A year ago at this time the U.S. Open Cup was it for D.C. United. With only two wins in league play through mid-June a good Cup run was all United could hope for. It happened and now United defends its U.S. Open Cup title with the dual responsibility of also being in first place in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference.
To have two concerns is a nice problem for United. The league is the priority and it is tight. United tops the Eastern Conference, but is only two points ahead of second place New England. The balance of multiple competitions by MLS teams also makes the Cup a breeding ground for upsets.
Over the weekend the North American Soccer League enjoyed a sweep over MLS with the New York Cosmos beating the Red Bulls, Atlanta getting by Real Salt Lake, and Carolina eliminating Chivas USA. United will try to avoid a similar fate when it plays its fourth round match Tuesday on the road against Rochester.
D.C. United has won three U.S. Open Cups and won its first title by beating Rochester in the 1996 championship game. The Rhinos won the Open Cup in 1999 and at one point were positioned as a candidate for MLS expansion. Currently the Rhinos are in USL Pro and have an affiliate agreement with the New England Revolution.
If United is able to advance it would play the winner of the New England/Richmond Kickers fourth round match next Tuesday at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown, Maryland.
- The Rhinos are in fourth place in USL Pro’s 13-team single table a format. J.C. Banks, the son of former USMNT player Jimmy Banks, is the Rhinos leading scorer, but has been slowed by injuries. Of more concern is not so much what the Rhinos can do on offense, but there defense is one of the best in USL Pro. The Rhinos have only conceded 12 goals in 14 matches. In goal John McCarthy, who was a late cut by the Seattle Sounders, has recorded five shutouts and is helped by a strong central defense paring of Tony Walls and Kyle Hofer.
- D.C. United will have to be patient. It would not be a surprise to see the Rhinos focus on defense and then look to make something happen on the counterattack. “The key will be patience,” said United head coach Ben Olsen. “We don’t need to get the goal in the first 15 minutes. We expect them to be very disciplined and organized. Bob Lilley is their coach and he is one of the best in that league (USL Pro).” Lilley played college soccer at George Mason University.