Ajax closed its first game on American soil on Sunday with a 1-2 win against DC United. Miralem Sulejmani and Vurnon Anita scored for Ajax, newly minted with three stars. In their first match after their championship match against FC Twente, the three stars on Ajax’s jersey brought the team from Amsterdam good luck.
Just as they had been the previous day at the White House, Ajax was greeted with the highest regard in the Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington. As thanks for the warm welcome, Frank de Boer gave his American fellow coach Ben Olsen an engraved silver plate. Sunday’s opponents will be seen in Portland this week. Hosts DC United – the American team are still in the middle of their competition season – will be in action against the Portland Timbers on Sunday. The Amsterdam team will meet the Timbers for a second friendly match in the US on Wednesday.
De Boer started Miralem Sulejmani on left. Aras Özbiliz started on the left, with Nicolas Lodeiro as a surprise starter on ten. The Uruguayan was in good form in the first half. Lodeiro peppered his team mates with through balls and accurate passes. After just ten minutes, on one of the South American’s through balls, gold was struck. Lodeiro played to Sulejmani at the right time, and the Serb scored with a simple low shot: 0-1.
Keeper Kenneth Vermeer kept the rest of the match calm, although he did get help from captain André Ooijer at some stage. The experienced player made a save from the goal line. The real action was happening in front of his colleague, Bill Hamid´s, goal. Cvitanich (sent in deep on a new Lodeiro ball) was just robbed of a goal by the keeper. Ten minutes earlier, Özbiliz had ended a long rush over the field’s axis with a shot that went just wide.
The North American team had saved their fight for the second half. With a series of four substitutions, the DC United team had a change of course. Passionately cheered on by the Screaming Eagles – which is the name given to the hard core DC United fans – the home team managed to set the tone more and more and keep Ajax in their own zone. After an hour, substitute Blake Brettschneider scored. Joseph Ngwenya misled Vurnon Anita on a great play; the substitute’s finish (1-1) was worthy of compliments.
This wasn’t the only danger. Substitute Fred came close to scoring, but shot the ball wide of Vermeer’s goal. Frank de Boer had also made some changes. Siem de Jong and Lorenzo Ebecilio came in for Demy de Zeeuw and Sulejmani. Later, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Gregory van der Wiel all also saw action in the modestly filled RFK Stadium, with10.728 spectators. There were a noticeable number of red and white Ajax shirts in the crowd. The atmosphere in the parking lot before the match was great. In keeping with the habit at football and basketball games, there were several barbecues going around RFK Stadium on Sunday. American Ajax fans took part in this tradition.
It was finally Vurnon Anita who delivered Ajax its first victory on US soil during this eight day practice trip. The Ajax player was on right back for 75 minutes, after which he finally scored as midfielder after Van der Wiel has taken up his familiar position once again. Only three minutes before the end, Anita scored coolly, but sharply. The ‘four star club’(in the US, one star is given with each national championship) was defeated by the three star one. 30 time national champion Ajax are undefeated in the U.S. after this 1-2 win. They meet the Portland Timbers on Wednesday.