D.C. United had an early scare against Christos FC in the US Open Cup, but the Black-and-Red eventually did enough to get past the amateur side to move on to the Round of 16. Mamadou Kansaye gave Christos the first half lead with a wonderful free kick, but his effort was canceled out by Julian Buescher in the first half. Lloyd Sam scored a late winner for United, before Buescher and Ian Harkes added goals in the dying moments of the game to ensure the win.
With a heavy slate of MLS games on the horizon, head coach Ben Olsen opted for numerous changes from the team that drew 0-0 with the LA Galaxy 10 days ago. Jose Ortiz, Jalen Robinson, and Chris Korb were the only holdovers, with Travis Worra, Bobby Boswell, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Marcelo Sarvas, Chris Durkin, Lamar Neagle, Sebastien Le Toux, and Buescher entering the fray.
Le Toux had two early chances to score, hitting shots over the goal in the 2nd and 3rd minutes. Christos had the first moment of real danger, though, when right back Collin Fisher won a header on a corner kick, forcing Worra to push the effort over the goal.
Christos, the last amateur team left in the competition, then elevated their Cinderella story to the next level, taking the lead against the Black-and-Red in the 23rd minute on a free kick. Odoi-Atsem conceded the free kick just outside the box with a late foul on Levi Houapeu. Kansaye took the chance from 19 yards out, and got a left footed shot up and over the wall, past a diving Worra for the 1-0 lead.
Le Toux fired wide from just outside the box three minutes later, but it wasn’t until the 31st minute, when a cross from Korb was deflected, that Christos’ keeper Phil Saunders was forced into action. The cross from the left took a wicked deflection off of Elton Joe, but Saunders was quick to react to the redirection, and United couldn’t make anything out of the resulting corner kick.
United only had to wait a couple of more minutes for their equalizer though, as Buescher scored his first goal of the season to get United level. Beating several defenders in the middle of the field, Buescher worked himself open, and from just inside the box, laced a left-footed shot that Saunders could only get a hand to as it rippled the back of the net.
Christos had one final chance to end the half, but in the 42nd minute. An initial corner was only half cleared by United, and Kaoru Forbess lifted a second cross to the far post. Joseph Glos tried to volley the liquor store-sponsored team ahead, but couldn’t guide his shot on target.
Korb tested Saunders from range in the 50th minute to get the party started, but Worra had work to do in the 56th minute. Houapeu had the ball down the right, and took aim at goal. Worra got down quickly, but couldn’t grab the shot cleanly at the first chance; fortunately for United, he was able to recover before Christos could pounce on the rebound.
Ortiz didn’t get a clean shot off in the 59th minute, and United went even closer two minutes later. Neagle then took advantage of a loose ball in the box after a long spell of pressure from United, but his shot smashed off of the post, denying the Black-and-Red a lead.
Despite the obvious fatigue Christos was suffering, an extra 30 minutes looked like it might be on the cards only for Sam to come in and change the game. Four minutes after getting into the game as a sub, Sam -teed up by Buescher - was outside the box, with no one from Christos applying pressure. Sam didn’t need much invitation, and his 20 yard shot rooted Saunders to the spot, putting United ahead in the 81st minute.
The outcome was probably already settled, but United added two late consolation goals to make sure of their advancement to the Round of 16. Sam got around a challenge in the box in the 90th minute, and centered the ball for Buescher to poke a shot home for the two goal lead.
And in stoppage time, Harkes - who came on in the second half for Durkin - was the beneficiary of a loose ball at the top of the box. The homegrown rookie, who has had several close misses denying him a first goal this year, finally scored his first professional tally by powering the ball through a scramble in front of goal.
United return to action on Saturday, heading north to take on Toronto FC. The next round of the Open Cup will be played either June 27 or June 28, with the Round of 16 draw coming up this Thursday.