February 26, 2021

D.C. United Open Cup Game Recap: United ease past Revs into semifinals

D.C. United’s Major League Soccer season has mostly been a nightmare, what with just 2 wins so far in 16 matches. The U.S. Open Cup, however, has been a different story, with United now having advanced to the competition’s semifinals after Wednesday night’s 3-1 win over the New England Revolution at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Md.

United got goals from Chris Pontius, Dwayne De Rosario, and Lionard Pajoy in the victory, which books the club a road trip to face the Chicago Fire in the semifinals on August 7. Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers will meet in the other semifinal, as only MLS clubs remain in the 100th edition of this annual tournament.

After beating the Richmond Kickers of third-level USL PRO in the third round on penalties following a scoreless draw, United has produced back-to-back 3-1 wins in this competition to reach the final four. United beat the Philadelphia Union by that score in the previous round, thanks to De Rosario’s hat trick.

On Wednesday, Pontius’ low shot from distance settled into the lower corner of the net to Revs goalkeeper Matt Reis’ right to give United a 1-0 just before halftime. It was a deserved advantage for United, who were more dangerous for the most part. It took New England quite a while to get into the game offensively, with many of their passes and long balls out of the back during the first 20 minutes or so screaming harmlessly over the end line for United goal kicks. Indeed, the Revs seemed to be punting the ball away more often than the New York Jets on a crisp, autumn Sunday.

Prior to his goal, Pontius had spurned a glorious chance to give United the advantage. Having been played behind the Revs defense on a long pass and via a smart run between defenders, Pontius had only Reis to beat. But his shot sailed well wide, not threatening the net. The Revs later hit the post and with the score still 0-0, Pontius made up for his miss with the well taken goal just before the halftime whistle. After not scoring in United’s first 18 matches (MLS + Cup), Pontius now has goals in back-to-back appearances.

However, United’s lead didn’t last long. In the 52nd minute, New England’s Juan Carlos Toja set up a free kick from a slight angle in the middle of the field, roughly 25 yards from goal. United goalkeeper Joe Willis might have got a hand on Toja’s strike, but it bounced over the line after hitting the underside of the crossbar. Toja was one of New England’s few viable threats throughout the match. He and forward Dimitry Imbongo Boele were active in the Revs attack when their teammates could keep from needlessly turning the ball over.

United, however, had the luxury of being able to attack up either flank as the wing marking for the Revolution was weak, to put it mildly. United often worked up the right side in the first half through Nick DeLeon and struggled with giveaways at times, but the Revs were not fast enough at shifting their defense over when the ball was switched, leaving Kyle Porter and Chris Korb wide open to create on the left.

In the second half, the Revs weren’t much better at defending either side, and second-half substitution Casey Townsend put on a clinic with United up 2-1 against two alleged Revolution defenders, possessing the ball with quick touches in traffic near the touch line before finally finding Perry Kitchen as an outlet. Townsend got 36 minutes as a sub for Porter, who went off after appearing to suffer an injury.

United got its 2-1 lead as the result of some individual brilliance from De Rosario in the 69th minute. On a corner kick, De Rosario was well off the far post, in the penalty area. The ball appeared as if it may go over his head, and he wasn’t closely marked by the Revolution. But De Rosario did get a head to it, sending a high, pop-fly like header toward goal that fooled Reis and settled into the net to restore United’s lead. It was De Rosario’s 6th goal of the season (4 Cup, 2 MLS).

Whatever hope the Revs had for a comeback to save their Cup run ended in the 87th minute, when Lionard Pajoy (yes, Lionard Pajoy) was taken down in the area as he dribbled toward goal. With De Rosario having been replaced by Pajoy 4 minutes earlier, United was without one of its normal penalty takers. Instead of Pontius going to the spot after having converted from there in the recent league win over San Jose, Pajoy did it himself. As Reis dove to his left, Pajoy somewhat peacefully rolled the ball right down the middle to make it 3-1 to United.

The goal was Pajoy’s third in all competitions this season, and broke a streak of 7 consecutive United goals (Cup + MLS) scored by either De Rosario (5) or Pontius (2). New England was left with little time or hope after the Pajoy penalty, and their hopes of a second Open Cup title (the Revs won it in 2007) vanished.

United, meanwhile, are still alive for what would be a third Open Cup triumph, having won in 1996 and 2008. A win over the Fire in the semifinals would put United into its fifth final (D.C. were beaten finalists in 1997 and 2009). Only Chicago, with 6 appearances (4 wins), have been in the Cup final more often. Whoever wins the Real Salt Lake-Portland semifinal will be making their first Open Cup final as an MLS club.

With a 3-1-1 record in its last five matches in all competitions, United can take a bit of confidence into Saturday’s MLS home match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, which kicks off at 7 p.m. United are last in the Eastern Conference at 2-11-3 (9 points), while Vancouver is 5th in the West at 6-5-4 (22 points).

NOTES: This morning, U.S. Soccer announced that United goalkeeper Bill Hamid will be a part of the 23-man National Team roster for the upcoming Gold Cup. Hamid is one of 10 players currently in MLS on the roster. … Earlier Wednesday, the club announced that Rafael would no longer be with the club. Rafael had one goal in seven league appearances, that coming on a 40-yard strike in a 2-1 loss to Columbus at RFK Stadium. … James Riley was the only United player cautioned vs. New England. … Taylor Kemp played 16 minutes as a sub for DeLeon. … De Rosario’s 4 Open Cup goals this season are tied for second in the competition. Only Portland’s Frederic Piquionne (5) has more. Chicago’s leaders are Mike Magee and Chris Rolfe, who each have 3 (see the full list here).

Ed Morgans is a Contributor to District Sports Page, covering D.C. United. For in-game analysis and story notifications, follow him on Twitter @writered21.

About Ed Morgans

Ed Morgans is DC United Page Editor for District Sports Page. Ed worked for The Journal Newspapers (now The Examiner) and covered DC United from 1997-2002. He spent the 2003 season writing for the club’s website. Ed has covered All-Star Games, MLS Cups, CONCACAF Champions Cup, World Cup qualifiers, and international friendlies. He also worked as a blogger at www.bigsoccer.com, the country’s leading soccer message board website. You can follow Ed on Twitter @writerEd21.

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