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D.C. United shock RSL to win centennial U.S. Open Cup title

Ben Olsen


SANDY, Utah – D.C. United weren’t given much of a chance to win Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup final against Real Salt Lake, but on a night when heavily-favored RSL once again struggled to score a goal in a final at home, D.C. took home its 13th franchise trophy.

The visitors could not have executed their game plan any better.

United bunkered for the first 45 minutes and waited for their opportunity. It came just before the halftime whistle when a deflected cross fell into the path of Lewis Neal and he buried it. Real Salt Lake was unable to answer in the second half and the score remained 1-0 as D.C. United were crowned the U.S. Open Cup champions.

The game started out with plenty of excitement as the crowd got loud from the opening kick. It was evident very early on that D.C.’s plan was to park everybody in defense and force RSL to open them up.

RSL spent 45 minutes trying to unlock the visitor’s defense and only succeeded in one shot on goal, a long-range effort from midfielder Kyle Beckerman that never troubled Bill Hamid.

“We knew [Hamid] would to be spectacular today to get out of here with a win,” said DC United head coach Ben Olsen. “We knew that our back four would have to be pretty impressive as well. It was a group effort. Everyone made their plays that counted and that’s what we needed.”

In the 45th minute everything changed when United player John Thorrington sent a cross into the box that deflected and dropped into the area of Neal, who ran onto it and buried it low and hard into the back post, completing the dream scenario for a United team that has experienced a season to forget.

“It was unbelievable,” said Neal. “It was a good piece of play from John Thorrington down the left. I saw him crossing and I made my run into the box and hoped that the ball would drop somewhere or bounce so I could get the shot off. Thankfully it didn’t just bounce and it fell to me. I got onto it quick and hit it hard and low and thankfully it went in. It was a great feeling.”

In the second half, RSL turned the pressure up and, despite an obscene amount of possession, was unable to truly threaten the visitors’ goal. The best opportunity of the night came in the very last minute of the game, on the very last corner kick attempted by Real Salt Lake.

Morales sent the ball into the box and Saborio found himself with a chance on the ball. He headed the ball cleanly towards the goal but it was saved off the line, floated high into the air, and bounced harmlessly off the crossbar where Hamid collected it.

RSL hit the woodwork twice, with Sebastian Velasquez providing the other near-goal in the 59th minute when his tight-angle shot rebounded off the crossbar.

“It was a long 15… 20… 90 minutes,” said Olsen. “The onslaught was most of the second half. They were coming in waves and you can’t fall asleep for a second. I think that the size of the game helped us focus. Some of the guys have trouble focusing in a league game if it doesn’t mean something. They really took every play and did what they needed to do.”

There were plenty of questionable decisions by referee Juan Guzman, including a yellow card issued to Nick Rimando in stoppage-time after he very obviously cleared out the last man on a break. But you won’t hear any complaining from United, who erupted into cheers when the final whistle blew.

United deserves to be commended on a night when they executed their gameplan to perfection and were clinical with their passing. They played tight, solid, and oppressive defense, refusing to simply sit back, but pressure the ball as well all night long.

United won their third U.S. Open Cup in franchise history and possibly redeemed a season that had gone off the rails early on.

Here are the game highlights:


  1. It’s a shame that the US Open Cup is such a low profile event. Here is how I think it could be improved. Hold it as a pre-season tournament sometime in January and Feb in California / Florida / someplace warm. Invite all of the US based MLS teams and have a qualification tournament that will fill in enough lower tier teams to fill out a bracket. That would constitute enough concentrated soccer to get some TV coverage, teams that got eliminated could still train against each other, and by the time the final rolled around the best teams would have enough games under their belts to provide a compelling matchup.

    • pre-season tournament? horrible idea

      It’s a cup. Meaning it takes place throughout the season.

      The reason its so low profile is because of bad marketing.

      • World Cup? Copa America? Gold Cup? None of those go throughout the season. They are tournaments that happen during the off season. The present system does not work so why not try something different.

