Words: Amy Gilmore
Photos: Paul Kahl
Darfur United suited up in an away match against Cascadia AFF on Saturday 27 July in Kent, Washington. It was the first-ever match between CONIFA members on North American soil – and the first CONIFA match for the USA-based Darfur United players called up to the roster for the game.
The DU players traveled from across the country to participate. The team was prepared to face a top-level CONIFA team, in preparation for their journey to the CONIFA World Football Cup in 2020. It was a perfect opportunity for coach Mark Hodson and the Darfur United staff to assess players that are striving to make the 2020 roster, joining a strong core of players based in Europe.
DU created several dangerous chances on the counter-attack in the early minutes, with solid opportunities from the attacking unit of Hany Ramadan, Iessa Ramadan, Souradjadine Abdoulaye and Mahajub Adam.
Cascadia opened the scoring on the nine-minute mark, after a Darfur United turnover in the defending third of the field. Cascadia netted three more goals before the end of the half as a result of DU turnovers in defending areas and a penalty kick after a group of players challenged for possession of a loose ball in the box.
Despite the goal differential at the half, Darfur United was well prepared for Cascadia’s attack from fullbacks in the width of the field and showed bright moments in transition and individual attacking on the wings.
The second half’s pace did not slow, as the DU team maintained high pressure when opportunities were presented, often beginning with Cascadia turnovers due to strong defensive efforts from Abdulrazik Abdulkhalik. Near the 70th minute, a counter-attack led by Iessa Ramadan resulted in a corner kick that was put in the back of the net by DU’s Khalid Abdulkhalik. It was Darfur United’s first CONIFA goal in North America and Khalid’s first goal for the squad.
Cascadia added four more goals to the score sheet in the second half after a second penalty kick was awarded and a handful DU turnovers in dangerous areas. Goalkeeper Souleymane Adam recorded several saves on the match, including a tip over the crossbar after a well-struck shot from Cascadia’s right side.
Darfur United Head Coach, Mark Hodson provided his thoughts after the match: “We’re thankful to Cascadia for providing us with the opportunity to play an official CONIFA game here in the US and for being such gracious hosts. This is an ongoing journey for the Darfur United men’s team and allowed us the opportunity to give a high-level experience to a very young and new group of players. Some of these players will join our main DU squad over the upcoming months, as we prepare for Somaliland 2020 and we are very excited to move forward with what we believe will be the most competitive and exciting Darfur United team to date. There’s much more to come from this team.”
Darfur United will continue its preparations for the World Football Cup over the year, looking to provide players with additional opportunities to face the best in their league and develop their play as a unit.