D.C. United won the inaugural Capital Cup with a 1-0 win over LD Alajuelense tonight at Audi Field. United, who beat LDA by the same scoreline midweek, lifted the Capital Cup trophy thanks to what became an aggregate score format after both Club Puebla and Alianza FC had to withdraw from the event due to Covid-19 positive tests.
Hernán Losada, days after fielding a reserve-heavy squad against the same opponent, fielded an eleven with more MLS experience. Steven Birnbaum continued his comeback from offseason ankle surgery, while regulars like Nigel Robertha, Frédéric Brillant, Felipe Martins, and Moses Nyeman all started for the Black-and-Red.
Despite the changes, a familiar dynamic played out early, with Alajuelense able to slow the tempo down and resist United’s high pressure. Both goalkeepers had little to worry about until midway through the half, when Yamil Asad perhaps should have done better with a run in behind, only to have Mauricio Vargas poke the ball away from him at the last moment. LDA went to the other end quickly, with Jurguens Montenegro racing onto a wonderful through ball only for Jon Kempin to charge out and shut the chance down.
United forced a turnover in the 30th minute, quickly working the ball forward for Robertha to run in behind the defense. Robertha fired low, but Vargas did just enough to touch his shot off the post and wide.
United produced their slickest move of the half in the 40th minute, with the lively Griffin Yow combining with Asad on a counter to play Robertha into a promising spot, only for Fernán Faerron’s sliding intervention to produce a crucial block. Alajuelense responded with a similar move forward, but Montenegro’s bending shot from the left curled just wide.
Following a bit of pushing and shoving at midfield, Alajuelense turned a free kick from the wing into another good look in stoppage time. Robertha did well to win the initial header, but no one from United got to the second ball, and LDA fed the ball back into the area. The ball pinged around, finding Montenegro, but Kempin produced another good stop to keep the game scoreless.
United started the second half off in lively fashion, with Felipe and substitute Yordy Reyna both having promising looks within the first three minutes of the game’s resumption. Felipe then had a penalty appeal turned down by Rojas in the 51st minute.
Moments after bringing Chris Odoi-Atsem in for his first action of 2021, the Black-and-Red felt sure they’d scored in the 61st minute, with Asad’s corner to the near post finding substitute Jovanny Bolívar. The Venezuelan forward nodded past Vargas, but the flag came up as Asad’s delivery was ruled to have curled beyond the endline on its way in.
Finally, United took the lead. The goal started with a bit of direct play, but with Alajuelnse stretched out, Bolívar found himself suddenly with loads of space to run right up the middle. Faerron and Alexis Gamboa both tried but failed to stop Bolívar from storming past them, and from there the Venezuelan forward fired past Vargas in the 68th minute.
United nearly made it 2-0 in the 71st minute, with Loudoun call-up Kairou Amoustapha’s goal called back due to being just a step offside. Kempin, meanwhile, produced another solid stop after Yurguin Román’s powerful 19-yard free kick swerved around the United wall.
Alajuelense started making a late push to equalize, but were restricted to a few hopeful long-range shots as United managed to get numbers back every time. LDA’s best chance may have actually been a late penalty kick shout after Odoi-Atsem blocked a shot, but those complaints were half-hearted at best.
United will return to MLS play this coming Saturday, July 17, with a trip north to take on the Philadelphia Union. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30pm.
D.C. United 1 (Bolívar 68)
LD Alajuelense 0
DCU (343): Jon Kempin; Frédéric Brillant, Steven Birnbaum (Kairou Amoustapha 60), Tony Alfaro (Landry Nanan Houssou 79); Jacob Greene, Felipe Martins, Moses Nyeman, Joseph Mora (Chris Odoi-Atsem 60); Griffin Yow (Yordy Reyna 46), Nigel Robertha (Jovanny Bolívar 46), Yamil Asad (Allexon Saravia 90)
LDA (433): Mauricio Vargas; Ian Smith, Fernán Faerron, Alexis Gamboa, Yurguin Román (Dorian Rodríguez 88); Bernald Alfaro (Josimar Alcocer 70), José Miguel Cubero, Barlon Sequeira; Aarón Suárez (Carlos Mora 66), Jurguens Montenegro, Brandon Aguilera
DCU - Alfaro 46+, Greene 47+
LDA - Gamboa 46+