DC United 4 - Pompey 0

Dave Wright. Picture: Colin Farmery

Boss hoping Wright can bolster Pompey’s squad

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To coin the term now popular among Pompey’s players, this tour has been a right ‘Chicago’.

The battered Blues squad came up with the name in honour of the city where they seemed to have spent half of this tour holed up in its hotels and airport, after their nightmare pre-season plumbed new depths.

For the US city, read nightmare, stinker or howler.

It was supposed to be a new moniker afforded to the worst player in training – whenever Pompey do get around to doing some of that.

But it seems much more fitting to be associated with their North American voyage which ended in farce.

Steve Cotterill’s men were outplayed by a team bottom of their MLS Conference on the hottest Washington day of the year on Saturday night.

Temperatures soared pitchside and humidity was in excess of 90 per cent.

Cotterill had long been at boiling point, however, as just about everything that could go wrong did so in the build-up to the game.

Some events which led to Pompey turning up at the RFK Stadium in bits fell in the lap of gods.

Others contributing factors, however, could and should have been avoided.

Questions have to be asked, as to why a trip which did not cost the club a penny and should have been perfect preparation for the new campaign was, for long parts, a mess.

Cotterill’s mood for much of this tour has generally been somewhere around white hot.

He has quickly branded this epic zig-zagging journey halfway across the world the worst tour he has ever known as a player or manager. It’s easy to see why.

A team who are patently way below the level needed to be a competitive outfit in the Championship next season today landed back in England worse prepared for the season than when they went away.

How on earth has that been allowed to happen?

In the past fortnight, Pompey have clocked up approaching 100 hours of time travelling after starting the tour with a 42-hour effort to San Diego. It’s a job to know whether to be flabbergasted or furious by that figure.

That has arrived as the team have taken in eight flights, six hotels and airports, four different time zones, two delays and two cancellations.

The numbers all add up to one big farce – and that’s without the 14 bags containing kit and medical equipment lost along the way by the club’s beloved friends at United Airlines.

Another colossal figure which the Blues could not do a lot about was the melting 115-degree heat in their fourth game of the tour.

Players lost up to four kilogrammes after already going through all those dehydrating flights.

As one of the club’s medical team admitted, if Pompey could have drawn up a top-10 list of the things the players shouldn’t be doing, they have nailed nine of them in the past fortnight.

At least Pompey picked up a trophy for all their troubles in Edmonton last Wednesday, the first of Steve Cotterill’s reign.

The fact they had gone into this game without kicking a ball since that penalty shoot-out win shows you how wrong the travel timetable has been, though.

There was, somehow, a degree of vim to the Blues’ early play as Cotterill went with his strongest available line-up.

Yet, he still had four teenagers in there as he stayed with the 4-3-2-1 formation he looks increasingly certain to go with this season.

The night took its first wrong turn after 21 minutes, though, when Matt Ritchie went into the book for a foul on Thabiso Khumalo. Seconds later, Danny Allsopp was given the freedom of the Pompey box to head past a stranded Jamie Ashdown.

Pompey should have been level eight minutes later when David Nugent passed up the first of two gilt-edged chances which came his way.

A brilliant surging run from Matt Ritchie saw him drift past two DC United players and deliver a cutback which Nugent should have tucked away, but somehow rolled wide from a few yards out.

The defensive flimsiness shown by Pompey was exposed again by journeyman striker Allsopp – a player who has done the rounds around England’s lower leagues – 15 minutes before the interval.

Allsopp, whose previous clubs include Manchester City, Notts County and Hull, managed to shrug off Marc Wilson’s tackle and had the time to pick his spot without anybody getting a foot in before beating Ashdown.

That saw frustration which was never going to be far from the surface in the circumstances boil over at times.

Nugent’s anger was taken out on an advertising hoarding as a clever Nadir Ciftci pass put him in, but DC keeper Troy Perkins did well to smother his effort.

The game was over as a spectacle 11 minutes after the break, as more slack marking allowed Boskovic the space to feed Hernandez for the simplest of finishes.

That followed ridiculously picky ref Jorge Gonzalez dishing out two of the three red cards on the night, when Hayden Mullins and Santino Quaranta were both dismissed for nothing stronger than an exchange of words.

Aussie striker Allsopp completed his hat-trick with just under a third of the game to go, but as much of a concern was seeing Joel Ward collide with Jamie Ashdown.

Ashdown was later replaced by Liam O’Brien, but the problem was a dead leg and not the knee that was recently operated on.

There was still time for referee Gonzalez to dismiss DC’s Julius James – but Pompey had no way back by then.

Chief executive David Lampitt joined up with the squad in Washington to witness for himself just how deep the on-the-pitch problems run.

It’s the issues off it which continue to dominate, however, and govern what Cotterill has to work with.

During the course of Pompey’s tour we have seen that clearly enough with HMRC’s CVA appeal.

Hopefully, Cotterill will now be able to work to bring in the faces he feels can give his side a degree of nous for the Championship.

He has permission for three but knows he needs more – or Pompey will continue to have a ‘Chicago’ for a lot longer yet.