D.C. United’s season has been one to forget, but there’s still an opportunity for a silver lining. Make that a silverware lining.
Despite D.C.’s historic struggles in MLS league play, the club managed to reach the final of the 100th edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and plays at Real Salt Lake tonight.
In addition to a $250,000 cash prize, the winner of the Open Cup seals a place in the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League, the region’s most prestigious club competition. For D.C. United, it would provide a redeeming quality to an otherwise forgettable 2013.
Here is a primer on this year’s Open Cup final:
With the ongoing regular season meaning nothing to the team at this point, D.C. coach Ben Olsen rested his starters over the weekend and opted for a reserve-laden side that got trounced 4-1 in Toronto. RSL coach Jason Kries gambled and also held his regular starters out and managed to get an important win in Vancouver. Both teams will put their A squads out today.
Vying for A Third Title
D.C. is playing in its fifth Open Cup final in club history. United beat lower-tier opponents Rochester and Charleston in 1996 and 2008, respectively, and lost to MLS foes Dallas and Seattle in 1997 and 2009. Real Salt Lake, which won the 2009 MLS Cup, has never played in an Open Cup final.
Reason for Optimism?
Real Salt Lake is vying for the Supporters’ Shield — awarded for the most points in MLS — and is a serious contender for MLS Cup. D.C. is trying to avoid setting league marks for team futility across the board. So why should D.C. be confident going into hostile territory? In their one meeting this season, on March 9, D.C. topped RSL 1-0 at RFK Stadium on a goal from Lionard Pajoy. The win is one of just three D.C. has in league play this season.