DC United took another step toward salvaging a dreadful start to the 2013 season as they beat New England 3-1 to advance to the semi-finals of the US Open Cup, where they will meet Chicago Fire. Real Salt Lake and Portland Timbers complete an all-MLS semi-final round, after the USL Pro side Orlando City and NASL team Carolina Railhawks joined New England and Dallas in exiting at the quarter final stage.
DC fielded a strong side on a humid night at the Maryland Soccerplex – in keeping with their strong selections in previous rounds of the Cup. It's a sign of both how seriously the organization takes the trophy, and perhaps more pertinently, just how far adrift they were in the conference standings when the competition began. Just as significantly, Dwayne de Rosario has started in all three games the team has played so far, and after his hat trick heroics against Philadelphia in the fourth round, he got the winner again in the quarter finals – converting a rare set piece goal for DC by looping a header over Matt Reis with 20 minutes to go.
New England had fielded a decent team too, but with Kelyn Rowe, Lee Nguyen and Juan Agudelo on the bench some of their more potent attacking threats did not start the game, and a lot was asked of Imbongo's hold-up play up front. Despite that, the Revs shaded parts of the first half as DC struggled to retain possession, but fell behind just before half time when Chris Pontius hooked a low shot on off the right post from the edge of the box.
New England came out sharply in the second half and tied the game from a fierce Toja free kick, but fell behind again to DeRo's goal. Agudelo was thrown on for the last quart of an hour to try and change things, but despite looking lively the closest he could get to goal was a turn and shot that rebounded off the inside of the post with Willis beaten. In virtually the next move, DC went to the other end, Pajoy cut inside from the right and was fouled, and when he scored the resulting penalty the game was effectively over.
Afterwards Ben Olsen was quietly pleased with the level of belief that is returning to his team, as well as the return to fitness and form of several key players:
"Things are moving in the right direction. And these guys deserve a little bit of joy right now. It's been a tough grind ... the spirit is good ... Dwayne looks like he's back in form and that's a big deal for us. Certainly in this Open Cup he's been as good as anybody, and he put the team on his back there once they scored, and I think he kind of willed us to getting that extra goal and then Pajoy makes that good play at the end."
DC now move on to a difficult road game against Chicago Fire, the original MLS Open Cup specialists. Despite the margin of their 5-1 scoreline against Orlando City though, the Fire were grateful to goalkeeper Sean Johnson for keeping them in the game with the scores tied 1-1 early in the second half. But ultimately a nine man Orlando limped out of the cup as Chicago proved too much for them. Chicago now host an all-Eastern conference semi-final as they aim for their fifth Open Cup title.
The other half of the draw sees two unfamiliar faces at this stage of the trophy. The second semi-final will be hosted by Real Salt Lake who cruised past Carolina Railhawks 3-0, with goals from Beltran, Wingert and Saborio. The Railhawks had previously dumped both Los Angeles sides out of the competition but gave little sign of repeating that feat as RSL moved on to their first ever Open Cup semi. The so-called "transitional" year currently has the team not only breaking new ground in this competition but currently topping the MLS standings. They've won their last six games and look like the team to beat.
Not that Portland Timbers fear anyone on their current form. The Timbers beat Dallas in the league thanks to a Darlington Nagbe wonder goal just days ago, and Dallas must be sick of the sight of him. In a two minute second half spell, Nagbe stood the game on its head by first leveling JeVaughn Watson's 15th minute opener, then sending a through ball for Valeri to put the visitors ahead. Frederic Piquionne got a third, and despite Perez pulling one back late on and David Ferreira hitting the woodwork with the final kick of the game, there was to be no repeat of the Dallas league comeback against Sporting KC last week. Portland had the double satisfaction of denting a Western Conference rival's confidence at home (their form at home has been the cornerstone of the FC Dallas campaign this season and this was their first defeat), and also getting their first win in Texas. The Timbers and captain Will Johnson, returning to his former club, now need a win in Utah to advance to the final of the Open Cup.
Quarter Final results
DC United 3-1 New England Revolution
Chicago Fire 5-1 Orlando City
FC Dallas 2-3 Portland Timbers
Real Salt Lake 3-0 Carolina Railhawks
Chicago Fire vs DC United
Real Salt Lake vs Portland Timbers
Games to be played August 7