It most definitely wasn't pretty, and it can't even really be called effective. But D.C. United managed a 0(2)-0(4) "win" over their USL Pro affiliates, the Richmond Kickers, to advance to the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup last night. Let's see what's being said about the match before we put this one to bed and turn our attention back to the league, shall we?
Ben Bromley, B&RU: 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.
Steven Goff, Washington Post: D.C. United's regular season has followed a troubling course, so it was only fitting that the club's venture into the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday turned into a surreal exercise in anguish. Facing an opponent two tiers down in the American soccer system, United was painfully dull, unimaginative and wasteful through 120 scoreless minutes, but survived a penalty kick tiebreaker with the Richmond Kickers, 4-2, in front of 4,752 at City Stadium.
Craig Stouffer, Washington Examiner: In the teams' first meeting since Richmond became D.C.'s minor league affiliate, Dykstra, United's third string goalkeeper, and Michael Seaton, a 17-year-old rookie forward, suited up for the Kickers, where both players are on loan. In one early sequence, Dykstra collided with United's Nick DeLeon at one end, and a moment later, Willis flattened Seaton.
Pablo Maurer, Soccer by Ives: It's been a long time since anybody's seen Olsen do any laughing, his elevated mood the result of a win-albeit a narrow one-in United's third round U.S. Open Cup matchup with the third-tier Richmond Kickers.
Ed Morgans, District Sports Page: But no matter who was on the field, United mostly failed to threaten Dykstra's goal during regulation and extra time. United perhaps got closest in the 35th minute, when De Rosario hit the post to Dykstra's left, but the ball stayed out. It would have been the low point for United's already downtrodden season had Richmond captured the win in penalties, but for now, United's quest to win a trophy this season lives on.
So #DCU vs #Union in next round of #USOC? Feel like I've seen this movie already, and it ends w/red cards & ugly soccer in Montgomery County— Sebastian Salazar (@SebiSalazarCSN) May 29, 2013
If I was DC's front office, I'd sign Richmond's Michael Callahan before this game finished.— Matthew Doyle (@MLS_Analyst) May 29, 2013
Richmond burns, DC wins. #USOC100 twitter.com/BrianStraus/st…— Brian Straus (@BrianStraus) May 29, 2013
Like I said in the lead, it wasn't pretty. Except for a spell that saw United hit the woodwork twice late in the first half, United can't really be said to have bettered the Kickers on the balance of play. I suppose there is some small solace to to be had in knowing that United still has the talent to force a USL team to play a bunker/counter style, and it was a good strategic call by Kickers
everything man head coach Leigh Cowlishaw - as Ben Olsen himself has pointed out, United have been incredibly vulnerable against breakouts this season. Toss in the team's utter inability to break down anything resembling an organized defense - on display again in Richmond - and you have a team that hasn't won a game in regulation since March 9.
The Last Word
Whatever, dude. Survive and advance.
We know that the 2013 edition of D.C. United is, by and large, craptacular. This game wasn't a turning point for the season - all we can hope for in the short term is the more subtle inflection point, where the descent stops speeding up and starts slowing down - but it was a result in and of itself. It means the Black-and-Red are still alive for a trophy this year despite being worse than terrible in league play - just like Wigan Athletic over on that small island nation across the ocean.
For me, that's all last night was about - keeping some hope for a trophy alive, however remote. It wasn't a bellwether or an indictment or a sign of anything new. It was a knockout match, and D.C. survived, which is better than the San Jose Earthquakes or Colorado Rapids could manage. I'll take it.