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DC Scrapes by Richmond Kickers to Advance in the US Open Cup

A dreadful DC performance was rewarded with a 4-2 victory on penalty kicks after a scoreless match when goalkeeper Joe Willis saved the first two Kickers penalty kicks while DC made all four of their attempts to allow them to advance to the next round in the US Open Cup.

Playing a majority of their starters, DC United struggled mightily to mount any kind of threat on the Richmond goal while their lower division affiliate played with much more control and precision only to be denied in the final third from some stellar play by backup keeper Joe Willis.

In the 17th minute, Richmond midfielder Stanley Nyazamba deftly split DC’s defense sending in former DC Academy player Michael Seaton who is on loan to Richmond in on goal and only a fantastic smother by Willis coming off his line saved United from giving up yet another early goal.

A few minutes later another well-orchestrated Richmond attack was thwarted as Nyazamba and Joseph Ngwenya worked the ball far post to midfielder Nate Robinson for an open look at goal only to see him scuff his shot slightly allowing for Willis to recover and block the shot.

Finally, DC showed some spark in the attack and a couple of lovely corner kicks featured in the United threats on goal. Historically inept at corner kicks in the modern era of soccer, DC United managed to hit the woodwork twice and barely miss another attempt wide in the late stages of the first half.

First in the 31st minute, it was Kyle Porter with a CK right on Lionard Pajoy’s head that he managed to clang off the top of the crossbar, then a few minutes later in the 35th minute, United defender Chris Korb struck a lovely cross to a wide open Dwayne De Rosario at the far post in front of an open goal, but United’s captain hashed up the header off the far post and the ball fell right to Richmond keeper Andrew Dykstra.

Just before halftime, DeRo stripped a Richmond defender and appeared to in on goal only to be muscled off the ball. However, the recovering defender was forced to pass the ball back toward the Richmond goal and only a late scramble by Dykstra to clear it off the line saved an own goal. On the ensuing corner kick, DC again found an open man in defender Conor Shanosky, who had a stellar match in central defense, but his diving header flashed past the near post just wide.

DC’s attack withered in the second half and it was pretty much all Richmond the rest of the way, but Willis was to be the man of the match keeping the Kickers scoreless despite relentless pressure.

In the 50th minute, Willis came out to snare a deadly cross away from Richmond defender William Yomby. In the 55th minute, Richmond again pinged the ball around DC’s defense pulling them apart expertly to allow Nyazamba to burst up through the middle in on goal only for Willis to snuff out the attack coming off his line perfectly.

Again late in the match, Willis came up big as Nyazamba, who was a thorn in DC’s side all night kept an attack alive cleverly and slid a ball to defender Jason Yeisley storming into the DC box, but his point blank shot was well covered by Willis.

Late in the match, a clearly tired DC gave up a few hideous fouls around the box that allowed Richmond some potentially deadly free kicks, but fortunately for United Richmond couldn’t manage a single threat on goal from any of them. So, for the second year in a row, DC headed to overtime in Richmond in the opening round of the Open Cup.

Overtime was much of the same as DC couldn’t control the ball at all, while Richmond continually probed United’s increasingly tired defense. The pressure ended up being too much for United’s Chris Korb as he yanked down a Richmond attacker after getting caught on the wrong side and he was tossed for his second yellow leaving United with ten min for the final twelve minutes.

It got worse two minutes from full time as substitute Carlos Ruiz was also sent off for a reckless challenge from behind. Down to nine men, DC just held on for the penalty kicks after the 30 minute overtime period.

United’s fortunes shifted dramatically in the penalty kicks as Keeper Joe Willis dove to his left to stop the first two spot kicks from Sascha Gorres and Ngwenya sandwiched around a DeRo finish to put United up 1-0. Perry Kitchen made it 2-0 easily, and even though Richmond answered with a goal from Luke Vercollone, Nick DeLeon thundered a shot into the upper 90 that left the Kickers dangling by a thread. Nate Robinson kept them alive with a savvy shot down the middle, but James Riley sent DC into the next round with a cool finish to give DC an insurmountable 4-2 PK victory.

United will host the Philadelphia Union June 12 at 7 PM in Germantown at the socccerplex in the next round of the Open Cup.

