A quick glance at the Eastern Conference standings leading up to the U.S. Open Cup Semifinal match-up between D.C. United and the Columbus Crew seems to show that United doesn’t have much of a chance to make it to the final. Fortunately for the Black-and-Red, the MLS regular season is completely unrelated to the Open Cup. Here are five other reasons why United has can be hopeful entering the U.S. Open Cup semifinal.
- Total Commitment: In the history of MLS, I can’t remember any team resting players in a League match in order to stay fresh for the U.S. Open Cup, but that’s what happened this past weekend for D.C. United. MLS Cup is the crown jewel of MLS. As such, teams often have that trophy as their main goal. The U.S. Open Cup is not simply an afterthought, but it is less important than MLS Cup. As hopes fade for a playoff spot and a chance to lift the MLS Cup in 2010, United is totally focused on the U.S. Open Cup trophy.
- Andy Najar: D.C. United’s talented 17-year old has done a lot of great things on the field for United this season, but perhaps he has been even more special in the club’s Open Cup run, especially at RFK. Andy scored his first goal as a pro in the first play-in game against FC Dallas. Then in the next play-in match against Real Salt Lake, Najar scored his most beautiful and significant goal with his dazzling skills and smooth finish in overtime to send D.C. into the Round of Sixteen.
- Chris Pontius: It’s been a bad year for Chris Pontius. He has been injured off and on, and, when he’s been on the field, he has not been as dynamic as he was last year as a rookie. Pontius did score two goals to help D.C. earn the win in Seattle and he also scored against AC Milan. Pontius is going to be a star in MLS and, in the midst of the difficult season, he can make the most of the opportunity to help his team into a tournament final.
- Bill Hamid: D.C. United’s first Academy signing will be fighting for his first appearance in a championship match. Bill is young and talented, and has big plans as a major goalkeeping force in America. Very early in his career (less than one year after officially becoming a pro), he now has a chance to start building his resume by leading his team to the U.S. Open Cup final. Hamid will be ready for the challenge.
- Coaching Carousel: I’m not sure exactly what an interim coach is. Interim basically means temporary, but since all coaches are temporary the phrase doesn’t make much sense. In other strange information about coaches, D.C. United has a chance to win the U.S. Open Cup while being guided by three different coaches. Kris Kelderman was the acting coach during Curt Onalfo’s suspension in the Round of Sixteen, Curt Onalfo was back at the helm for the Quarterfinals, and now Ben Olsen in the man in charge for the Semifinal. If D.C. United wins this tournament, whether Ben Olsen is hired as the head coach next year or not, he can add another trophy to the case in RFK as a coach, to go along with all the ones he helped earn as a player.