D.C. United's Reign at U.S. Open Cup Champions Comes to an End

Midfielder Chris Pontius rises to the occasion, beating Seattle's Leonardo Gonzalez to the ball during D.C. United's U.S. Open Cup loss at RFK Stadium.
Midfielder Chris Pontius rises to the occasion, beating Seattle's Leonardo Gonzalez to the ball during D.C. United's U.S. Open Cup loss at RFK Stadium. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
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By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 3, 2009

D.C. United took immense pride in winning the U.S. Open Cup last year, and although the title didn't have the stature of an MLS championship or international prosperity, it was another shiny prize in the trophy case.

But United's reign as champion of the 95-year-old tournament came to an end Wednesday night when the expansion Seattle Sounders scored twice in the second half, took advantage of more strange behavior by D.C. goalkeeper Josh Wicks, and claimed a 2-1 victory before 17,329 at RFK Stadium.

Fredy Montero scored in the 67th minute and reserve Roger Levesque added the second goal before Clyde Simms struck for United in the 89th minute. Seattle earned a $100,000 prize and a likely invitation to the CONCACAF Champions League next year.

United was short-handed the final 20-plus minutes after Wicks was red-carded for stepping on Montero's midsection following Seattle's first goal. Wicks was otherwise brilliant, repelling numerous quality scoring opportunities.

"I made a mistake," he said, "and it cost our team a player and cost us a game eventually."

He declined to elaborate on the incident or what he said to referee Alex Prus during a drawn-out and animated protest. Wicks also had words with fourth official Andrew Chapin on the sideline as he left the field.

It was the second emotional outburst by Wicks in five days. On Saturday, in the final minutes of a 1-0 league victory at Chicago, he launched a tirade against teammate Marc Burch for an apparent missed assignment, sparking a brief confrontation between the players while United was preparing to defend a corner kick.

"Josh kept us in there and Josh makes a mistake that cost us in the end," United Coach Tom Soehn said. "He has to be smarter than that."

With United's supporters in full verse, several dozen green-clad Seattle fans in the upper deck and the lower bowl buzzing, the clubs played with the emotion and commitment commonly absent at this late stage of a long season. The build-up to the game was intensified by the Sounders' complaints that RFK was named the venue instead of Qwest Field and by United's response to Seattle's grumbling.

With a big-game backdrop in place, the clubs attacked with fervor. The Sounders were more menacing, though, and if not for Wicks's gems and Seattle's unimaginative bids within the keeper's reach, the visitors would have led by multiple goals at halftime.

"We had a fairly easy run to this point and we came upon a good opponent," midfielder Ben Olsen said of United's bracket, which included three games against lower-division opponents. "We were under the gun a lot" on Wednesday.

Compounding United's problems was the ineffectiveness of playmaker Christian Gómez, forwards Jaime Moreno and Luciano Emilio and midfielder Fred, who was removed at halftime. The veteran quartet never seemed in rhythm against a Seattle team missing starting center defenders Tyrone Marshall (injury) and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (suspension).

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