can match. His assist to Billy came after a passing sequence the Spaniards would be impressed with, and his play gives Everton a new dimension to work with. Although it may be a season to soon for the Englishman, he may see some first team action this year in early Carling Cup or F.A. Cup matches. Hopefully Moyes will bring Barkley along slowly to give him the best chance to fulfill his potential. Moyes and Jagielka were quick to praise all of the youngsters after the match, and Barkley in particular for his performance tonight.
Everton began their match against D.C. United with a bang as oft-criticized Victor Anichebe scored in the 4th minute off of a Leighton Baines thru ball. Bilyaletdinov provided the second goal in the 16th minute after a series of short passes reminiscent of Barcelona ended with youngster Ross Barkley sprining the Russian to play the ball under a sprawling Hamid. D.C. United had few chances in the first half, but several Mucha saves and a shot off the crossbar were cruelly denied. Chris Pontius opened D.C United's account with a fantastic finish to a nice thru ball that caught Everton napping to make it 2-1. Both sides entered a stalemate of sorts with neither able to score the next goal, but finally Jermaine Beckford played a backpost cross to Gueye who slotted it home from a tough angle. Despite D.C. United's efforts they could not get the 2nd or 3rd goals and the match ended in a 3-1 Everton win.
The other big youngster tonight, Vellios, did not have a huge impact on the game, but his hold up play was fantastic, and he did a good job of bringing the midfielders into the attack. This is something he didn't do much of on Wednesday despite his huge impact against the Union, and it is good to see the Greek player can play with his back to goal.
Along with the two notable youngsters, Conor McAlleny did well after coming on for an injured Anichebe. He looked good attacking goal, and didn't waste the opportunities he was given on the ball.
One interesting note was Moyes' deployment of a backline of Coleman, Distin, Jags, and Baines for 70 minutes. Although the group was caught sleeping to start the second half, they generally seemed to work well together, and both Baines and Coleman got forward consistently and had some dangerous moments. The cohesiveness failed when both Heitinga and Neville were introduced for Jags and Baines. Heitinga had several moments where he was caught out of position, but thankfully Distin was able to save him.
For D.C. United, Andy Najar made several fantastic runs down the left side of the field, and probably should have scored in the first half after his shot hit the crossbar, but Najar certainly put forward his case for a transfer to Europe eventually. Chris Pontius also had a great game, his addition at half time gave D.C. United someone who could test the Everton defense, and he should have had 2 goals but couldn't convert the second chance. Coach Ben Olsen indicated he was very unhappy with the first half, and that the first 20 minutes were, "Men playing against boys." Olsen also disappointed with the effort the players put out and said his players,"didn't get what it means."
Overall this was a much better performance from Everton than Wednesday's game. It seems the team was better prepared for the hat both in fitness, as well as making the ball do the work if you are interested in classic cliches. This was most noticeable when it stopped in the end of the first half as well as certain times during the second half. At the end of it this weather was fantastic for Everton as it really tested the squad despite hindering some of the performance. Now it is time to head back to England, and prepare for the next matches against Birmingham, Werder Bremen, and Villareal, COYB!