United Focused Squarely on U.S. Open Cup Final

D.C. ready to make the most of title opportunity
by Peter Muller   |   Tuesday, October 01, 2013

United Capitol – column on DC United (DCU) & the Washington DC/DMV area soccer scene.

A rested and ready D.C. United team will take on Real Salt Lake in the U.S. Open Cup final tonight as the decided underdog but with an opportunity to record a major achievement in a disappointing season.

With the dubious luxury of not competing in a playoff chase, United’s coaches and players have had their eyes set on this game for weeks.

And with a full and healthy roster available United will hope to surprise a Salt Lake team that, while playing at home, is trying to navigate through a congested schedule and book a spot in the post-season.

“Our whole season comes down to 90 minutes against Salt Lake, so everyone is really focused, really tuned in and ready go to,” said midfielder Jared Jeffrey following United’s 4-1 defeat in Toronto on Saturday.  “It’s been a trying year but we have opportunity to salvage something on Tuesday and we’re really looking forward to it.

In preparation for the final, Olsen took a young and inexperienced squad to face fellow league strugglers Toronto FC over the weekend.

After a good start to the match, including a perfectly placed goal from distance by Jeffery, United faded and could not keep up with the home team.

“Our focus this week was the majority on Tuesday (the Cup final) and I set them up to fail,” said Olsen of the team he selected to face Toronto.  “But I was proud of the effort, certainly the work rate and the commitment from the guys, I couldn’t ask for better.”

With his mind squarely on the final, Olsen rested the players who are projected start Tuesday night – most of whom did not even travel to Toronto.

That singular focus may be enough to give United a chance against heavily-favored Salt Lake.

Olsen told the Pitch Pass podcast this week that his team is just now getting fully fit and will have no excuses tonight when it comes to player availability.

Attackers Chris Pontius, Nick DeLeon and Dwayne De Rosario have missed considerable time this season but all appear ready to feature in United’s most important match of year.

In addition, Olsen said some of D.C.’s summer signings who had not logged many game minutes have been able to find their form in recent weeks.

On the defensive side of the ball, Olsen announced Bill Hamid will start in goal despite Joe Willis having ably manned that responsibility throughout the Cup run.  Dejan Jakovic appears set to start at centerback with Ethan White or Daniel Woolard likely to join him.  Chris Korb and James Riley should fill the fullback positions and Perry Kitchen is likely to anchor the midfield with John Thorrington.

Real Salt Lake is coming off an impressive win in Vancouver on Saturday that took them to the top of the Western Conference table. 

But Salt Lake manager Jason Kreis also rested some key players and made clear his team is focused on the Open Cup.

“We said for the next 6 weeks that the most important match for us is the Open Cup final, and yes we want to compete for the Supporters’ Shield, but for me the chance to win something in a one off game has to take precedence,” said Kreis.  “We are also very excited for the opportunity that we have, and really excited to play that matchup in front of our fans.”

Notes on the Cup

- The U.S. Open Cup began 100 years ago and the 1st Cup title was won by Brooklyn Field Club in 1914.

- 2 teams have won the Cup 5 times. Bethlehem Steel was the early dynasty with five titles between 1915-1926. Maccabi Los Angeles, which included former Israeli national team players, won 5 times in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. 

- In the MLS era, the Chicago Fire hold the lead with 4 Cup wins and the Seattle Sounds have won 3 times. D.C. United holds 2 Cups – they were victorious in 1996 and 2008 – while Real Salt Lake has yet to win the competition.

- The last non-MLS club to win the Open Cup was the Rochester Raging Rhinos, who beat the Colorado Rapids in 1999. 

- The tournament has officially been known as the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup since 1999, in honor of the longtime soccer supporter and MLS co-founder.

NEXT UP: October 1 – DC United vs. Real Salt Lake, Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah. 9 p.m. EST, GolTV.


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Peter is a government relations professional in Washington, DC, and Los Angeles, CA. He has been a DC United season ticket holder since 1997 and has attended every MLS Cup except one – in 1998 when he was busy helping his boss get re-elected to Congress.