October 1, D.C. United - the worst team in MLS who stand last in the 19-team league - defeated best in the West Real Salt Lake in the 100th edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, for a crowd of 17,608.
The tournament is run by U.S. Soccer.
That a team with a 3-21-6 record, only 15 points and 20 goals and a whopping -32 goal differential can defeat the No. 1 team in the West and second overall (15-10-6, 51 pts, 54 goals and +15 GD) - does not speak well of the credibility of MLS. The results don't seem like an underdog win, but of the insignificance of the U.S. Open Cup as it stands today and the downside of the "balanced" branding of MLS, which makes real results seem insignificant.
“You scratch your head,” said RSL coach Jason Kreis. “We did everything necessary to get to the point where we should have goalscoring chances and we just seem like every single time, but it just wasn’t going to happen.”
This was United's third Open Cup win, as they also won in 1996 and 2008. With the victory, United became just the third MLS team to win three championships at the U.S. Open Cup, joining the Chicago Fire (four) and Seattle Sounders FC (three). For winning the 2013 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, D.C. United is awarded $250,000.
Meanwhile, RSL played its first-ever Open Cup final after reaching the quarterfinals in 2006 and 2011, but has been an MLS powerhouse since winning MLS Cup in 2009. Real Salt Lake is awarded $100,000 for finishing as the tournament runner-up.
Unfortunate international implications
As the U.S. Open Cup champion, D.C. United wins one of the four U.S. spots in the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League (CCL), which does not bode well for American representation in the prestigious tournament between the top clubs in North and Central America and the Caribbean. But United is gunning for its own soccer specific stadium and the results should help that initiative.
RSL can still qualify for the 2013-14 CCL by other means, but an Open Cup trophy is the most direct route and had been repeatedly cited by Kreis as one of the team’s top priorities this season. Moreover, Salt Lake is - by far - the better team of the two and the best team to represent MLS and the United States in the CONCACAF Champions League.
“I believe that this team has what it takes to win," said Kreis, "I believe this team has what it takes to win all our remaining matches to put ourselves in the very best possible situation to win the Supporters’ Shield. Now I don’t control what Seattle does and what New York does and I don’t actually control what my players do either. But I believe and hope they still do as well.”
D.C. forward and team captain Dwayne De Rosario ended the tournament with five goals, sharing the lead with the Portland Timbers' Frederic Piquionne.
In the last minute of the first half, Lewis Neal scored the final's only goal and his first goal of the tournament in the 45th minute, beating diving RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Salt Lake created the better scoring chances, but neither team put a shot on goal in the opening 30 minutes. Overall, Salt Lake out-shot D.C. 4-1 in the opening 45 minutes. Most of Salt Lake's scoring opportunities came in the closing minutes of regulation and in stoppage time, but to no avail.
United goalkeeper Bill Hamid made a good showing of six saves on the night for D.C. as the game opened up for Salt Lake's offense in the second half. Ned Grabavoy split the D.C. defense in the 52nd minute to force Hamid to lunge to his left for the save. Hamid also deflected a Saborio shot from up close at the near right post in the 81st minute.
DCU - Lewis Neal 45th minute
RSL: 18-Nick Rimando; 17-Chris Wingert, 6-Nat Borchers, 16-Carlos Salcedo (49-Devon Sandoval, 81), 2-Tony Beltran; 5-Kyle Beckerman (capt.), 20-Ned Grabavoy, 26-Sebastian Velasquez (23-Khari Stephenson, 69), 11-Javier Morales; 8-Joao Plata (13-Olmes Garcia, 57), 15-Alvaro Saborio
Substitutions Not Used: 12-Cole Grossman, 14-Yordany Alvarez, 24-Jeff Attinella, 28-Chris Schuler
Head Coach: Jason Kreis
DCU: 28-Bill Hamid; 2-James Riley, 5-Dejan Jakovic, 15-Ethan White, 22-Chris Korb; 23-Perry Kitchen, 24-Lewis Neal, 13-Chris Pontius (30-Conor Doyle, 86), 8-John Thorrington; 18-Nick DeLeon, 7-Dwayne De Rosario (capt.) (12-Luis Silva, 75)
Substitutions Not Used: 3-Dennis Iapichino, 19-Kyle Porter, 21-Daniel Woolard, 25-Jared Jeffrey, 31-Joe Willis
Head Coach: Ben Olsen
Stats Summary: RSL / DCU
Shots: 10 / 2
Shots on Goal: 6 / 1
Saves: 0 / 6
Corner Kicks: 10 / 1
Fouls: 15 / 17
Offside: 3 / 2
DCU - James Riley (caution) 21st minute
RSL - Kyle Beckerman (caution) 45+1
DCU - Nick DeLeon (caution) 58
DCU - Chris Korb (caution) 80
RSL - Nick Rimando (caution) 90
Referee: Juan Guzman (USA)
Assistant Referee 1: Kermit Quisenberry (USA)
Assistant Referee 2: Fabio Tovar (USA)
Fourth Official: Baldomero Toledo (USA)