On May 11, a team wearing all black, destined for utter failure in their league campaign, raised a trophy by winning the oldest knockout tournament in their country. This Wednesday, D.C. United has a chance to come one step closer to matching Wigan Athletic's FA Cup feat as the Black-and-Red enter the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup semifinals against the Chicago Fire. The video above is the Wigan players celebrating their 1-0 final win over a better-in-every-aspect-at-least-on-paper Manchester City that would relate remarkably well to whichever of Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers will be awaiting Wednesday's winner in the USOC Final.
Make no mistake: This will be the most important game D.C. United will have played this season. With the playoffs all but an academic impossibility, there is nothing left to play for in MLS except for pride, momentum and development toward the future. But in Open Cup play, the present is what matters. We can win Trophy Number 13 this fall, but only if we take care of business in the Chicago suburbs this week. Thankfully, after the display over the weekend, los Capitalinos seem to be coming onto this match at just the right time, as United are coming off their best-played game of the year.
But Ben Olsen & Co., while holding onto the confidence that the additions of Luis Silva, Jared Jeffrey and Conor Doyle have given everybody else on the team, will have to push the memory of Saturday's 3-1 win over the Montreal Impact out of their minds and hold onto the 4-1 dismantling by the Fire two weeks prior instead. They'll need that chip on their shoulders (and the knowledge of how not to play the Fire) if they're going to be more than three goals better than they were last month.
We're two games away from a trophy that will put us two ahead of the LA Galaxy's 11 and secure RFK's trophy case as the envy of MLS for a while longer. Two games away from giving us something tangible to build on for 2014. Two games away from truly celebrating something on the field for the first time since Nick DeLeon broke the backs, hearts and everything else of North Jersey last fall. Two games away from feeling what those guys in the video felt. I want that.
We're going to have our usual full coverage of the semifinal here at B&RU, including a talk with Sean Spence from Hot Time in Old Town on Filibuster, Ben's lineup predictions, a live thread and the other usual bells and whistles. Stay tuned - here's hoping we're in for an exciting - and successful - week.
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