April 21, 2021

D.C. United Open Cup Recap: United’s Cup Dream Comes True

Lewis Neal’s goal just before halftime was enough to lift D.C. United to a 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake in the U.S. Open Cup final at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, Tuesday night, giving United its third Open Cup championship and 13th major trophy.

John Thorrington started the attack, working the ball out wide before sending in a cross that was deflected. In the penalty area, Neal was the right man in the right place, firing a shot that beat RSL (and former United) goalkeeper Nick Rimando for the only goal United would need.

The win qualifies United for the 2014-2015 CONCACAF Champions League. It also takes some sting out of what has been a horrible Major League Soccer season for United, where the club is 3-21-6 (15 points) with four matches left, far removed from playoff contention one year after reaching the Eastern Conference final.

Ever since United’s Open Cup semifinal win at the Chicago Fire, however, all eyes have pointed to this match as the focus, save for the recent home match vs. the Los Angeles Galaxy that featured United legend Jaime Moreno being inducted into the club’s Hall of Tradition at halftime (that match ended in a 2-2 draw).

United were rewarded for putting all their eggs in the Open Cup basket, holding off Real Salt Lake throughout the second half in a game where RSL created many chances, but saw the good ones either saved by United goalkeeper Bill Hamid, narrowly miss the net, or hit the posts and/or the crossbar.

Not until the very end of 6 minutes of stoppage, when Alvaro Saborio’s shot hit the frame, did RSL run out of time. Suddenly, the much maligned defense, and the offense that at times through the MLS season has seemed it would never score, had done just enough to win the club’s first trophy since 2008.

United’s three Open Cup wins tie the club with the Seattle Sounders for second-most Cup wins in the MLS era (three). The Fire lead MLS clubs all-time with four MLS Cups.

RSL controlled possession for much of the first 20 minutes before United was able to get into the game a little bit. But there were few looks at offense for United before the Neal goal. In the second half, RSL immediately began a 51-minute assault on the D.C. goal. RSL huffed and they puffed, firing shots and earning corners, but they were never able to get on the board.

Neal’s goal was the second memorable goal he’s scored in United’s colors. Last season, his goal against the Columbus Crew clinched United’s berth in the MLS playoffs.

There will be no playoffs for United this year, and there are still serious questions to be asked about what has happened to D.C. in the 2013 MLS season.

However, for one night at least, and through this tournament, United showed heart, played enough defense, got enough breaks, and scored enough goals to be champions. For players like Conor Doyle, a young forward who came on late in this game and provided United a necessary outlet to get the ball out of its own end and run some time off the clock, this experience could prove quite valuable to his development, should United be able to keep him long-term (he’s on loan from English club Derby County).

United finished the Open Cup having beaten four MLS opponents (Philadelphia, New England, Chicago, and RSL), one more than it has beaten in the 30 league matches. In five Open Cup matches, United outscored its opponents, 9-2 (United played a scoreless draw at USL Pro club Richmond in its first match, advancing on penalties).

D.C. fans will get to welcome the Open Cup champions back to RFK Stadium Friday night when United hosts the Fire at 8 p.m.

Notes:  Former D.C. United defender Brandon McDonald, traded to Real Salt Lake earlier this season, could not play tonight for RSL because he appeared in this year’s Cup competition previously for United. Once a player is “Cup-tied,” they cannot play for another team in that year’s competition. … This was RSL’s first Open Cup final appearance. … United are now 3-2 in Open Cup finals, winning in 1996 and 2008, losing in 1997 and 2009. … Had RSL won, they would have become the 6th MLS club to possess both MLS Cup and Open Cup trophies (DC, L.A. Galaxy, Columbus Crew, Chicago Fire, Kansas City Wizards/Sporting KC).


DC – Neal, 45th minute

DC – Riley, yellow, 21st minute
RSL – Beckerman, yellow, 45th minute (after halftime whistle)
DC – DeLeon, yellow, 58th minute
DC – White, yellow, 80th minute
DC – Rimando, yellow, 90th minute.

Shots:  RSL 19-6 DC
Shots on Goal:  RSL 4-1 DC
Corners:  RSL 10-1 DC
Fouls:  RSL 16-14 DC
Offside:  RSL 3-3 DC
Possession:  RSL 69.4%-30.6% DC

UNITED:  Hamid; Jakovic, Korb, White, Riley; Thorrington, DeLeon, Kitchen, Neal; Pontius (Doyle 88′), De Rosario (Silva 76′).

RSL: Rimando; Beltran, Salcedo (Sandoval 82′), Borchers, Wingert; Beckerman, Morales, Grabavoy, Velasquez (Stephenson 70′); Plata (Garcia 58′), Saborio.

Ed Morgans is the D.C. 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 www.bigsoccer.com, the country’s leading soccer message board website. You can follow Ed on Twitter @writerEd21.

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