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D.C. United top Richmond Kickers in penalty kick shootout



RICHMOND – As D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen made his way over to the press assembled under the far side bleachers at City Stadium in Richmond, his body language was one of a man who, for the time being, could finally exhale.

“Overtime. PK’s. Of course.” Olsen said while chuckling. “The good thing is that we scored some goals here tonight. Right? Baby steps.”

It’s been a long time since anybody’s seen Olsen do any laughing, his elevated mood the result of a win—albeit a narrow one—in United’s third round U.S. Open Cup matchup with the third-tier Richmond Kickers.

Riding a stellar shoot-out performance from United goalkeeper Joe Willis, the Black and Red escaped Richmond with the narrowest of victories, defeating their USL-PRO affiliate 4-2 in penalty kicks after 120 minutes of scoreless play.

Willis, who saved Richmond’s first two PK attempts, gave full credit to United assistant coach Preston Burpo.

“Preston told me where they were going,” Willis quipped after the match. “You gotta credit the coach – he told me where Joe [Ngwenya] was going, and he also told me where [Sascha Gorres] was going too. He said he went back seven years to find the last PK that [Gorres] took. I’m just lucky he was able to do that scouting for me.”

The two sides arrived at PK’s after an uneventful first 90 minutes. United saw the lion’s share of the ball and could have put the game away in the first half, with oft-maligned forward Lionard Pajoy managing to strike the post midway through the first stanza and Dwayne De Rosario doing the same later in the half.

Aside from those bright spots, however, United displayed much of the same behavior that’s plagued them during their abysmal 2013 MLS campaign—a lack of creativity, a tendency to give the ball away carelessly in the center of the park, and a general nonchalance about the encounter in general.

Richmond, on the other hand, played the full 120 minutes with energy, though they also seemed content to sit back and occasionally attack on the counter. Midway through the second half of added time, United defender Chris Korb saw his second yellow of the match after a careless challenge. Carlos Ruiz took things a step further and drew a straight red for a terrible, two-footed tackle from behind just minutes from the death.

The shootout was an anomaly to say the least. Joe Willis and Andrew Dykstra, D.C. United teammates, faced each other as opponents. Dykstra, who practices with United during the week and spends his weekends with the Kickers, was obviously familiar with most of United’s penalty takers.

“We had a little chuckle about that,” Olsen commented. “That maybe he knew our guys a little bit better than we knew theirs.”

If Dykstra gained a competitive edge from that experience, however, he wasn’t showing it on Tuesday night, failing to save a single United attempt.

“We walked past each other [during the shootout] and I wanted to talk a little smack,” Willis joked after the match. “He just kept walking, though, with his head down.”

United will next face the Philadelphia Union, who advanced to fourth round Open Cup play after dispatching of the Ocean City Nor’Easters. The match, slated for June 12th, will be played at the Maryland SoccerPlex.


  1. Still a head scratcher. People wonder how DC has fallen so much. You get rid of Boskovic, Salihi, Maicon Santos, and Andy Najar, and you replace them with no one, then you know your team will be bad. Epic fail by an MLS front office. It reaks of amateur hour at the DC headquarters, hence the reason why Kevin Payne jumped ship. Next to Chivas USA, DC is the worst MLS organization. Sad, but true.

    • Those guys (Boskovic, Salihi, Santos, Najar) are experienced players with high tactical understanding of the game.

      Now there are only guys like DeRo and Ruiz left who have that level of tactical sophistication. DeRo is getting too old and Ruiz rarely plays. The others are young guys
      who don’t really know the game other than Jakovic but he isn’t really a center back and more of a defensive midfielder.

      Can you believe we passed over Joao Plata for Kitchen?

      Benny has no clue; as a player he was a headless chicken who ran with a lot of grit and industry but clearly lacked high level understanding of the game.

      • Plata? Really? He’s 5’3 and only has one goal and 4 assists this year. It’s not like he’s setting the world on fire. I agree that Olsen only knows how to identify and start gritty players with little skill or flair. That was one reason Boskovic was subbed off late in games and last year and not resigned this year. Pretty sad.

      • Plata is a match winner. He is an impact player. He might only have 1 goal and 4 assists, but he is a very influential player when
        he plays. Watch him play and you will see the stats tell a different story than his impact on the field.

    • I don’t think anyone wonders why we (DC) are in such a dire situation. Only the most rose tinted fans thought we’d be good this season.

      Benny’s problem is that he prefers hard working players to skilled ones. Take a guy like Salihi: He was a goal machine in Austria, a league comparable to ours. However, he’s not a striker who spends all game aimlessly running, nor is he the type of striker that’s going to create goals out of nothing. He’s a finisher. He was our Wondo. He failed because he was benched for Pajoy – a striker who works hard, but has absolutely no scoring ability.

