Given DC United’s status as Major League Soccer cellar-dwellers for most of this year (3 wins, 21 losses, and 6 draws in league play), it’s remarkable that 2013 will be remembered for a notable triumph, as the team won its third Lamar Hunt US Open Cup and thirteenth major title with a 1-0 triumph over Real Salt Lake. Midfielder Lewis Neal put a shot past former United keeper Nick Rimando just prior to halftime, and United’s Bill Hamid kept his goal clear of RSL’s 18 shots to secure the victory.
United’s Cup tournament win echoes a similarly unlikely result in England this year, as FA Cup champion Wigan was also bottom-of-the-table in their league, the English Premier League. While the team’s fortunes were foundering as the Major League Soccer season wore on, United’s Cup chase never faltered. That chase, which started in late May with a shootout victory over the USL Richmond Kickers, drew the attention of the fans of the Black and Red as each round progressed. The hard-fought tournament included victories over four MLS teams, with the final two wins coming on the road in Chicago and Salt Lake City.
The most significant aspect of DC United’s success in this tournament is the positive impact it could have on Ben Olsen’s future with the club. Though the team’s swan dive in the MLS standings has been disconcerting, few would argue that the team’s talent level hadn’t taken a corresponding dip leading into 2013. As the team’s victory qualifies it to compete in the 2014-2015 CONCACAF Champions League, its ownership group – which is seeking to build support for its new stadium plan – can use this opportunity to upgrade the team’s talent level, giving Olsen the chance to build on United’s tournament success and return the club to its status as an elite MLS side.