  2. Here’s my take:

    I feel bad for RSL fans. Obviously it’s tough to lose a cup at home (been there, done that). It’s tough to know that a “worse” team beat you too (been there again, done that again). Believe me, as a DC fan, in recent history I’ve lived through the 2010 season and this season. I know what it means to be frustrated with your team. You’re allowed to be frustrated and angry with your team, but don’t diminish the accomplishment of another team just because you’re not happy. DC United was one of the best teams in the Open Cup this year, beating Richmond, Philly, New England, Chicago, and finally RSL, one of the top teams in MLS this year. DC earned the cup through their hard work and backs-against-the-wall playing, and the least you could do is be happy for a team who didn’t really have a good season.

    I always said DC United was better than what their record says they are, and I will continue to say it. Vamos United!

  3. A diamond in the rough, to say the least. A great performance combined with luck won us a trophy. Amazing.

    Now to the winter, when the front office must use its limited resources to prepare for the CCL & MLS v.2014. Off the top of my head, we need to…

    1. Unload DeRo, Pajoy, and other high-priced older players who contribute little between bouts of injuries.
    2. Find a REAL designated player under 30 years old who can contribute to the attack. Doesn’t have to be someone famous, just a good offensive threat.
    3. Shore up the back line.
    4. Look at the possibility of trading Hamid for cash or another player. Joe Willis is ready to capably fill his shoes .

    • 1. No and Yes. Anyone who puts DeRo in the same category as Pajoy looks foolish.

      2. Sure, Why not? Though, I’d be delighted with someone famous over 30, if he could produce like Schelotto, Henry, Beckham or Keane…or, even Di Vaio.

      3. Of course.

      4. No, and no.

      • DeRo’s amount of contribution on the pitch in 2013 does not come close to what he gets paid. DeRo is a legend, but this year he contributed little when he was not injured. Just dropping him and Pajoy frees up $800,000 (combined 5 goals and 2 assists in MLS).

    • Fellow DC fan here,

      Your wish list is slightly shorter than mine, but still unrealistic. We’ll end up dumping Doyle, not because he isn’t good (he is), but because Benny loves playing FIFA with our team. He’ll keep Pajoy for “depth.” And we’ll bring in a ton of veterans, who’ll be crocked by the second week.

      In order, what we need:

      1. A new CB. White doesn’t impress me, but to expect us to get two new starting CBs is a long shot. So let’s shore up the center by replacing Jakovic.

      2. A striker to pair with DeRo or Silva. He needs to be big, mean, physical AND able to score. We’re talking a Forlan or Adriano type. He must be a DP. And screw this “20 year old DP we’ve watched for years but wait, he’s terrible and we won’t play him.” This guy needs to come in and be a starter from minute one. And Olsen is not allowed to dump him on the bench.

      3. We need wingers. Porter is not the answer; Pontius lasts half a season; And after DeLeon’s rough season, I’m not convinced he’ll be any better than Tino was. The rest of our wingers don’t need to be mentioned.

      4. SBs. Not old, veterans. Not Korb. We’re talking young, fast SBs whose defensive errors get compensated by speed. Yedlin-types. We can get these through the draft.

      5. Hamid needs to stay at least another season. He’s an insane shot stopper, but his he’s still immature and prone to errors. Abroad, he’d get eaten alive. But I don’t see Willis staying, nor do I know where he would go.

      The only thing I’m happy with is our midfield of Kitchen and Jeffrey. Together, they are technical and physical enough to hold a game with better players around them. Though I expect Kitchen to be gone by the end of next season. He’s ready to take his game up a level and he won’t do that in MLS.

      We’ve been here before: excusing a terrible season because we won a cup. Instead of resting on our luck, we need to invest! Sell all the fat Olsen brought in over the years and let’s find players we can build a team around. We literally go through a team a season. No more Benny! And this is your last season: another losing record and he’s out. No more complaints about refs and certainly no more “well they had a lot of heart” excuses.

      Rant over.