Lineups:
Kickers: GK Andrew Dykstra, Henry Kalungi, Shane Johnson (Matthew Delicate – 69’), William Yomby, Luke Vercollone, Michael Seaton (Juan Arbelaez – 60’), Mike Callahan, Stanley Nyazamba (Sascha Gorres – 60’), Nate Robinson, Jason Yeisley, Joseph Ngwenya
D.C. United: GK Joe Willis, Daniel Woolard, James Riley, Chris Korb, Raphael Augusto (Chris Pontius – 58’), Perry Kitchen, Conor Shanosky, Nick De Leon, Kyle Porter (Sainey Nyassi – 91’), Dwayne De Rosario, Lionard Pajoy (Carlos Ruiz – 80’)

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.

D.C. United's Hamdi Salihi celebrates his 24th minute go ahead goal against the Richmond Kickers in U.S. Open Cup play. Photo: Matt Mathai.

United defeats Kickers to advance in Open Cup

D.C. United defeated their nearest rival, the Richmond Kickers, 2-1 to advance to the next rounds of the U.S. Open Cup. United needed a extra time play to dismiss the Kickers from the 98 year old tournament with a strike from Marcelo Saragosa in the 107th minute of play.

Hamdi Salihi gave United the lead in the 24th minute of play after receiving a brilliant through ball from teammate Maicon Santos. Salihi collected the ball in the middle of the box and rounded the Richmond’s kicker to slot the ball in the back of the net.

The hosts managed to even it up shortly before the break when they were awarded a penalty kick. Kicker forward Christopher Kwame Agorsor was brought down in the box from behind by United’s Marcelo Saragosa. The ensuing kick was slotted past D.C. United’s Joe Willis by Zimbabwean International Stanley Nyazamba

Saragosa made up for his blunder late in extra time after the ball fell to his feet from a Branko Boskovic corner kick.

D.C. will now face the Philadelphia Union who defeated the  USL PRO side, the Rochester Raging Rhinos, by a score of 3-0 on Tuesday, June 5 at the Maryland SoccerPlex at 7:30pm.

United has won the U.S. Open Cup twice, once  in 1996 when they earned the coveted “double” and again in 2008. Last year, D.C. United beat the Philadelphia Union before falling to New England in Open Cup play.

Revs Bounce DC United from Open Cup

It’s back to the drawing board for Ben Olsen and DC United as the New England Revolution raced to a 3-0 lead then hung on to defeat United 3-2 to eliminate DC from the US Open Cup in United’s first ever loss in regulation at the Soccerplex.

In yet another example of the cruel way Nicolball has of finding a way to create wins from straw, DC United dominated play for much of the game only to find themselves way behind and scrambling for late goals to even make the game respectable.

For the first 45 minutes, DC dominated play between the 18 yard boxes, but was simply unable to finesse the ball into any really serious scoring chances, preferring to go more direct and pretty much playing into the hands of NE’s stalwart central defense who survived the pressure well, and created a perfect recipe for a classic NE counter.

Sure enough, NE’s Kheli Dube found the back of the net to give the Revs the 1-0 lead against the run of play in the 34th minute as United’s left side of defense (Daniel Woolard and Rodrigo Breseco) got caught upfield at the same time, so when NE’s Ousmane Dabo found Kenny Mansally racing in behind them, DC’s Ethan White was forced to come out and try to cover leaving the middle wide open. From there it was a far too simple matter for Mansally to slip it to Dube at the top of the box for a wide open shot past the helpless Pat Onstad in goal.

Dube would strike again just after halftime as Ethan White would get caught turning the wrong way under pressure and got stripped of the ball by NE’s second half sub, Alan Koger, who set up Dube at the top of the box for another wide open easy finish in the 47th minute for the 2-0 lead.

Down two goals despite controlling the ball for much of the game, DC coach Ben Olsen turned to regular starters, Chris Pontius and MLS leading scorer Charlie Davies. Unfortunately, yet another defensive mistake doomed United as NE scored the third goal from which United simply could not recover. This time it was a poor clearance by Kurt Morsink as he attempted to blast the ball out of the box, only to hit Kroger right in the body, and it fell right to his feet where he was able to beat Onstad easily from 6 yards in the 69th minute for what would eventually be the game-winning goal.

Down 3-0, United finally got focused enough to actually put serious threats on the NE goal. In particular Branko Boskovic began to find space all around the NE penalty area and would begin to exert his will on the game. Boskovic had hit the post on a lovely free kick in the 58th minute to make it the third time he had struck woodwork in the past two games, but “Pub Crawl” (Hey, he hits every bar, what can I say!) would finally score his first goal in a DC uniform in the 73rd minute.

