- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 22, 2011

Exhibition games don’t really count for much - not like league games. But these friendly games are sometimes a chance for a rookie player to show off his skills and make some memories.

D.C. United lost 2-1 to Dutch champion Ajax of Amsterdam, on Sunday at RFK Stadium, in a game where rookie Blake Brettschneider came off the bench and scored his first goal for the club.

Brettschneider doesn’t get many chances to play for United, especially not when veteran strikers like Charlie Davies and Josh Wolff are scoring plenty of goals. But his moment came in the 58th minute against Ajax when he tied the game 1-1 with a well-taken goal.

“We worked so well and played hard throughout the game except for a few lapses,” Brettschneider said. “We had a lot of chances especially in the second period.”

The game was an opportunity for United coach Ben Olsen to give a number of reserve players like Brettschneider, a chance to earn some minutes and test their skills; and for some key players -like Davies and Wolff - to nurse their injuries.

“I thought Blake came in and really gave us some energy and that was what we needed,” said Olsen.

The game also allowed Olsen a chance to try players in different positions. Right back Perry Kitchen played as a defensive midfielder and was replaced on the back line by reserve player Brandon Barklage, who missed most of last season after tearing his ACL.

It didn’t take long for Ajax to get on the score sheet. In the 10th minute, Miralem Sulejmani breezed by Barklage and fired a shot past United goalkeeper Bill Hamid from eight yards out after receiving the assist from Nicolas Lodeiro.

Barklage certainly seemed to want to make up for his mistake. In the 18th minute, the defender fired a blistering long-range shot that forced Ajax goalie Kenneth Vermeer to make an excellent one-handed save.

“These games are always interesting and we got a lot out of it,” Olsen said. “They [Ajax] are an unbelievable team. It’s nice to play a team like that.”

The Dutch visitors opened the game with just four starters from the team’s 3-1 title-decider game against former FC Twente last week. That game won Ajax the club’s first Dutch title after a seven-year drought.

At the break, Olsen replaced a number of players and United certainly looked livelier.

In the 58th minute, Brettschneider fired a low shot past Vermeer, after collecting the ball from a pass from Joseph Ngwenya to tie the game 1-1.

“Joe [Ngwenya] worked hard to get the ball and passed to me,” Brettschneider said. “I got there first and took the opportunity. It was my first goal for the club, and I hope more will come.”

Brettschneider, who has started two league games for United, has yet to score in a league game. The former college star from South Carolina could have notched the game-winner in the 82nd minute, but his shot went wide.

The game didn’t have a storybook ending for United, and in the 86th minute defender Vurnon Anita scored the game-winner, beating substitute goalie Steve Cronin with a low shot.

For Ajax, the game was a time to relax a little after a grueling successful league campaign and to prepare for Champions League soccer next season. Ajax has now won 30 Dutch championships. The Dutch giants once dominated European soccer, winning the European Cup (now the Champions League) from 1971 to 1973 and again in 1995. Its most famous star was Johan Cruyff, who once called RFK home when he played for the Washington Diplomats in the long-defunct North American Soccer League in 1980.

Up next for the D.C. outfit is the club’s trip to the expansion Portland Timbers on Sunday, followed by a Friday night game at the red-hot Los Angeles Galaxy on June 3.

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