The silent confidence in his team that D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen talked about grew louder over the weekend. Now with Dwayne De Rosario rested and ready to play, United will look to make some more noise in the U.S. Open Cup Wednesday against New England at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
While Saturday’s 1-0 win over San Jose in MLS play wasn’t easy, Olsen did not have to call on De Rosario who was able to continue to recover from a hip flexor strain that kept him from training before the match against the Earthquakes. In his last Open Cup match De Rosario scored three goals in a win over Philadelphia to put United through to the quarterfinals.
In the fourth round win over the Union, De Rosario, Chris Pontius and Nick De Leon were all in the starting eleven. For various reasons United’s potentially most potent attacking trio have only started as group twice in the regular season. Their attacking spirit in the 3-1 win over the Union seemed to be a sign that better days were ahead.
There was a detour to the better days when Pontius could not play in the next league match against Toronto because of a concussion suffered against Philadelphia. In the win over San Jose, Pontius was back and seemed to be back to his old self. Pontius has also been slowed by groin problems, but was active off the ball and came through with the penalty kick goal.
“We pushed him up a little bit higher so he could get to goal and be a little bit more dangerous,” Olsen said of Pontius against the Earthquakes. "In the second half, I thought he started to fatigue. But he’s a dangerous player – it was good to see glimpses of him coming back and hopefully it’s something he can build off of.”
The goal against the Earthquakes was Pontius first of the season in any competition. United could have had more, The Black and Red appeared to be more threatening from the start against San Jose, but the finishing is a concern. United has not scored a goal in the run of play in five MLS games or a span of 485 minutes.
“We have to keep searching and do better on our breaks: our 4v3s, our 3v2s – we work on them, but we just have to be cleaner with that stuff,” Olsen said. “We have the attackers to get into those spots, and we just got to be a little bit more clinical in the final third.”
Like United, the Revolution has added its challenges on offense this season, but has been buoyed by the addition of Juan Agudelo to the attack. Before United held the Revolution to a 0-0 draw in a MLS game June 8th in Foxboro, the Revs had exploded for 9 goals in the previous 3 games. In a road loss to Vancouver, the Revolution built a 2-0 lead before falling to the Whitecaps 4-3.
Indeed there does seem to be some bite to a New England attack that only produced six goals in the first ten matches of the league campaign. In the Open Cup Kelyn Rowe has been making it his own personal tournament. The second-year pro has scored four goals and added one assist in two Open Cup matches this year to lead all Revs players.
“For me DC presents a lot of different challenges because they are poised,” said Revolution head coach Jay Heaps. “They’re a team that has played in a lot of big games in their tradition. That stuff carries and that means a lot to them. They talk about trophies and that’s an area we want to start talking about – more trophies.”
While success in MLS is always a team’s top priority at the start of the season, as the Open Cup reaches the final eight there is added intrigue and pressure with a trophy in sight. Six MLS sides, one USL Pro team and one from the NASL are left standing. The winner of the United vs. Revolution match will play the winner of the Orlando City against Chicago matchup.
“The Open Cup is one of two trophies that we’re in this year and it’s huge for us and I think so far our game against Philadelphia was one of the highlights so far of a year that hasn’t had many of them,” midfielder John Thorington added. “We actually enjoy going out and playing there [Maryland Soccerplex]. Hopefully we’ll reward the fans that come out there again on Wednesday with a positive result and keep advancing.”