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U.S. Open Cup: D.C. United 2, Rochester 1 (A Look Back)


Generally speaking, a victory that brings you one step away from back-to-back U.S. Open Cup trophies is cause for celebration. But for Tom Soehn and D.C. United, injuries that sent players on both sides to the hospital overshadowed whatever feelings of triumph a win like that might typically bring.

With coach Soehn fielding a lineup featuring a healthy balance of reserves and starters, the early returns for United were mixed. A paltry crowd of 2,457 was on hand to witness the Rhinos sit back and pack in tightly in the midfield, making United work hard to create space — something that was hard to come by.

"These games are never easy when teams pack it in, they're hard to break down," Soehn said. "We didn't change the point of attack — you saw what their tactics were — they played very defensive and clogged the middle."

Neither side created much during the first 30 minutes. The Rhinos fired long balls in the direction of towering forward Tai Atieno, hoping to catch United's 3-man backline off guard. Goalkeeper Milos Kocic had to be alert on a few occasions, including an opportunity on a Rhino corner kick that required a quick reaction save.

Despite being bogged down in the midfield, D.C. managed a breakthrough in the 41st minute when a Fred cross was flicked on by Devon McTavish and struck the arm of defender Ty Harden, a Rapids player on loan to the Rhinos. Jaime Moreno buried the ensuing penalty, much to the anger of Rhinos coach Darren Tilley.

"We just feel like things were taken away. When a referee gives a penalty, he has to be so, so sure because it changes the game," Tilley said after the game.

Still, even with a one goal lead, United struggled to seize the initiative and put their lower-level opponents away. After a quick rain storm at halftime, the slick field did no favors to either side. Sloppy fouls began to pile up, providing the Rhinos with a number of set piece opportunities — and they eventually made United pay when Atieno buried a goal-mouth scramble in the 62nd minute to level proceedings.

Just when it looked like the Rhinos were back in it, an ugly injury severely dampened the game. John DiRaimondo's hard slide tackle on Rhino midfielder Darren Kenton looked innocent at first glance, but it quickly became evident that something was wrong, as players from both sides looked away in horror, frantically signaling to the sidelines for medical help. Adding to Tilley's misery, referee Abiodun Okulaja didn't even call a foul on DiRaimondo's challenge.

"He gives yellow cards for arguing with him, but a leg-breaking challenge he waives off. I just don't get it," Tilley said after the game. The training staff were put to work and scrambled to get Kenton into a waiting ambulance and off to the hospital with what appeared to be a broken ankle.

Play resumed, and one couldn't help but wonder if the lingering effects of the injury might unsettle the visitors. The Rhinos did well to get stuck in and keep their composure defensively, continuing to frustrate United's attacking efforts.

"They were pretty compact in the middle, but I don't think we played enough through the channels like the coach wanted," captain Jaime Moreno said. Christian Gomez's substitution appearance in the 78th minute said it all as United pressed for the victory.

As the game dwindled within 10 minutes of the end of regulation, United caught a lucky break. Chris Pontius found himself in on goal after a fortunate bounce helped the ball elude Rhinos captain Kenney Bertz. Pontius's shot was blocked by keeper Tim Melia, but the rebound fell straight to Thabisu Khumalo, who buried the game-winning opportunity.

Now possessing the lead, all United had to do was kill the clock to secure a return to the Open Cup final. And while they were successful, they finished the game down to 10 men, after Khumalo left the game with a freak injury. He was chasing down a long ball and collided with Melia, who had come off his line. From what Khumalo described, the ball struck his wrist with enough force that he thought it was broken.

"For me the game's overshadowed by a couple injuries — one to them and one to us," Soehn said. "That's disappointing because everyone worked hard and you never want to see injuries period. Boyzzz put a lot of work in and for him to end with an injury like that is disappointing."

United will get a chance to defend their Open Cup title on Sept. 2 at RFK Stadium, where they'll face the Seattle Sounders, who defeated Houston last night in overtime, 2-1.

New acquisition Danny Szetela was on hand, but not dressed after his transfer last week. The team is still waiting for his ITC, expected to arrive any day now. Canadian defender Dejan Jakovic didn't dress for the game after returning from Gold Cup duty but is expected to be available this weekend for the team's trip to San Jose.


  1. They should hold a coin flip to determine where MLS regular season games are played. That way DC Untied wouldn’t ever have to worry about travel expenses.

  2. They were handing out flyers Saturday but it’s a hard place to get to from DC on a weeknight and impossible if you don’t have a car available.

    DC HAS to build their new stadium near a metro stop.

    Posted by: John | July 22, 2009 at 12:11 PM

    Seconded. To do otherwise is just plain stupid.

  3. This game should have been in Rochester. These games are much more important to USL teams than MLS teams. It would have been a much bigger crowd, and I’m sure Rochester would have played more attractive soccer in front of their home fans…

  4. They were handing out flyers Saturday but it’s a hard place to get to from DC on a weeknight and impossible if you don’t have a car available.

    DC HAS to build their new stadium near a metro stop.

  5. The crowd was small but nice. Last weeks game with 300 less….that looked a lot smaller than 2100 if this one had 2400. And the issue is that the team is spening all its time on promoting the Madrid game. There has been no promotions for any other games.

  6. I’ve heard a lot of speculation on the “no-call” that resulted in Kenton’s injury. I wasn’t there, but from what people have said who were at the game, the tackle was hard, and he won the ball cleanly before sliding into Kenton who was late to the ball.

    I don’t think he should have been carded just because the injury was so bad. If Kenton wasn’t injured at all, would it still be a card? Maybe, if you say it was a reckless challenge. But he didn’t go in two-footed like Bradley did in the Confederations Cup semi’s. Players go in hard all the time, some will intentions to hurt, others just trying to win the ball.

    I hope Kenton can recover from this injury. Eduardo, Bullard, and more players have come back and thrived after injuries which almost resulted in a loss of limb. I wish him the best.

    Khumalo has a broken wrist after the Rhino goalie kicked the ball and it hit his wrist, a freak accident. He will be missed, I hope he can play with a cast ala Josh Gros.

  7. DiRaimondo did accelerate hard into the challange and clearly won the ball. It looked clean to me, but I didn’t have the best of views. Reports vary from there being no contact and the damage being the result of a bad foot-plant (including Goff’s reference to a photo supporting this) all the way to horrific red-cardable felony. From my viewpoint, it looked closer to the former. It was an awful injury and I hope the player heals well.

    Okulaja was all over the map with a couple of handfuls of head-scratchers. I was at the wrong end to give an opinion on the penalty call.


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