Dwayne De Rosario scored all three goals to help lead D.C. United past the Philadelphia Union 3-1 tonight in their 4th Round match up in the 100th edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown. With the victory United now moves on to a match up with the New England Revolution in the 5th Round of the Open Cup to be played on June 26th at the SoccerPlex. New England eliminated fellow MLS side New York Red Bulls by a 4-2 scoreline in Boston, Massachusetts tonight.
United has struggled mightily this season in scoring goals and tonight they got a breakout performance from their newly reinstated captain De Rosario. Even though the victory is in a separate competition from the MLS regular season, the win has to have done wonders for the fragile psyche of a struggling United team that is currently on a 12-game winless run in MLS play, scoring only 6 goals through 14 matches on the year.
United and the Union have quickly become rivals and their matches through their short history of three years have had a tone of physical play. Tonight was no different as the play was chippy and physical for the entirety of the match.
United took the lead in the 24th minute thanks in part to a violent collision between Union defender Amobi Okugo and United midfielder at the top of the penalty area in front of the Union goal. Both players met trying to control the ball but the resulting convergence popped the ball loose and into the path of a grateful De Rosario who one-timed a left-footed curler past the outstretched arms of Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath.
The goal gave United their first lead over any opponent in over three months of play. That was not a typo. Three months of play.
The physical play continued throughout the remainder of the half and Pontius often was the target of some vicious play from the Union defense. Just a few minutes after the opening goal, Pontius took an elbow to the head from Sheanon Williams during a 50/50 challenge that dropped United’s influential midfielder. In stoppage time of the first half, Pontius again was a victim of another hard tackle. This time Okugo hip-checked Pontius to the ground as Pontius was running full speed at the retreating Union defense.
Head coach Ben Olsen had seen enough and sat Pontius down on the bench and prepared Sainey Nyassi as his replacement partly as a precautionary measure to Pontius who appeared dazed from a first half of rough treatment. Pontius seemed fine after the match and Olsen declined to go into detail about his condition only to mention that “he still doesn’t look all there” during a brief chat after the match.
Both teams were forced to scramble defensively as a breakneck pace broke out in the first 10 minutes of the second half. United seemed to gain control back of the match and doubled their advantage in the 75th minute thanks in part to a dreadful defensive mistake. The Union defense badly cleared a ball out of the final third and right into the path of United second-half substitute Lionard Pajoy. The former Union forward took advantage of the gift and darted directly towards goal. As the retreating Union defense closed in on Pajoy, he slipped a pass right into the path of De Rosario who broke in alone on goal. MacMath and Union defender Raymon Gaddis tried to poke the ball away from United’s captain but he easily slipped past both players and slotted the ball into the vacated net.
United’s first two-goal lead of any kind this season was short-lived. Less than a minute later, a mistake by United’s defense gifted Philadelphia back into the match. Nick DeLeon, forced into an emergency right back role due to an injury to Ethan White, badly misplayed a ball in United’s penalty area and the resulting poor touch made it onto the foot of MLS’ current goal scoring leader Jack McInerny who’s right footed shot easily beat goalkeeper Joe Willis to the far post.
With the Union frantically pushing forward for an equalizer, even more horrific defending gifted De Rosario his third goal and United the win in the 85th minute. MacMatch came about 20 yards out of the penalty area to clean up a loose ball and passed it to Union defender Jeff Parke. Somehow the veteran central defender allowed the ball to go right through him and United’s captain pounced on the opportunity and sent a one-time shot from about 40 yards around the stunned defender and into the wide-open goal.
With this win, hopefully the seldom seen confidence gained from this victory will translate to league success at the weekend when United host fellow Eastern Conference doormat Toronto FC at RFK Stadium on Saturday night. The match starts at 7pm and will be shown live on CSN.