D.C. United crashed out of the Fourth Round of the US Open Cup to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, as the NASL side won 4-3 on penalties following a 0-0 draw. 120 minutes of scoreless soccer between the two sides forced the tiebreaker, where United briefly lead only to see Luciano Acosta's effort in the fourth round saved, and Jared Jeffrey hit the bar before Matheus Carvalho converted the winner for the visitors.
The big team news before the game was that Chris Durkin, who just signed with the club yesterday as a homegrown player, was handed a start in midfield along side Jared Jeffrey. Travis Worra took the spot in goal, his first appearance since Bill Hamid returned from a long injury layoff.
United started off with a heavy dose of possession in the early goings of the game, but it was the Strikers who had the first shot on goal in the 7th minute. A cross into the box from right back Gabriel found former United striker Maicon Santos in the middle, but he ccould only guide his header straight at Worra.
Fort Lauderdale goalkeeper Diego Restrepo, who spent some time training with the Black-and-Red, misplayed a back pass from a teammate not long after that, allowing Julian Buescher to challenge for the ball in front of goal. Restrepo managed to recover just in time though, getting a touch around Buescher before clearing.
Ramon Nunez took aim from a long range free kick minutes later, but could only send his effort wide of the mark, before Santos just missed getting on the end of a cross from Brazilian left back PC. A loose play from United near their own box in the 28th minute resulted in a turnover, which fell invitingly to Santos. The Brazilian, who never needs a second invitation to shoot, quickly fired off an effort that was blocked by United's defense, with the ball ending up in the arms of Worra.
Both sides had a penalty shout as the half wound to an end, but neither Alhaji Kamara nor Geison Moura were given the benefit of the doubt by referee Matthew Kreitzer. Instead, both were told to get up, though neither picked up a booking for simulation.
From there, the first half ended with hardly a whisper, as United failed to register a single shot through the first 45 minutes despite a hefty possession advantage. Fort Lauderdale ended with an almost equally poor three shots, with just the early Santos header on target.
Santos thought he'd try to test Worra from the second half kickoff, sending a shot towards goal with the second touch of the half. But Worra had his wits about him, and was in a comfortable position to make an easy catch.
United finally had a shot in the 52nd minute of the match, as the debutant Durkin found an opening outside of the box. There wasn't much to aim at for the 16 year old, and his shot ended up well wide of Restrepo's goal.
The game then finally started to open up, as both sides started to create some genuine scoring opportunities after anemic offenses were the story of the game for the first 50 minutes. Geison got the ball into a dangerous spot down the right flank, sending a ball into the middle for Santos, but Jalen Robinson was perfectly positioned to block the effort wide.
Buescher had a shot blocked out for a corner in the 57th minute, allowing the German midfielder to whip in a cross from the corner. Center back Kofi Opare rose up to win the header for United, but his attempt was just over the frame.
Just a minute later, Nunez cut in from the left in the attacking half for the Strikers, finding a pocket of space for a shot. Nunez hit the ball well, but Worra was quick to dive to his right to push the shot wide of goal, eliminating any follow up danger for Ft. Lauderdale.
Kamara and Rob Vincent combined in the box in the 65th minute for a good scoring opportunity for United. Getting into the box with the ball, Kamara cut a pass back towards the middle of the box that found Vincent unmarked. VIncent shot first time, but his shot skipped just wide at the far post.
A quick counter attack and a ball over the top of United's defense was the source of a golden scoring opportunity for the Strikers in the 73rd minute. The chipped ball over United's back line at midfield found PC, who used his speed to quickly break towards goal. PC's cross was blocked out, but the ball fell right back to him, with his rasping shot towards the near post blocked out for a corner.
As the game inched towards extra time, Kamara nearly won the game for United, seeing his header saved off the line. Vincent's cross from the left in the 89th minute drew Restrepo off his line and into a collision with Kamara as both went for the ball. Kamara won that challenge, bouncing a header towards goal, but Julius James was able to clear off the line just as the Maryland Soccerplex crowd began to cheer a goal.
James opted for power with his clearance, though, sending the ball virtually straight up from the goal line. Kamara and Restrepo did battle once again in the air, with the goalkeeper showing more aggression in the second attempt. However, both players missed the ball and Kreitzer ended up stopping play to call a foul on Kamara, who seemed mystified.
Buescher had one final opportunity before the end of the 90 minutes, but his free kick was easily caught by Restrepo which meant another 30 minutes of soccer beckoned.
In the first extra time period, United enjoyed all of the chances, coming close to finding the decisive goal on several occasions. Kamara guided a header straight at Restrepo in the 93rd minute, before Luciano Acosta, who came on for Durkin late in regulation, forced a corner from a tight angle three minutes later.
A long ball from Buescher picked Acosta out on the left flank, near the Strikers' box. A deft touch played the ball over to Kamara, who looked to shoot right away, only for Restrepo to race off his line to block the shot away from goal.
Just before the end of the first half of extra time, United were again denied by a goal line clearance. Taylor Kemp, who entered at halftime, cut in from his left back position to fire a right footed shot on goal, which Restrepo was forced to dive and parry. Acosta then flicked the ball back into the middle, where Kamara guided a header on goal, only for Gale Agbossoumonde to block the ball right on the goal line.
Both sides had their chances in the second extra time period, to no avail. Nunez slipped in substitute Matheus Carvalho early on, but the shot from Carvalho was saved by Worra at the near post, and Fort Lauderdale couldn't convert from the ensuing corner.
Jeffrey forced a turnover in a bad spot for the Strikers minutes later, and quickly found himself with a shooting opportunity. The rocket was saved by Restrepo, but the ball fell out to Andrea Mancini, who was making his debut for United. Mancini's shot was hit with decent power, but flew over the unguarded net.
Luke Mishu then had a shot from a tight angle saved, before being tested at the other end by Carvalho. The sub ended up getting enough space to serve a ball towards the middle of the goalmouth, but no teammate was around to get the crucial second touch.
In penalties, Buescher and Vincent converted before Santos shot well over the crossbar with Fort Lauderdale's second attempt, giving United an early advantage. Kemp and Gabriel converted their attempts in round 3, but Acosta had his shot saved by Restrepo, and Nunez followed up to level the scores. Jeffrey hit the bar with United's fifth penalty, opening the door for Carvalho to spark celebrations for the Strikers.
United are back in action on Saturday, when they head to Texas to take on the Houston Dynamo. We will add highlights when they become available.