NE actually set up the goal with a poor clearance of their own by Otto Loewry, who struck the ball right to Charlie Davies steaming in towards goal, incredibly Davies passed up a shot of his own to feed Boskovic just inside of the area, and DC’s Montenegrin midfielder pulled off a nice move to make space between two defenders and clipped a ball untouchably into the far side netting to make it 2-1.

From that point on, it was all DC peppering shots at the NE goal, but it wasn’t until the 82nd minute when Boskovic again found side netting with a cool finish to draw DC to within one. This time it was Andy Najar making a nice move and lovely pass across the top of the area to find Boskovic moving down the left hand side of the box, where he made space to rip a glorious shot back across the box through NE’s Bobby Shuttleworth’s hands, and into the back of the net to make it 3-2.

However, it was too little too late as Boskovic was chopped down by Koger in the 86th minute (yellow card) and had to limp off the field leaving United down to 10 men for the last few minutes of the match, as the US Open Cup has changed rules recently to only allow three subs, as opposed to four as has been custom in the past. So, once Dax McCarty had come on in the 79th, DC was out of substitutions.

Without any more ideas on the field, United allowed NE to escape from the Soccerplex with the victory which eliminated them from the MLS qualification process for the Open Cup. It is the first “defeat” ever for DC in this tournament at the Soccerplex, where they had gone 13-0-1 (with that draw ending up as a loss to Dallas on penalty kicks in 2005) until tonite.

With the loss, DC does have a pretty solid chance of extending their incredible string of home matches in this tournament, however. This was United’s 17th straight home match, and had they won were slated to have to play away for the first time since 2007. Now they will likely be looking at more MLS play-in matches for next year’s tournament, and who wants to take bets on what team wins those coin flips?

*Notes: Boskovic is believed to have a bruised knee, but will get an MRI tomorrow to determine his availability for the future. He is quoted as saying after the match that although painful, he feels it is nothing too serious.

SCORING SUMMARY
NE — Dube 34′ (Mansally)
NE — Dube 47′ (Koger)
NE — Koger 69′
DC — Boskovic 73′ (Davies)
DC — Boskovic 83′ (Najar)
MISCONDUCT SUMMARY
DC — Boskovic, caution 16′
NE — Loewy, caution 50′
NE — Dube, caution 80′
NE — Cochrane, caution 85′
NE — Koger, caution 86′
DC — Morsink, caution 88′

LINEUPS
D.C. UNITED — Pat Onstad; Brandon Barklage, Rodrigo Brasesco (Dax McCarty 79′), Ethan White, Daniel Woolard; Andy Najar, Branko Boskovic, Kurt Morsink, Santino Quaranta (C); Joseph Ngwenya (Charlie Davies 68′), Blake Brettschneider (Chris Pontius 64′)
Unused substitutes: Bill Hamid, Stephen King, Conor Shanosky, Perry Kitchen
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION — Bobby Shuttleworth; Darrius Barnes, Ryan Cochrane, Otto Loewy (Michael Augustine 91′), Chris Tierney; Sainey Nyassi, Ousmane Dabo (Diego Fagundez 76′), Stephen McCarthy, Ryan Kinne; Kheli Dube, Kenny Mansally (Alan Koger 46′)
Unused substitutes: Tim Murray, Zack Schilawski

DC Players Celebrate USOC Win over Union

DC United Nip Philadelphia Union on PKs

DC Players Celebrate USOC Win over Union. Photo: Martin Fernandez

DC Players Celebrate USOC Win over Union. Photo: Martin Fernandez

United’s Branko Boskovic (#8 above) scored the game clinching penalty kick as DC edged the Philadelphia Union on Pks after a 2-2 draw to advance to the second round play-in match for one of the final two MLS spots in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.

After both teams traded goals in the first half, and survived a wide open second half without any goals, the game finished with a roller coaster of emotion in the second overtime as United’s Daniel Woolard seemed to score the game winner with 9 minutes left only to see Philly’s Brian Carroll tie the match with barely 2 minutes left on the clock forcing penalty kicks to decide the winner.

Playing a mixture of reserves and starters, DC United started the match a bit shaky and was punished in the 18th minute as a long throw in by Philly’s Sheanon Williams was skimmed by Philly defender Danny Califf back to the far post where it fell right to the feet of an unmarked Carlos Ruiz, and the Guatemalan marksman easily finished under Bill Hamid for the first goal of the match.

