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Pontius scores twice to lead United to 5-3 U.S. Open Cup rout of New York

It has to be really tough to be a New York Red Bull supporter when it comes to their rivalry with D.C. United. Red Bull might win the occasional match but no team in the 14 years of their existence inflicts as much damage and pain to Red Bull as United does. Just in the past four weeks alone has seen United cruelly inflict a two-goal comeback in stoppage time to win the final regular season matchup at Giants Stadium between the two clubs. Fast-forward to tonight and United puts four goals behind Danny Cepero before the sun has even had a chance to set.

Such is life in the one-sided rivalry that has become United vs. Red Bull. Chris Pontius continued his extraordinary start to his professional career by scoring twice and also adding an assist in the 5-3 romp before 5,056 spectators at RFK Stadium tonight. Brazilian midfielder Fred chipped in with a goal and an assist and rookie Brandon Barklage scored his second goal in consecutive Open Cup matches for the Black and Red.

United jumped on the visitors from the start and were unfortunate not to be in the lead in the 5th minute when Pontius set up Fred for a seemingly easy tap-in in front of goal. However, a late defensive challenge from University of Maryland product Jeremy Hall pressured Fred into rushing his shot over the goal. United didn’t sulk over the missed opportunity and scored on a corner kick of all things in the 8th minute to take a 1-0 lead. Christian Gomez’ well driven ball found the noggin of Pontius who easily headed to the far post past Cepero.

United continued their assault on the Red Bull goal and took a 2-0 lead from a great through ball from Gomez to Boyzzz Khumalo who easily rounded Cepero and got the ball just over the goal line before Hall slammed it into his own net. Khumalo was one of many United players who routinely got behind the high line of New York’s defense in the first half. United was whistled for offside six times in the first half but Khumalo was the first to beat the trap.

Just as the fans were starting to settle back into their seats the Black and Red struck again in the 21st minute. Congolese forward Ange N’Silu worked hard to pressure and eventually steal the ball from Hall along the endline and fed a cross into the box that Cepero mishandled. The ball fumbled right into the path of Barklage who stung his volley through two Red Bull defenders and into the net for a 3-0 lead. United still wasn’t finished and capped off their most productive first 45 minutes of the season with a goal from Fred in the 26th minute. Pontius played a diagonal ball over the Red Bull defense and the left-sided midfielder trapped the ball in stride and sped towards goal unimpeded. His initial shot was well-saved from Cepero but the rebound bounced off the chest of Fred and he had the easiest of finishes into the open goal for a stunning 4-0 lead.

United looked to be heading into halftime with a very comfortable 4-0 lead but Red Bull started to show signs of life. Midfielder Khano Smith forced goalkeeper Josh Wicks into a fantastic save in the 43rd minute when the Bermudan wrong footed United defender Bryan Namoff and he sent a right-footed curler that was tipped just wide of the goal. Red Bull’s new found confidence did produce a goal just a minute later when United defender Greg Janicki misplayed a bouncing ball and allowed the 5’7″ 140lb Dane Richards to muscle him off the ball and break free alone on Wicks. Richards easily passed the ball into goal despite giving up 7 inches and 70 pounds to Janicki.

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Photos: Martin Fernandez

The second half started like the first half ended and it only took three minutes to make everyone at RFK very nervous. Substitute Jorge Rojas pounced on a failed clearance and his 18 yard left-footed shot through a thicket of players in the penalty area found it’s way past Wicks and United’s once dominating lead had been cut to 4-2. However, Rookie of the Year candidate Chris Pontius settled everyones nerves in the 51st minute with his second goal to settle the match for all intent and purposes. Fred once again skinned Jeremy Hall down the left flank and his pinpoint cross met the noggin of Pontius who easily beat Red Bull defender Kevin Goldthwaite. Danny Cepero inexplicably came off his line way too late to challenge and was left in no-mans land and the ball easily bounded across the goal line to give United a comfortable 5-2 lead.

Things got a bit uncomfortable for the home side in the 61st minute when Greg Janicki was whistled for a hand ball in the penalty area. Janicki, who didn’t do himself any favors tonight in trying to wrestle the starting central dender job from Dejan Jakovic, had his left arm extended from his side and the cross from Danleigh Borman hit off the left arm of the United defender. Referee Mark Kadlecik immediately pointed to the spot and Jorge Rojas easily beat Josh Wicks for the final goal in United’s 5-3 win.

United will now enter the U.S. Open Cup tournament proper in spite of being the defending champions. United does not know whom they will play in the next round. They most likely will be playing away from RFK as United has hosted their last 5 Open Cup matches at home venues. Next up for United is a rematch with Real Salt Lake this Saturday evening at RFK Stadium. Real Salt Lake has handed United their only loss of the season through 10 MLS games so far. Game time is at 7:30 and the match is being televised on Comcast SportsNet HD.

United Notes

  • United is on an eight-game unbeaten streak through all competitions. 6 games unbeaten in MLS and two straight U.S. Open Cup victories make up the impressive run.
  • Clyde Simms, Luciano Emilio, Louis Crayton and Dejan Jakovic were United starters that didn’t even make the 18-man roster for the match. Santino Quaranta and Jaime Moreno were unused subs. I’d say United has some pretty good depth