      • You’ve certainly been here before. Yesterday, you were writing that the team would be making excuses for losing. Well, they won. Who are these people you keep claiming are “making excuses” for United’s record? If your point is that United isn’t a great team, I’m pretty sure that the 3 wins in MLS is all the proof anyone needs.
        On players you mentioned:

        If you’re willing to bet United will keep Pajoy, then I’ll take that bet.

        Doyle – it’s hard to say. He looked decent, even though he hasn’t scored much and he can be invisible for long stretches. It probably depends on what the agreed transfer price was.

        Ethan White — Not sure what you expect from him. He left college 2 years early. Thrown into the fire as a rookie because of injuries, and shifted all around the line, Missed his entire 2nd year because of his injury and only had half a year this year. To judge him on that is really unfair. Jakovic had an inconsistent, but mostly lousy year, which ain’t good for one of the highest paid defenders in the league. There’s a lot there for the team to sort out

        The team blew it with Rafael. Letting him go at midseason was as powerful an admission of that as is possible. They know they need goals.

        No one ever suggested Porter was the answer to a problem at winger. He’s a reserve. DeLeon struggled, with fitness, with his weight, with a plodding offense. It remains to be seen what his level will be. You’re not offering us much here that everyone hasn’t seen for themselves.

        Not sure what an SB is, as I’ve never seen that abbreviation before — Side back? As for Korb, I’m not clear whether you’re calling him an old veteran or a slow young guy, but he’s none of those things. He’s only completed 3 years, and he’s about to turn 26, entering his athletic prime. He’s also the fastest guy on the team.

        As for getting a young guy like Yedlin — the team already has someone in the academy system — Jalen Robinson, very young and very fast. Even Robinson, though isn’t ready yet to play in MLS. There are few players like Yedlin and Kitchen who can come in at that age and play well. There are more teams in MLS than there are players like that.

        Willis — I’m not sure why you’d think he would move on…unless you think he’d get a deal abroad. My guess is he’d wait out Hamid, who figures to be a more probable candidate for a European side.

      • There was some extended debate the other day (which was not the first time, actually) over the purported value of using the season record over 2-3 matches to compare 2 given teams, as opposed to looking at their overall records. That approach (not surprisingly) led to a number screwy sounding conclusions. I was just pointing out that DCU > RSL would be another good example of one.

  4. DC has some good young talent, an aging legend, and money that they can use to improve the team. What they need to do is:
    1) Drop some of the dead weight (Pajoy, Ruiz, etc…),
    2) Find a couple strikers
    3) Improve the depth
    4) Keep their starters healthy

    • I don’t know about that. Look at Caleb Porter. He failed to get the U-23s to the Olympics and then lands one of the best coaching jobs in MLS. And his ceiling is still incredibly high.
      This was a tough loss for Kreis – one more “coulda been” – but I think he’s still on a short list of American coaches with USMNT potential.

      • I see Klinsi staying until 2018. He’s won the media, he’s won the fans, and the players are coming around. The youth squads are all playing his system. He’s done well recruiting dual citizens. And he’s promoted soccer in the US quite well. He’s a personality, and we need that.

        Bare an utter embarrassment, he’s our guy for another round.

  5. Wow, this is going to set up an interesting round of CCL play for DC. They had better get their house in order, and quick.

  6. Hoping that this front office will do good things in the transfer market is wishful thinking. We’re talking about a team this season that had a got rid of two Brazilians, one of whom Benny called the “best he’d ever seen” (slightly, but not by much, a paraphrase…look it up), and a Panamanian midfielder who played EVERY MINUTE for his team during the Gold Cup (you know, the tournament they almost won). The team also swapped Danny Cruz for Lionard Pajoy. Unless there’s a fresh batch of monkeys getting ready to sit down at DCU’s typewriter bank, I won’t be holding my breath for any “upgrades.” And, yes, I will be renewing my season tickets. ‘Cuz I just can’t help it.

    • Agreed on all fronts. Benny might be “one of the guys” but as a recruiter, he’s the worst in the league. Our bright spots were given to us: Silva, Jeffrey, Doyle.