However, DC got themselves back into the game with a timely goal by Josh Wolff seconds before the first half ended. Near the end of a very ragged first half by both teams, United earned a corner kick and Boskovic whipped the ball into the Philly penalty area where it ping ponged around and eventually fell to the far post where United’s Joseph Ngwenya and right back Brandon Barklage combined to poke the ball back across the goal mouth to a wide open Wolff to nod in powerfully off a Philly defender and into the back of the net.

With new life, Olsen brought in rookie forward Blake Brettschneider at the half for Wolff and almost immediately United began to look a lot more aggressive offensively, and the defense tightened up considerably after Dejan Jackovic was inserted in the 41st minute for an injured Rodrigo Bresesco, who was having another terrible night defensively up to that point.

United nearly took the lead in the 63rd minute when another tantalizing free kick by Boskovic found DC central defender Ethan White at the far post, but his wicked shot struck Brettschneider and skipped barely wide.

In the 75th minute, DC central midfielder Stephen King collected the ball nicely in midfield and fed Andy Najar bursting down the right side of the box where he ripped a shot/cross barely wide of the far post and just inches from Ngwenya crashing in on goal.

In the 78th, Najar fed Boskovic just outside the top of the area and the Montenegran clipped a lovely curling shot which would have snuck inside the near post if not for a spectacular save by Philly’s Fayd Mondragon to paw it away over the endline. On the ensuing corner kick, yet another excellent corner kick by Boskovic whipped achingly across the face of the goal, but incredibly went untouched through a scrum of players as another clear chance slipped away.

DC almost paid for their failure to score in the 85th minute as Philly’s Danny Mwanga collected a ball near the top of the area and crushed a wicked shot that forced a game saving dive from Hamid to smother the shot and prevent a rebound amid a swarm of Philly players in the box.

In a strange play just before the full time whistle, Philadelphia was reduced to 10 men when central defender Carlos Valdes was tossed for an absolutely unbelievable second yellow card. Valdes had apparently got away with a savage two footed tackle of United’s Fred (who would be forced to limp off the pitch and be replaced by Chris Pontius) which knocked the ball out of bounds. But as referee Andrew Chapin was indicating a DC throw in to restart play, Valdes, apparently not satisfied with merely getting away with the assault on Fred actually expected to get the throw in as well, got incensed and kicked the ball right off the stands earning him a trip to the showers.
With the man advantage, DC took almost complete control of the overtime period. Brettschneider blasted a shot off the post in the 100th minute. Then after a poor clearance by Philly, United regained control 30 seconds later and Andy Najar was sent in on goal, and only another exceptional sliding save by Mondragon coming out to confront DC’s Honduran winger kept the ball out of the net. Ngwenya also forced a solid save from Mondragon as well a few minutes later.

Finally in the 111th minute United scored what looked to be the winning goal as Najar whipped a ball all the way across the area to Woolard at the far post, and DC’s left back hammered a shot right into Pontius in the goalmouth, the ball fell to Pontius, but his shot was blocked by a Philly defender on the line, but again the ball fell fortunately for United as it bounced right to Woolard wide open for the easy finish into the open net.

There is no golden goal in US Open Cup play, so United was obliged to see out the final eight minutes or so. Unfortunately, DC took their foot off the gas and allowed Philly to creep back into the game. Sure enough, Philly earned a corner kick barely two minutes from time and the ball fell far post to an unlikely hero, former DC midfielder Brian Carroll who forced penalty kicks when he nodded the ball in off Hamid’s outstretched hand.

After Sebastion LeToux scored the opening kick for Philly and Pontius responded for DC, it all fell apart for the Union. Jake McInerney skied the ball over the bar and Roger Torres had a weak effort smother by Hamid, while Barklage and Najar scored for DC. After Kyle Nakazawa kept Philly alive, Boskovic clinched the game with a cool finish past Mondragon.

United will now face New England April 26th at 7:30 at the Maryland Soccerplex for their second play-in match for one of the final two MLS slots in the US Open Cup Finals.

