DC United's Andy Najar Controls the ball during his team's U.S. Open Cup match against the Richmond Kickers. Photo: Matt Mathai.

DC Escapes Richmond with 2-1 Win

DC’s Branko Boskovic hit the corner kick to Marcelo Saragosa to score the winner in 107th minute of overtime to give United a 2-1 victory over the Richmond Kickers and a ticket into the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup where they will host the Philadelphia Union at the Soccerplex in Germantown next Tuesday night.

DC scored first in the 24th minute from a lovely cool finish from Hamdi Salihi but Richmond answered back just before halftime from the penalty spot as DC defender Lewis Neal bundled over Richmond’s Chris Agorsor setting up the spot kick that Stanley Nyazamba converted for the 1-1 score that held up until 30 minutes of extra time added to the end of the match.

With tired players and a spot in the quarterfinals on the line, the overtime turned into a lively affair on both ends, but it was a Branko Boskovic corner kick that just missed Dudar, but fell to right to Saragosa standing unmarked near the spot and he thundered a volley into the roof of the net to give United the lead that eventually held up after United survived a few tense moments over the final minutes of the match.

As is usual when playing a lower division opponent with a changed lineup, DC United dominated possession, but failed to really threaten a pretty disciplined Kickers defense. Conversely, the speedy kickers counter attack caused quite a bit of confusion in the United’s makeshift defense, and if not for the stellar play of Emiliano Dudar as well as the abysmally poor finishing by Richmond, the night could have finished with a lot worse for United.

DC did manage the first quality chance of the match when Andy Najar was sent deep down the right side where he pulled a cross back towards the top of the area. A sliding Richmond defender managed to deflect the ball away, but it fell right to Salihi for a shot at the open goal but he smashed the ball well over the bar.

Salihi made no mistake with his next chance however as Maicon Santos pulled off some lovely work in midfield and slotted a diagonal ball to Salihi making a perfect diagonal run across the box behind the ball watching Kicker defense, drawing the keeper slightly, United ‘s Albanian attacker cooly slotted the ball into the far side of the net to put United out front 1-0 midway through the first half.

However, that seemed to fire up the Kicker counter attack and the rest of the half, United’s discombobulated defense was constantly scrambling any time they gave up possession. In the 27th minute, Richmond’s Ryan Heins collected a loose pass and scampered behind Ethan White to zip a ball far post where Chris Agorsor had slipped inside Neal, but the Richmond forward whiffed the bouncing ball with an open net yawning in front of him.

On a similar play 10 minutes later, Richmond’s Gerson Dos Santos was sent down the left in the seam between White and right back Chris Korb where he crosses far post again to Agorsor inside Neal, but this time he is nudged just as he shoots and the ball sails well wide.

Richmond got third time lucky though as they went to that well again just before haltime and when the ball was worked across to Agorsor this time, he and Neal fumbled over each other as Saragosa clattered into the pile too. Predictably, the referee awarded the penalty kick that Nyazamba thundered into the net after sending United’s Joe Willis the wrong way to tie that match 1-1 at the stroke of halftime.

DC coach Ben Olsen brought in rookie Nick DeLeon to play the left side at halftime for Salihi which caused a shuffle sending starting left wing Josh Wolff to forward. The move didn’t work so well at first as Wolff lost a ball and was skinned going back the other way leading to another dangerous counter that ended with a low shot that skipped barely wide from Dos Santos in the 55th minute.

However, Wolff and DC started to click after that. In the 56th minute, DeLeon pegged a perfect cross to Wolff bursting in at the six, but his volley was slammed right at Richmond keeper Ronnie Pascale. Pascale again saved the day a few minutes later. This time it was a Wolff cross to DeLeon that Pascale managed to block first, but the ball fell to DeLeon. He too shot right at Pascale, but incredibly got another chance as the rebound fell right to him was an open net yawning above the prone Pascale, but his hurried shot went well wide from 6 yards.

In the 75th minute, DC made the decisive change as Olsen brought on Boskovic for Stephen King and United’s attack immediately flourished. In the 78th Najar ghosted past two defenders and ripped a shot, but Pascale went horizontal for a spectacular save. Then it was Boskovic moving up the center easily before smashing a shot that Pascale did well to smother with Santos hovering for a rebound. Josh Wolff also ripped a low shot to the near post that Pascale had to smother as well.

United’s defense still struggled to contain attackers whenever Richmond got the ball, but Dudar was gigantic in snuffing out trouble before it got to the point of a shot on goal. Still, Richmond began to look a lot more threatening as well once they brought on their leading scorers, Matthew Delicate and David Bulow midway through the second half.

In the first 15 minute OT, Deleon maneuvered through three Richmond defenders to smack a clever shot to the far post, but Pascale again palmed it and the ball rolled achingly just past the post. DeLeon earned the CK in the 107th minute that Boskovic clipped into the area for Saragosa to finally hit the shot that would ultimately decide the match.

Still United had to survive a lively scramble over the final few minutes. A Richmond CK to Delicate was headed barely wide. In the 199th minute, Agorsor turned Ethan White and burst into the area, where he leaned into White and shoved over. However, the ref didn’t fall for the ploy and refused to call the PK. Then just before the end, DUdar with his only poor touch of the match hit a poor clearance that fell right to a Richmond attacker in the box, but his shot was drilled right at Willis to end the match.

DC has now faced Richmond five times in the Open Cup and beaten them four times. The only loss was in 2004. United also extends their record against lower division teams in the Open Cup to 18-3-0.

DC now faces the Philadelphia Union, who beat the Rochester Rhinos, in the quarterfinals at the Soccerplex in Germantown Maryland next Tuesday night at 7:30 Tickets are $20, or $15 bought in advance.

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