Let's all take a deep breath, shall we? I know I need one (or several).
D.C. United are champions again.
Tonight, United fought a very scrappy and resilient Charleston Battery side to capture the second U.S. Open Cup in club history. The win marks the tenth domestic trophy - and twelfth major title overall - since the team's inception in 1996. Both are records in U.S. professional soccer history.
From the very beginning, Kevin Payne has emphasized the two things that United is built on - winning championships and serving the community. The club's commitment to the community is widespread and ongoing, while tonight the team renewed the first part of that resolution with a gritty performance.
Tonight's win is not solely another piece of hardware for the trophy case. The team also gains an automatic berth into the 2009-2010 edition of CONCACAF Champions League. At United, we always stress the importance of playing in international competition, in testing ourselves against the best our hempisphere has to offer. We'll have the opportunity to do that again this fall in the inaugural Champions League tournament and, tonight, we assured ourselves the opportunity to do so again next year.
The work for this season is not yet done. Not by a long shot. Though the team was excited and happy to earn the title of U.S. Open Cup champions tonight, many in the locker room spoke of using this as a springboard - as motivation - for the rest of the MLS season and beginning of Champions League play. The hard reality of the busy schedule will hit home when the team boards a plane tomorrow for several hours of travel to San Jose. With 14 games over the next 55 days - one game every four days - the team faces a very difficult challenge.
But, with one trophy already in hand, it's sure to be a fun journey.
(Thanks to Matt Mathai for the photos)