D.C. United loses to Columbus Crew in overtime of U.S. Open Cup semifinal

Danny Allsopp of D.C. United is surrounded by Columbus players in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post}
Danny Allsopp of D.C. United is surrounded by Columbus players in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post} (The Washington Post)
By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 2, 2010; 12:06 AM

For a couple of hours Wednesday, D.C. United was able to set aside its horrendous regular season, banish the thought of missing the MLS playoffs for the third straight year and forget about setting league records for scoring futility.

For one night, the campaign had meaning again.

But just when it seemed the U.S. Open Cup would provide salvation, United's hopes were crushed. The Columbus Crew scored the equalizer in the 89th minute, then went ahead on Guillermo Barros Schelotto's penalty kick in overtime for a 2-1 semifinal victory before just 3,411 at RFK Stadium.

Columbus will play the Seattle Sounders, 3-1 winners over Chivas USA on Wednesday night, in next month's final of a 96-year-old tournament involving teams from all levels of American soccer.

United took the lead in the 13th minute on Pablo Hernandez's penalty kick and, despite playing shorthanded after Hernandez's ejection early in the second half, maintained the edge until the late moments when Andy Iro slammed an eight-yard shot off defender Marc Burch's leg.

Schelotto broke the tie eight minutes into extra time after Carey Talley tripped Steven Lenhart in the box. United's Dejan Jakovic should've retied it in the 105th minute, but from six yards, failed to convert Andy Najar's cross.

"We had it, but in the end, you've got to finish it out," interim coach Ben Olsen said. "I just wish we would reward ourselves for some of the good work we did."

The good work began early when Hernandez scored his first goal since joining the club six weeks ago. He had been upended by Iro after collecting a poor clearance by Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum.

The match continued to unfold nicely for United. Early in the second half, Najar's one-timer from 16 yards glanced off a defender and struck the left post.

But in the 59th minute, Hernandez was red-carded under suspect circumstances. With the Argentine attempting to take possession at midfield, Chad Marshall knocked into him from behind. As Hernandez fell, Danny O'Rourke crashed into him. Hernandez lashed out with his legs, making light contact.

O'Rourke stood menacingly over Hernandez and shouted at him. Almost face to face, the United forward swept his arm in front of O'Rourke. After conferring with the fourth official, referee Chris Penso cautioned O'Rourke and sent off Hernandez.

"He kicked me in the stomach and I sort of reacted but I didn't hit him," Hernandez said through an interpreter. "I thought the [red] card would've been for him. I was surprised."

Penso was also in charge of United's Open Cup qualifier against FC Dallas in April, ejecting then-Coach Curt Onalfo for dissent.

Bill Hamid preserved the lead in the 72nd minute, coming off his line to block Eddie Gaven's bid. While United began to bend under pressure, Najar was a one-man counterattack and threatened several times.

With victory moments away, United failed to clear a high ball into the box. Iro held off Jakovic before tagging a shot that deflected past Hamid. It was ruled an own goal on Burch, even though the ball was bound for the net.

Najar nearly answered for United, but with Guenebaum charging, he touched the ball beyond the far post.

The Open Cup "was a big part of the rest of the season, but that's not the case now and we will move on," said Olsen, whose team has a league-worst 4-15-3 mark. "There's a lot to play for. We still need to get up in the standings. I don't want to be in last place."

© 2010 The Washington Post Company