D.C. UNITED: Hamid; Barklage, White, Brasesco (Jakovic 41′), Woolard; Najar, King, Fred (Pontius 89′), Boskovic; Wolff (C), Ngwenya
Unused substitutes: Brettschneider, Morsink, Simms, Shanoksy, Willis
PHILADELPHIA UNION: Mondragon (C), Harvey, Valdes, Califf, Williams (Mwanga 73′), Nakazawa, Carroll, M. Farfan, Daniel (Roger Torres 66′), Le Toux, Ruiz (McInerney 80′)
Unused substitutes: Holder, Richter, Pfeffer, Agorsor

DC United Takes on Philly Union in US Open Cup Play-in

For the third year in a row DC United has to win its way into the US Open Cup proper, but fortunately the Black and Red will be playing The Philadelphia Union at the Soccerplex in Boyd’s, Md. Only DC’s 16th straight home match in the oldest Cup tournament in the country.

Just about the only bright spot of United’s dismal past few years has been their amazing success, relative to their actual level of play in MLS, in this delightful little tournament. Since 2007, United’s Cup record is a 13-2, garnering the Dewar trophy given to the winner of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup in 2008, and unfortunately losing in the final in 2009 and in the semi-finals last year, to Seattle and the Crew respectively.

One common thread though has been the incredible run of luck and determination that has allowed United to play all those matches on a home field, and that continues with this initial play-in match against the Union. Ironically, the last time United played an away match in this tournament, Nowak was the coach for DC as the team was bounced by Chicago in 2006. Nowak is also the only DC coach ever to lose a match at the Soccerplex, in 2005 to Dallas. However, Nowak now has that dratted anchovy Ruiz, who broke United’s hearts in overtime on that occasion in his team this time around.

But, enough history for the moment as United has to regroup from a couple hideous losses on the road the past two weekends, and it will be very interesting to see how seriously Ben Olsen will take this tournament, as well as how deep United really is given the likely players unavailable.

Traditionally, most MLS teams play mostly reserves in these type of matches, and it seems likely both Nowak and Olsen will stick to that policy. Indeed, given Nowak’s past history in this tournament with DC (Philly wasn’t invited last year due to being an expansion team with no history to base its qualifications), it will be interesting to see if Nowak takes this tournament seriously at all. For DC, Nowak lost in the first round in Richmond in 2004, lost in the quarters to Dallas in ’05, and lost to the Fire in the semis in ’06, arguably in none of those games did he play anywhere near any of his best players. He and Thomas Rongen are the only three time losers in this tournament in United’s history BTW, no other DC coach has three Open Cup losses on his resume.

Anyway, Olsen will certainly play some younger players, but who the veterans are that he sprinkles in will be very telling. Obviously, Kitchen will not play still being away with the U-20s, nor does it seem likely Charlie Davies (groin), Clyde Simms (calf), or Jed Zayner (hamstring) will play, although all of them seem to be pretty close to returning to action. Still, tough to see rushing them back for this match. Also, Chris Pontius and Marc Burch have played the lion’s share of the minutes lately, and would seem unlikely to start either given the league match with LA looming Saturday.

On the flip side, some young players who have probably earned some minutes start with goalie Bill Hamid, who recently signed a senior long term deal with the team. Also, Chris Korb and Ethan White seem likely to get some time. Korb has played very well in place of Zayner in league matches, while White has played well in the reserves so far. Then again, the abysmal play of Rodrigo Bresesco and Daniel Wollard has probably played their way back onto the scrubs bench, which means into this match, perhaps as punishment.

So, looking into my crystal ball, my money is on Hamid in goal, then Korb, White, Brasesco and Woolard (to be fair, back in his more natural left back position) across the defensive line, all of whom looking to earn their way into, or back into the conversation for the first team.

In midfield, Boskovic needs to build on his first half performance in Colorado, and put the second half behind him as well. Almost certainly Kurt Morsink will play for Simms, but I suspect McCarty gets the night off and Stephen King gets the chance to show what he can do in the middle. Maybe it’s Boskovic in there, but I think his future is as a left sided player, or he has no future at all, so he will play the left. On the right, Andy Najar, who just decided to play play for Honduras internationally, was held out for most of the Colorado match and has looked a bit out of sorts lately, so I think he gets the start there. Maybe Santino Quaranta gets rewarded for his goal and generally good play in Colorado, but I think Olsen would rather see if he can get Najar on track in a tournament where he excelled last year scoring a stunning game winning goal in OT to knock out RSL among other things.

