March 6, 2021

D.C. United Open Cup Recap: United marches on to Cup final, bests Fire 2-0

In what will likely be its worst Major League Soccer season ever, D.C. United will play in the U.S. Open Cup final.

United secured passage to the championship match of the 100th Open Cup with a 2-0 win at the Chicago Fire tonight, on goals just before and after halftime by Dwayne De Rosario (44th minute) and Nick DeLeon (48th minute). Joe Willis was in goal for the shutout for United, making six saves and having two shots he couldn’t stop saved off the line by Perry Kitchen and James Riley, respectively, in the second half.

United will play at Real Salt Lake on October 1 in the Cup final, D.C.’s fifth final appearance. United have won the Open Cup twice (in 1996 and 2008), and D.C. lost the final in 1997 and 2009.

Despite being just 3-15-4 in league play, United has been a force in the Cup, scoring 8 goals in its last three knockout matches – five by De Rosario – while allowing just 2 in the four Cup matches played total (United’s first Cup match was a 0-0 draw vs. the Richmond Kickers that D.C. won on penalties).

Tonight’s De Rosario goal gave United the lead partially on a gift from Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson. Trying to deal with a high ball in the penalty area, Johnson flubbed it. It fell to De Rosario, who had to get around Johnson to create a scoring chance before the Fire could recover. De Rosario did so successfully to Johnson’s left, then fired a low shot inside the far post to give United a mostly deserved lead.

Just 3 minutes into the second half, United’s edge increased to 2-0 when Johnson’s defenders let him down. DeLeon found himself on the ball in the middle of the field, just inside the outer edge of the penalty area. Three Fire would-be defenders surrounded DeLeon, but he somehow managed to get off a well-struck shot that may have taken a deflection, but either way it beat Johnson low and to his right.

United’s attack was quite fluid most of the night, with De Rosario and Luis Silva starting up top in front of a midfield of John Thorrington (middle), Kyle Porter (left), Nick DeLeon (right), and Kitchen (defensive midfielder). Porter and the defender on his side, Riley, proved a particularly difficult duo for the Fire to handle. Porter was on the ball in open space deep down the left side quite often. Riley earned the assist on DeLeon’s goal.

DeLeon was also more of a factor than he had been in recent weeks, and the goal was a just reward. It was DeLeon’s first goal in any competition this season for United.

United’s attack was punctured a bit in the 57th minute, when Silva had to come off after taking some sort of injury in a challenge with Chicago’s Bakary Soumaré. Silva initiated the challenge, then stayed down and appeared to signal for a substitution immediately. Silva, who assisted on De Rosario’s goal, was replaced by Conor Doyle.

Doyle, who scored right after entering the game in United’s 3-1 league win over the Montreal Impact on Saturday night, almost repeated the feat when DeLeon found him running toward the penalty area with a high lead pass that Doyle volleyed toward goal, but Johnson managed to save it.

Down two goals late on, the Fire became desperate and were nearly rewarded on two occasions. In the 78th minute, Willis came off his line for a ball but was beaten to it by Chicago defender Austin Berry. Berry’s touch got the ball past Willis and headed toward the inside of the goalkeeper’s right post. But Kitchen raced back to kick it away and Willis caught a follow-up chance.

Just 6 minutes later, a lofted ball by Chicago substitute Joel Lindpere that was headed toward the net was deflected by Willis, but not away. It was Riley’s turn this time to clear the ball away from danger. Willis would later stop a hard shot from outside by Fire midfielder Dilly Duka, while at least three other decent Chicago scoring chances were sent wide of the net, and others were blocked.

The Fire’s final chance in four minutes of stoppage time (though the Fire broadcasters lobbied for much more, stubbornly), fell to Lindpere, but his drive on a rebound was deflected away by Willis, who was several yards off his line.

The win means United now has many wins (in either regulation or after extra time) in the Cup as it does in the league. Currently, United are last in 19-team MLS, but are one more positive result away from lifting the club’s 13th trophy since it began play in 1996.

A similar story occurred in England this past season, as Wigan shocked Manchester City in the FA Cup final, only to be relegated at season’s end. United won’t face such a cruel fate in MLS, but that won’t dull the glory of a Cup win should United earn it. Not when it’s been five years since the last Cup win, six years since the last Supporters’ Shield, and nine years since United last won the MLS Cup.

Real Salt Lake advanced to the final with a 2-1 win tonight over the Portland Timbers.

United returns to league action Saturday when it faces the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park in an 8 p.m. start on the NBC Sports Network.

NOTES: According to’s Twitter feed, De Rosario’s goal tonight, his 5th of the competition, tied him for the lead among all participants. … The match featured only 17 fouls, nine by United. … United have outscored its four Cup opponents, 8-2. United has been outscored in the league, 36-13. … United midfielder Chris Pontius, who has missed time due to injury, came on as a substitute for DeLeon and played 16 minutes.

Ed Morgans is the United Page Editor for District Sports Page. 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, the country’s leading soccer message board website. You can follow Ed on Twitter @writerEd21.


  1. No, is NOT official. It is unofficial.

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