Lowly DC United stepped up in the most important match of their season against Real Salt Lake. DC United made the trip to Sandy, Utah, to face the Western Conference powerhouse in the 100th edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Final with DC United’s last chance of salvaging something from this season on the line. DC United would not miss out on this opportunity, and with the win, DC United not only gained some silverware, but a place in next seasons CONCACAF Champions League tournament.
The match started out with Real Salt Lake controlling the flow of the game as most expected, and they continued to control the match all the way into the half. DC United’s game plan seemed to be to continue to absorb and cut out the Real Salt Lake attacks and hold out for their chance to strike back. Real Salt Lake dominated possession for the majority of the first half, but DC United did not allow Salt Lake very many goal-scoring opportunities. Real Salt Lake did not have to worry much about DC’s attack in the first half very often, but with DC United’s first shot on target, there came a problem.
DC United would take their one chance in the first half. Lewis Neal picked up the ball in the box and drove a low shot into the corner to put the away side up 1-0. Neal has scored three key goals for DC United since joining. A winner to secure three points leading up to the 2012 MLS Playoffs, the goal to clinch a playoff spot (2012), and today’s US Open Cup Final opening goal and eventual winner.
In the 59th minute of play, Sebastián Velásquez almost scored the equalizer. The Colombian took a powerful shot from outside the box that seemed to be going in, but the shot went off the crossbar. DC United continued to hold strong in defense and try to exploit Real Salt Lake on the counter attack throughout most of the second half. DC United’s backline were impressive in killing most of Real Salt Lake’s attacks before they could truly become dangerous.
DC United would make its first sub in the 75th minute of play bringing in Luis Silva for Dwayne De Rosario. DC Coach Ben Olsen decided to bring in some fresh attacking players to keep Real Salt Lake honest throughout the remainder of the match. Ethan White dominated the match and solidified DC United’s backline throughout the match. White’s spark in defense proved to be enough to keep the score in favor of the away side. With the match creeping into the 80th minute, Real Salt Lake started to get a bit desperate for an equalizer and began to get a bit sloppy. However, closing in on the 90th minute Real Salt Lake had several huge chances to equalize. DC United’s defense was almost cut through in the 89th minute, but DC defender, Chris Korb made a wonderful tackle to save DC United temporarily. Chaos ensued for DC soon after, the ball was bouncing around the box after Hamid went up for it but could not hold on, but DC would clear.
Following the DC United clearance, Conor Doyle received the ball and was in on goal. Nick Rimando came out of the box and brought down Doyle. The Salt Lake goalkeeper was given a yellow card, but it looked as if he was the last man and Doyle was in on goal to put United 2-0 up. After Rimando escaping the red card and would be goal, DC United put their free kick into the stands. DC United were forced to endure six minute of added time. Substitute Devon Sandoval attempted a bicycle kick from point blank range, but the ball went straight to Bill Hamid to collect in the 95th minute of play. In the 96th minute, Real Salt Lake had one last chance with a corner. Kyle Beckerman played a good ball into the box that Álvaro Saborío connected with, however, the ball deflected off DC defender, Riley onto the top of the crossbar and Bill Hamid collected. The DC United defense continued to hold strong and secured their win in the Cup Final.
The strategy to absorb Salt Lake’s attack and put in an effective attack when possible proved enough for DC United to grab the trophy and end a terrific cup run in the middle of a horrid MLS Season. The tremendous efforts of DC United in defense are what won this match for them. The defenders continued to step up at all the big moments to continue frustrating Real Salt Lake. It is hard to pick out a key player in this match for DC United. All four members of the backline stepped up and laid it all on the line, while the central midfield pairing of John Thorrington and Perry Kitchen helped to break up most of the play in the center of the field. DC United will make their trip back to the east coast and revel in the excitement of their third US Open Cup trophy. DC United will continue MLS play on October 4 against the Chicago Fire.