The forward line will be interesting. Wolff and Ngwenya were held out of Colorado too for the most part, and Brettschneider did have a pretty good outing all things considered for his first MLS minutes. But, I think Santino gets a chance to see if he can keep his confidence growing with some time at forward and he will get the start with either Wolff or Ngwenya, to see what that partnership might bring to the table. Most likely Ngwenya as Wolff will be saved for LA for sure.

As for Nowak, who knows what he will do. I suspect he plays mostly reserves as I do not believe he takes this tournament as seriously as DC clearly has in lately, and he also expects all his players, especially reserves, to rise to the occasion when they get the call. So, I think DC’s ratio of veterans will be slightly higher, but we’ll see.

As for the history, well that is clearly on United’s side. DC has never lost a play-in match (4-0), is 9-1 in Open Cup games played at the Soccerplex, is 23-3 at home in this tournament in its history, and has made at least the quarterfinals 10 of the 13 times they have been entered into the Open Cup. However, when they are knocked out early, it is usually in their very first game where they get spanked ugly, Charleston in 1999, Richmond in 2004, and Harrisburg in 2007. All first match clangers, but all away matches too.

There you have it. All signs point to DC getting the job done against the Union tomorrow night. Should DC win, United will, of course, host their 17th straight Open Cup match against New England in the next round of qualifiers, likely April 26-27 or May 10-11. Should United advance past New England, they will not host the match, however, as the Houston KC winner is slated to host that final play-in match to enter the tournament proper starting in June.

Note: Some may argue, but I say if you’re playing in the Open Cup itself even in these early qualifiers. True, it is an MLS decision to open up the last two automatic qualifying spots to the winners of this little MLS mini tournament, but in my opinion if the match is played solely to determine the ability to play in the Open Cup, then you in fact are playing in the Open Cup itself. Everybody has to qualify in some form, so to say there are only 40 teams in the entire country “playing” in the “Open” Cup is ridiculous for me. My .02. There you go.

Episode 74 – Turtle Talley Doesn’t Deserve this…

The guys are back after a brief vacation to talk about the last month in DC United History, including their recent win at Toronto FC and their ousting of the US Open Cup by the Columbus Crew. The guys also go over the MLS Scoreboard and touch on Bob Bradley being retained by US Soccer to lead the US Men’s National Team for the next World Cup Cycle.

 

United looking to lineup changes against Chivas USA

If this were any other season in which United was in contention for a playoff spot, this Sunday night’s match up at Chivas USA (10pm EST, ESPN2) would create a number of headaches for Ben Olsen and D.C. United. The recently appointed head coach however has said that while the match is important, the team has eyes on a bigger prize, getting past the Columbus Crew on Wednesday evening in the semi-finals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Seeing as United has little to no shot at the playoffs outside of a miraculous run of wins, Olsen has predictably stated that the team will do what it can to prepare for 3 matches in 6 days starting on Sunday evening in Carson, California.

“The Open Cup is a big deal for us right now,” he said after the win against Philadelphia last Sunday afternoon. “There will be an emphasis on those games because frankly that is the only trophy we can win this year.” Admitting that is tough to deal with no doubt but before that match comes their match against Chivas USA on Sunday night. United will be without three key starters as Marc Burch, Pablo Hernandez (rest) and Danny Allsopp (illness) have been left behind in Washington, D.C.

It seems to me that Olsen will most likely start a team mixed of regulars and reserves to play this match. What is getting forgotten in this 3 games in 6 day scenario is that their opponent is faced against the same prospect as they have their own semi-final in Seattle midweek. This may alter Chivas’ match day lineup as well. Considering the players left at home to rest and recover and the importance of Wednesday night’s match, don’t be surprised to see a lineup looking very much like the team that took the field in the first half of United’s 4-0 win over Georgetown University earlier this week. In that match United fielded the following lineup:

Goal – Troy Perkins

Defense – Jorday Graye, Dejan Jakovic, Barry Rice and Devon Mctavish

Midfield – Santino Quaranta, Branko Boskovic, Curt Morsink, Stephen King

Forwards – Jaime Moreno, Adam Cristman

I wouldn’t expect much to change with the possible exception of bringing Chris Pontius to one of the flank midfield positions and dropping Curt Morsink. With Boskovic being called into Euro 2012 qualifiers with Montenegro (he will miss both matches upcoming versus Columbus), I highly doubt he will be left out despite not putting up any numbers in his 6 league matches.

