Can there be any doubt that on Wednesday night in Boyds, Md., we saw D.C. United's best performance of the year so far? The result was never really in doubt, as Dwayne De Rosario's hat trick stood up, and the Black-and-Red ran out of the Maryland SoccerPlex 3-1 winners over the visiting Philadelphia Union in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup round of 16. The win avenges United's loss to Philly at this same stage of the tournament last year - and at the same venue.
Last year, we saw Antoine Hoppenot enter off the bench to score the game-winner for the Union in extra time. This year, United never gave the game a chance to get that far. In the advantage from a foul suffered by John Thorrington, De Ro pounced on a ball 20 yards from goal, and his left-footed shot beat Philly 'keeper Zac MacMath for the only tally in the first half. After Lionard Pajoy entered the game and took over the forward spot, good high pressure on the Philly defense by the Colombian and De Ro combined to turn a 2v3 into a good situation. Pajoy intercepted a pass and waited precisely long enough to cut all three defenders out and put De Rosario in on goal. United's captain rounded MacMath and slotted home easily to double the lead.
The clean sheet wasn't to last, though. Less than a minute after De Ro's second, Jack McInerney beat Joe Willis to cut the advantage back to 1. But a miscue in the back for Philly led to a MacMath scuffed clearance from near the right sideline, which went - you guessed it - straight to Dwayne De Rosario. The Canadian took a touch to settle, and then nestled a 50-yard shot into the back of the net to complete the hat trick.
Philly pressured late, but never found a second, and United are through to the quarterfinals, where they'll meet the the winner of the New England Revolution-New York Red Bulls match at the Plex on June 26.
(At press time, the Revs are ahead 3-2 in the 75th minute.) Update: Jersey loses, and we win! All is right with the world! United will play the Revs in two weeks' time.
On a less happy note, Chris Pontius left the match injured at halftime. He took an inadvertent elbow to the head from Sheannon Williams, but quickly reentered the game after being examined by United's training staff. Just a few minutes later, though, he was fouled hard by Amobi Okugo and stayed down, apparently shaken up from the hit. Here's hoping it's not a serious concussion, as this team has had more than it's fair share of those.
Tonight, though, it's about the win (of which we haven't really had our fair share recently). Hopefully his hat trick tonight means the return of the DeRo we all know and love from 2012 and 2011.