For a change, a U.S. Open Cup matchday isn’t wedged between MLS regular season games. Accordingly, D.C. United and the Philadelphia Union have no reason to hold back when they meet in a round-of-16 affair Tuesday night at Maryland SoccerPlex.
“Both teams will play as good of a lineup as they think they have,” United Coach Ben Olsen said after Monday’s training session. “That’s exciting. It’s exciting for the people who come out and watch in Germantown, where they are right on top of you.”
Commenting on the tournament in general, Olsen added: “It’s always wild. The Open Cup is a trip. The refereeing is never great. I’m excited. It’s a chance for us to get a trophy, it’s a chance for the guys to make some [bonus] money and there’s a CONCACAF [Champions League] berth at the end of this — and that’s something I want to be a part of and this organization wants to be a part of.”
Some coaches like to designate a goalkeeper for non-league matches. Olsen started Joe Willis in the victory at Richmond last week, but with a long gap between regular season games, Bill Hamid seems likely to start against the Union.
Hamid hasn’t played competitively since May 26 and United doesn’t return to MLS action until June 16 at Philadelphia. Asked whether he’s committed to Willis for the Open Cup, Olsen declined to answer.
United finished training Monday by practicing penalty kicks (they struck a few crossbars/posts) -- the deciding factor if the clubs are level through 120 minutes. “Hopefully it doesn’t come down to that, hopefully we can do the job before that, but we’re capable,” Olsen said. Last year, in an Open Cup qualifier against the Union at SoccerPlex, Hamid made a critical save during the 4-2 shootout victory.
*Chris Pontius (strained gluteal muscle) is close to returning but needs to regain match fitness. He hasn’t played since May 12 and probably won’t appear Tuesday. Danny Cruz has made steady progress in rehabbing a hamstring injury but requires more time.
“I don’t know about tomorrow but definitely on Saturday in our reserve game [at home against Toronto FC], so I can be ready for next weekend,” Pontius said.
*Third-choice keeper Andrew Dykstra has returned to Washington after a third loan stint with the third-division Charleston Battery.
*Tickets are available at the SoccerPlex for $20 (cash only!). Parking is free. The beer garden is not free. Technical limitations prevent live streaming video and audio from the complex, club officials said. United will post a video highlight package late Tuesday night/early Wednesday on its Web site.
*By defeating Philadelphia, United would host the New York Red Bulls or third-tier Harrisburg City Islanders in a June 26 quarterfinal at RFK Stadium. For season ticket holders, that would mean using your No. 2 special game ticket. (The Juventus friendly July 28 is No. 1.) United is also trying to arrange a home friendly against a Mexican club during the FIFA fixture window in early October.
*United will wear its third kit Tuesday.
*Catching up on a recent trialist: Former New England forward Kenny Mansally, who trained with United for a week, was not offered a contract.