D.C. United 0-0 Richmond Kickers: United advances to the fourth round of the US Open Cup on penalties

DeRo, among many others, was a non-factor today. - USA TODAY Sports

D.C. United barely escapes from Richmond, beating the Kickers 4-2 on penalty kicks after 120 scoreless minutes.

It had to go to extra time, didn’t it? After a Branko Boskovic free kick was required to win D.C. United’s first US Open Cup game last year against the Richmond Kickers, it made sense that the same matchup a year later would also go to extra time. And after it went to extra time, it had to upstage the First Annual Bodkin Cup, so why not go to penalty kicks this time? After an uninspiring 120 minutes of soccer, D.C. United won on penalties, 4-2, to advance to the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup. Joe Willis was his normal massive self, saving the first two penalties to put the game away. United will host the Philadelphia Union in Boyds at the Soccerplex in June.

For the majority of the game, the Richmond Kickers and D.C. United played evenly, with United controlling the possession but the Kickers breaking dangerously on the counter. The story of the night was how slow D.C. United was on all of its possession, and it all came from the usual suspects. Lionard Pajoy gave away a number of balls and didn’t show any good hold up play. His one good moment came late in the first half, as his header went off of the post. Dwayne De Rosario had a similarly unimpressive game, getting the ball taken off his feet by Kickers’ defenders and not contributing to the attack. Chris Pontius entered the game in the second half and continued to have no effect whatsoever; for long periods at a time I forgot that he was on the field.

For their part, the Kickers kept numbers behind the ball and sprung the counter when they gained possession. Ngwenya pulled the strings on most of the counters, which looked dangerous at the beginning of the first half and started to dwindle as the half went on. The second half also started off brightly for the Kickers, culminating in Yeisley’s breakaway that was expertly blocked by Joe Willis. Michael Seaton, the D.C. United loanee who started the game, played with much more energy and aggression in this match, but his chances on goal were just a thought too slow to convert.

By the time the game got to extra time, both teams were obviously exhausted and playing at a fraction of their former pace. The exhaustion turned into mistakes, as Chris Korb ran into a Kickers player to get his second yellow card and take United down to 10 men. Only a few minutes later, Carlos Ruiz put in a horrible scissor tackle from behind for an obvious straight red card to put D.C. down to 9 men with 5 minutes left in extra time. I saw some people on twitter debate that card, but it was definitely a straight red.

After the penalty shootout won the game, Ben Olsen was only mostly joking when he said that he was happy that the team finally scored some goals even though they remain too predictable when they are on offense. He also took the time to extol the virtues of the MLS-USL Pro affiliation, praising the Richmond Kickers organization as a whole and Leigh Cowlishaw in particular for helping United to develop their players. Seaton and Dykstra were strong for the Kickers, and Conor Shanosky was impressively solid in his first start for United. If United can continue to develop young players this way, and not wasting the opportunity by sending down players who won’t benefit, they can perhaps develop more of that homegrown talent and rebuild their club from the inside.

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