D.C. United fought off a tough physical challenge from the USL-1 Rochester Raging Rhinos and advanced to their 4th U.S. Open Cup final via their 2-1 victory last night in front of 2,457 fans at the Maryland SoccerPlex. United will now play expansion Seattle Sounders FC at RFK Stadium on September 2nd. Seattle scored a late 89th minute goal and then got the game-winner in overtime.
Boyzzz Khumalo was the hero last night as his follow-up to a Chris Pontius breakaway in the 82nd minute was the difference in a physical match that saw both teams lose players to injury, including the game-winner Khumalo. Rochester lost midfielder Kwame Sarkodie to a devastating leg injury in the 72 minute on a fair but hard challange from United substitute John DeRaimondo. Likewise, Khumalo left the field in stoppage time when his own breakaway attempt ended in an awkward collision with Rhino’s goalkeeper Tim Melia. Khumalo left the field with an apparant shoulder injury. Sarkodie unfortunately had to be ambulanced off the premisis.
Jaime Moreno got the goal scoring started in the 41st minute when he converted a penalty kick after a Devon McTavish flick-on attempt was blocked in the box. The classy Bolivian easily beat Melia and now is tied with injured Rochester forward Jonny Menyongar for the all-time scoring lead in Open Cup play (10 goals).
With United in the lead, the visiting Rhinos had no choice but to abandon their 9-man behind the ball and Route 1 approach and try and open up the match. United had opportunities to extend their lead but it all came to naught when Rochester tied the match in the 68th minute. Tai Atieno, easily the most effective Rhino player on the night, was giving United and central defender Greg Janicki headaches all night long with his athletic and physical play. It paid off when he found himself all alone in the middle of the penalty area and pounced on a loose ball from an Andrew Gregor free kick. He easily blasted past Milos Kocic and the match was on.
However, the home side never really gave up another decent scoring opportunity and then the match winner came in the 82 minute thanks to a bad misplay from former Maryland defender Kenny Bertz. Bryan Namoff sent a seemingly harmless ball from the back towards the center spot. Bertz simply misjudged the ball as it took a big skip off the wet grass and Chris Pontius saw the mistake all the way and was off behind Bertz towards goal. Pontius ghosted in but shot directly at the committed Melia who made the initial save only to see it rebound right into the path of Khumalo who easily left-footed it into the empty net to get United to another Cup Final.
– Danny Szetela was in attendance at the match but did not receive his International Transfer Certificate yet. It’s still up in the air whether or not he will be eligible to play this Saturday night in San Jose
– Dejan Jakovic, Luciano Emilio and Clyde Simms were left off the 18-man roster but were in attendance. Simms is scheduled to fly to Germany today to be consulted on his possible hernia surgery
– Bryan Namoff, Jaime Moreno and Fred were the only first X1 players to start this match. Moreno came off in the 58th minute and Fred departed in the 68th minute. Namoff played the entire 90 minutes. Normal starters Josh Wicks, Marc Burch and Ben Olsen were listed, but did not play. Chris Pontius came on for Moreno in the second half