      The other reason he failed is because no one could get Salihi the ball. Why was that? Because our creative midfielder, Bosko, wasn’t played either. We are such a rich and successful team that we could bench two DPs. Instead, we dug 1-0 results through grit and luck, and pointed to that as a success.

      Now, Benny has recruited veterans; old, broken, injury prone, slow, but hard working veterans. It’s an absolute failure. And it’s on Benny’s shoulders because A. he picks his roster and B. he picks his starting XI, which has been terrible almost the whole season.

      Benny doesn’t understand tactics and it’s because he doesn’t know how to coach. That’s not a knock on him. DC needed a manager, Benny stepped in after assisting for half a season, and away we went. He didn’t have the training. And while he was an awesome captain, he led through motivation not tactics.

      Then we get our new part owners and what have they offered us? The Indonesian Messi who’s so poor, he hasn’t played yet. All of this would be worth it if we were getting a stadium. But after the early 2000s, the fans aren’t holding their breath.

      • To be fair: Pajoy has “absolutely no” scoring ability? Then how do you explain the goals he has scored? Though I am not arguing Pajoy should be starting.

        Also: Boscovic did not start or play much for a long time at DC because he flat-out sucked for a long time, and spent a lot of time injured. Once he got healthy after a while he finally stopped sucking and contributed. Even then he was rarely a 90 minute player. He did finally round into form, though, and I was sorry to see him go.

        I agree with you about Benny. He is in over his head. We are short on talent but we should not be THIS bad. Olsen is worse than Onalfo. Get him out of here.

        I also agree with your point about out new owners. They are frauds. They came in here acting like deep-pocketed fat cats who would fund the team adeuately and get good players even while we are waiting for a stadium deal. They are liars. They are running the team on bare bones, and have shown little hard evidence they are capable of getting a deal done.

      • I agree. Bosko initially came in thinking he was on vacation – which he readily admitted. However, it’s up to the coaches to assess a player’s attitude then it’s up to them to motivate the player. And he did get better. And he still sat.

        We just have never had a successful DP. And Raphael is following those footsteps.

        No scoring ability for a striker. His ability to strike a ball on target has to be the worst in the league for forwards. He does score. But you’re bound to score as a forward. I’ve seen goalie score too. He just cannot shoot. It’s so frustrating seeing him out there. Ruiz even in his old age looked more competent and dangerous.

        I’ve said it before: Pajoy is a winger. He has stamina and decent dribbling skill. Toss him out wide.

        I don’t see Benny lasting the summer, unfortunately. And as he has openly stated coaching was never a dream for him, I’d have to imagine that’s the last we’ll see of him. Which is a pity.

    • + 1. MLS is very competitive these days. Intl slot are used for solid players who start for Concacaaf Natl as well as other Natl teams. In addition starters from the Argentine league have proven worthy. To think some young no name players are ready to come in and compete at the same level is a misguided theory.

    • Agreed that DCU is one of the worst run teams in MLS, but Payne has a lot of his finger prints on the squad. Kasper and Olsen are the biggest problems he left behind.

  2. Anyone watching DC Utd can figure out why their tactics aren’t working. It doesn’t take a PhD to
    figure out that they need players who can think 1 or 2 steps ahead of the play.

    They need to stop playing like robots by always playing the ball to the players feet. It doesn’t
    help when guys like DeLeon take 5 secs to decide what to do with the ball afer they receive it.
    He should know what to do with it before he gets the ball. He’s not the only one and you have to
    look at Olsen for the blame in the style they play.

    The passes that penetrated the Richmond defense were those played to space. Is that a clue
    Benny? Maybe you better get better players who can think for themselves or just leave while you still have your dignity.

  3. Hello, Andrew Dykstra. Still one of the worst GK’s I’ve ever seen in MLS and/or wear a Chicago Fire kit.

    Of course, he’ll forever be linked with one of the most boneheaded moves I’ve ever seen by an MLS front office. Opting to trade Jon Busch and go with Dykstra as your starter…at a time many would have considered Busch to be in the discussion for top GK in MLS.

    • True — it was a boneheaded move. Which is too heavy a burden and unfair to Dykstra, who isn’t a bad goalie…. He was the top goalie in the USL last year and will eventually find himself back in MLS…

    • I’ve played against Dykstra. He’s a very solid keeper and confident. We’ll see him back in MLS at some point. Albeit, he still wants to head to Europe.

  4. United will not be denied!

    They are the irresistible force!

    Or, maybe the immovable object. Not really immovable. Just really, really slow-moving.

    • If this is in reference to The Dark Knight wasn’t it “an unstoppable force meets an immovable object”?

      • No — life existed before the movie.

        It is a formulation of a classic paradox, apparently dating back to a Chinese writing that pre-dates the “common era” — B.C.E. It has been in common parlance for centuries, I imagine. Actually, the movie was the first time I have ever seen the “unstoppable force” formulation, but that seems to be getting a lot of use lately and may be a closer translation of the original Chinese spear-shield paradox.

        So there.

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