      We cannot assess talent, both in recruiting and in considering their abilities once they come(here’s looking at you fallen DPs).

  7. 13 Trophies ?
    3 USOC + 4 MLS Cups + 0 CCL

    Are you counting unbalanced season SS as a trophy ? Hmmm. Eventually someone will wina close won with an easier schedule…too late already did…many times. Probably including DCs trophies.

  8. Dear USSF:

    Please get your Cup on another network. GoLTV? If you want to raise the profile of this tournament, get at least the finals on a real network. I would love to see the quarters, semis and finals on NBCSN.

  9. I’m an RBNY fan and dislike DC immensely.

    However, their tactics worked and it was a well deserved win

    The only plus side for me is that this win saves Benny’s job and that means another year of laughing at his antics on the sidelines.

    • The feeling is mutual.

      And by the way, can we borrow your trophy cabinet? Ours is full and it appears that you aren’t using yours.

    • I am a DC supporter, but I have to admit that this year’s team plays ugly soccer. Last night’s win was fortunate, but I hope it doesn’t mislead management about the terrible state the team is in. I do believe they need a different coach…. not convinced Olsen is the right coach to lead DC.

  10. Bunker and counter against superior talent. Greek tactics aren’t pretty, but it got them a European Championship … and now DC has an Open Cup.

  11. DC fans aren’t cowed by this. We know that massive overhaul is needed, and that this offseason, even if successful, is still not going to be enough to be a contender.

    But you got to give ’em hope.

  12. Good for United, and here’s to hoping for a turnaround next year. But honestly this is exactly why one of the CCL spots should NOT be based on who wins the Open Cup.

    • Ed, United could be good next year in the league, this is MLS. Bring us that first draft pick and CCL play…even if they fail, it’s essential to keep the underdogs fed;.

      • underdog??? dc united is the MLS gold standard, and what’s with trying to take away ccl spots from MLs teams? it makes no sense

      • I’m not saying take away CCL spots from MLS teams. I’m saying going forward a different criteria like position in the league table should be used to determine CCL spots. For example something like the MLS Cup Champion plus the 3 highest teams in the league table. If the champion is one of those three then the 4th spot would go to the 4th highest in the table. This way you don’t have some fluke like what happened last night determine who plays in a continental championship. If MLS and US Soccer ever actually want an American team to win the CCL our best teams should play in it, not a team that rode their luck through a knockout cup.

      • Dude, your proposal makes too much common sense, which virtually assures that it will not be adopted by the top brass.

      • If you’re trying to win a tournament, wouldn’t it make sense to give the spot to teams that have, you know, won a tournament? Just free associating here. And why should US Soccer give all spots to MlS teams? The open cup spot is for the champion of our national tournament, whatever league that team may come from. Who better to represent the country than the national champion?

      • Also, what do we do when Montreal wins the SS, beats Toronto in the semis and loses to Vancouver in the finals? Give the spots to four teams who didn’t win anything and not send a single champion?

    • I think they have exactly the right “slots” for CCL. Best two teams in the playoffs, SS winner, and Cup winner. That the “slots” don’t always play out as the best “teams” is just life. Sometimes the teams winning the other “slots” go downhill before they get in the CCL nearly a year later.

      I understand the urge to rig the system to get the best teams in the CCL at the time of the tournament. But I’m concerned that mentality is also what the league is using to supply the Galaxy with allocations the other teams don’t get, and I think the season should be a fair fight. I also think that rewarding a team for “being in 4th place mid-summer” would not be much of an honor, although that team might be more competitive. It is the “Champions League,” it’s supposed to be an honor for “Champions.” [I think people’s thinking is distorted by the powerful Euronations, who get more than just the Champion slot… some countries it is literally only one or two Champions in….it’s letting 4 teams in from some countries that has turned it into the playground of England, Spain, and Italy every year.]