It’s a tough call for Olsen to make having to field such a team, but if they we be in a reasonable position to have a chance to qualify for the playoffs, this would have been a much harder and possibly more scrutinized decision. However, since the Open Cup seems to be the only chance of sunshine in a dismal season, it makes sense to give your key starters rest ahead of that match as the team will only have one day of training after the Chivas match ahead of the semi-final on Wednesday at RFK Stadium.

As for the game at hand, again, it would be nice to try and capitalize on United’s only recent win but I think a draw with this lineup is probably the best result I could reasonably bestow upon United. They have been downright awful on the road this season and have had a terrible time scoring goals, much less dreaming of getting wins.

With all that said, I am predicting a spirited effort from United but a losing effort in a close 2-1 loss. Here’s hoping to being wrong and United building more confidence heading into the Open Cup semi-final.

United sails past Harrisburg and into US Open Cup semi-finals thanks to 2-0 win

Boyzz Kuhmalo

Boyzz Kuhmalo sends a cross that would curl into the back of the net for D.C. United's second goal against the Harrisburg Islanders. Photo: Tony Quinn.

In a season that has gone horribly wrong, at least D.C. United can count on one bright spot. Their performance to date in the U.S. Open Cup tournament. Tonight the Black-and-Red cruised to a comfortable 2-0 win over the visiting Harrisburg City Islanders behind goals from newcomer Branko Boskovic and Boyzzz Khumalo.

United got things started immediately when Devon McTavish curled a pass over City Islander defender Anthony Calvano and into the path of Santino Quaranta. Quaranta pushed past defender Jerritt Thayer and got to the end line when he sent a ball diagonally to the penalty spot where Boskovic calmly slotted past City Islander goalkeeper Danny Cepero for a 1-0 lead after just 41 seconds. United continued to pile the pressure on the visitors and almost doubled their lead in the 36th minute when Boskovic’ free kick sailed inches over the bar. Harrisburg’s only plausible attempt at goal was in the 26th minute when Kai Kasiguran volleyed a rocket just over the bar after United had trouble clearing a corner kick.

United came out after halftime just like they did in the first half and doubled their lead in the 47th minute. However, this goal was one for the record books as United goalkeeper Bill Hamid sent a long clearing kick over the Harrisburg defense and sent Boyzzz Khumalo free down the right wing. With plenty of time and two United players crashing the penalty area, the South African hit what was most definitely a well intentioned cross that somehow took a turn and ended up in the net. The look on Khumalo’s face after the goal (right) told the story as he seemed almost apologetic in scoring the goal. The real laughter however was coming from the stands where his injured and resting teammates Adam Cristman, Chris Pontius, Dejan Jakovic, Juan Manuel Pena, Rodney Wallace and Marc Burch couldn’t contain themselves.

After the second goal from United the match started to take a bit of a dark turn and in the 75th minute Harrisburg were down to 10 men when defender Tyler Ruthven was red carded for a vicious tackle from behind on Khumalo that temporarily set nerves on edge. Credit to both teams however for not taking it further and United enjoyed stroking the ball around to kill off the rest of the match. United did have an opportunity late on to make it 3-0 but McTavish’ left-footed blast off of a nice no-look pass from Jaime Moreno deflected off the crossbar in the 83rd minute.

United will now face the Columbus Crew on Wednesday, September 1st at RFK Stadium at 7:30 pm in the semi-final round of the US Open Cup. Columbus made the final by virtue of their easy 3-0 win over the Charleston Battery two weeks ago. United will face English Championship side Portsmouth this Saturday evening at RFK at 7:30 pm.

United Notes

  • United lost out on the lottery to select US Youth International Sal Zizzo to Chivas USA. Zizzo had been with Hannover 96 of the Bundesliga for three seasons but only made 9 first-team appearances in his stay
  • United will apparently bring in US born winger Jemal Johnson for a trial. Johnson had been playing in the lower English divisions for various teams the past few seasons
  • Adam Cristman was back from his hernia surgery in Germany and in the stands with his two-month old daughter
  • Chris Pontius does not have a broken foot as originally feared after injuring it in the first half against the Galaxy this past Sunday. He will be held out of this weekends match with Portsmouth in hopes of having him fit for their match at Real Salt Lake on July 31st
  • Dejan Jakovic sore hamstring has him out for this weekend and he also is hoping to be ruled fit by next weekend