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USOC preview: Winless D.C., FCD can finally taste victory

Familiar old Open Cup adversaries renew their rivalry at RFK

The basics

D.C. United vs. FC Dallas in a U.S. Open Cup play-in game, Wednesday at RFK Stadium, 7:30 p.m. ET, streamed live at dcunited.com.

What's at stake?

The winner of the U.S. Open Cup, the nation’s oldest tournament, earns some historic hardware and a berth in the following season’s CONCACAF Champions League competition. But for Major League Soccer’s only winless clubs, the simple joy of a victory would bring priceless relief at this stage of the season, regardless of the situation. A deep USOC run usually offers valuable playing time for reserves and youngsters as well.

Last meeting

Dallas and D.C. last met in a league match at Pizza Hut Park last Sept. 5, where Santino Quaranta drew a controversial late penalty kick to earn United a 2-2 drew, a result that left both playoff-chasing teams unsatisfied. They also faced off in an Open Cup play-in game at RFK a year ago and a 2-0 win that night was the first step in United's run to a second consecutive cup final, which they lost 2-1 to Seattle on home turf.

Remember when?

These teams met in the 1997 Open Cup final in Indianapolis, which saw the then-Dallas Burn upset United in a penalty-kick shootout to win the most significant trophy in the Texas club’s history. Five years ago, they played out another nail-biter in a USOC quarterfinal showdown in the intimate confines of the Maryland Soccerplex an hour outside Washington. D.C. came from behind to tie the match 1-1 in the second half but spurned countless opportunities to secure the win, allowing FCD to sneak away with a hard-fought 4-1 PK shootout victory at the end of a long night.

Heroes & villains

Jeff Cunningham vs. United's patchwork defense: D.C. is enduring a litany of back-line injuries -- Julius James is the latest casualty, with a groin problem -- and the pacey Hoops hitman could run riot as a result.

Dax McCarty vs. Curt Morsink: Diminutive but relentless, both men cover acres of ground in the center of the park and help set the tempo for their respective squads. Whoever enjoys more of the ball on Wednesday will have the inside track on controlling the midfield.

Stat that makes you go “Hmm…”

9-1: United's record in U.S. Open Cup home matches over the past two years. It's also the club's overall record in USOC competition during the same stretch, since D.C. hasn't played an away game in the tourney since 2007. United bid aggressively for hosting rights in recent seasons because of their international commitments in CONCACAF.

He said it

“The chemistry will only get more and more tested the less successful we are. If we don’t win, people start pointing fingers. You start to question all these things, but if you win the game, you forget all that crap and you move on." -- FCD coach Schellas Hyndman tells it like it is regarding his team's search for the first win of 2010.