      Also, fans of the early years of the CCL surely remember DC used to be a regular team. Mid 00s. They’d stink but they were regulars. They were in a couple USOC finals then. This is not unprecedented and has been how some solid but not MLS Cup winning Seattle sides repeatedly make CCL. DC may be an embarrassment like NE and DC from the mid 00s or maybe this is incentive to get one of the league’s more storied franchises’ act together.

      FWIW, Birmingham won the league cup (and with it Europe) and was also demoted, same season, world kept spinning. These things happen. If the Big Clubs took the tournament seriously it might not happen but then they have their reasons for coasting which opens up this outcome.

    • Ben needs to win a few more trophies to be the Kenny Dalglish of MLS. Jason Kreis on-the-other-hand isn’t going to be confused with Dalglish anytime soon.

    • Meaningless? It’s a ticket to CCL; everyone knew that going in, RSL was not shy about saying how important it was to them (they rested their starters on the weekend). No one gifted the Cup to DCU, they had to win the games to get to the final. A final, I might remind you, that was played on RSL’s home field. Belittling the tournament sounds rather like sour grapes.

    • Sufficiently meaningless for your comment to ring hollow. With such a namesake, I’d think you’d celebrate the domestic cup competition, regardless of your biases. Guess not?

  13. I’m still in shock. I love RSL. I do. But, I mean, it’s DC United! you know, that team that has won a total of 4 games (2 against RSL) and had one victory on the road….. this one.

    I’m trying to stop these thoughts. Truly, I am. But DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMMMMMMMM

    • If you’re counting the cup (which you are) dcu actually has 8 victories, three on the road. So it’s a wee bit better.

  14. Sucked that DC United didn’t even really take it to RSL, it’d be one thing if they did but it was pretty one-sided even before DC scored, and this is in a league that has a salary cap. Teams can turn around pretty quickly in this league so who knows, DC could really go far in CCL next year.

  15. Being a fan of damned RSL is simply gut wrenching. How many shots at the keeper could a team hit? This brings up bad memories of the CCL final all over again. There’s some kind of curse at play.

  16. The refrain:

    We’re all part of Benny’s Army. We know we’re at the bottom of the league. But, we really shook ’em up, when we WON the Open Cup, ’cuz United is the greatest football team….

    Hopefully, the team will do something over the next 2 transfer windows to get ready for CCL play. They’re gonna have a slew of open international slots — probably between 4 and 6 — and quite likely more allocation money than any team has ever had (close to a million for Najar and Rochat, plus bonuses for finishing last AND for getting into CCL). If Bezbatchenko is to be believed, they’ll also have access to some unidentified fund that supports the last-place team in getting foreign talent. The moment is approaching for United to reinvent themselves and surge back to the pinnacle of MLS and CONCACAF.

    • I know a lot of people are playing devil’s advocate by saying DCU could be good by next years CCL but they are going to have to undergo a huge overhaul to be a better team than RSL come next June. Also, I don’t care if they are good enough to win their group. I want an MLS team to win the thing or come close. I sincerely doubt DCU can become a team capable of doing that within the next year. I think RSL would have a shot.

      • DCU went from one game away from the MLS Cup to last place in one year, so who knows??? despite that, there is no doubt DCU really needs to improve the squad before the CCL.

      • I absolutely agree with Bryan. DCU has certainly been awful this year in MLS – but they did make it to the final last year (RSL can’t say that). They’re not as lousy as they’ve played. With a few _good_ additions and a healthy team they might indeed do very well next year. I’m not sold on Olson as the right coach to do the job, though.

      • DC has a core of good young American talent. They’ve picked up some good players just in the last couple of months. They haven’t been successful in their international signings over the last couple of years, since Christian Gomez.

      • At 35 years old, is DeRo worth $600k/season? Not sure. Is Pajoy worth $200k/season? Definitely not. Bye bye. Is Jakovic worth $300k/season? Nope. Adios.

        Cut the dead weight.

      • Well — if we’re going to be historically accurate, since Emilio Luciano (though some of us believe we had some good ones in Salihi and Boskovic).

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