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Youth-driven D.C. United chasing streak at Columbus

Feb 25, 2023; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; D.C. United forward Theodore Ku-Dipietro (21) reacts after scoring a goal against Toronto FC during the second half at Audi Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Youthful D.C. United seek their second win in as many matches in a visit to face the Columbus Crew on Saturday.

Six Homegrown players, those who come through the club’s development program but don’t count against the senior roster, played in D.C.’s 3-2 comeback win against Toronto FC in the Feb. 25 season opener.

Matai Akinmboni became the youngest player to start in MLS on opening day at 16, and 21-year-old Ted Ku-DiPietro assisted on the tying goal by Christian Benteke in the 90th minute and scored the winner in the 98th. Also, Kristian Fletcher (17) and Jackson Hopkins (18) were on the field for the dramatic finish by D.C. (1-0-0, 3 points).

“I’m just really pleased with the lads because they put a lot of hard work into preseason and they rewarded themselves,” D.C. coach Wayne Rooney said.

His young players weren’t perfect. And they aren’t expected to be going forward.

“They are going to make mistakes. They’re going to make three, four, five, six mistakes a game, but then they might have moments like we got with Ku,” Rooney said.

Similar words were expressed by Crew (0-1-0, 0 points) first-year coach Wilfried Nancy when discussing a 4-1 loss at Philadelphia on Feb. 25.

He also had a young lineup with goalkeeper Patrick Schulte and defenders Philip Quinton and Mo Farsi making their first MLS starts.

“It’s a farce to say, ‘We don’t make mistakes.’ Everyone makes mistakes all the time,” Nancy said. “The idea is to step back and to live with this experience because, for me, this is the only way that we can have success.”

Schulte was victimized by two Union penalty kicks and was pressed into service when starter Eloy Room was unavailable while working on obtaining his green card.

Room is expected to be available Saturday to go against midfielder Pedro Santos, who signed with D.C. in the offseason after six seasons with the Crew in which he scored 23 goals and had 24 assists in 155 MLS regular season matches.

–Field Level Media