There was hardly anything easy about D.C. United’s thirdround Open Cup victory over the Richmond Kickers on Tuesday night. The hosts defended valiantly for mostof the affair’s 120 minutes as extra time was needed to separate the tworegional foes. After the match,head coach Ben Olsen called the affair a ‘gut check’ and seemed more relievedthan exulted as he boarded a bus bound for Washington.
Though the difficulty of the Black-and-Red’s triumph wasn’tideal, the player who ensured D.C.’s advancement was a fitting hero for such anight. Midfielder Marcelo Saragosafound himself on the receiving end of Branko Boskovic’s corner in the 107thminute and showed expert cool in beating Richmond goalie Ronnie Pascale fromjust a few yards out. After thegoal he jumped straight into fellow countryman Maicon Santos’ open arms,providing a rare moment of joy in what has been an incredibly trying season forthe Brazilian.“[It has been] a tough year because my dad just passedaway,” an emotional Saragosa said after the match. “The last two months I was in Brazil. I’m just happy to score and get achance to help us [advance] to the next level.”
Things seemed to be going just right for Saragosa in thedays prior to United’s mid-April road victory over New England. After returning to Brazil earlier inthe year to tend to his ailing father, the 30-year-old felt comfortable enoughto get back to work. He did sowith a vengeance and was penciled in as a starter against the Revs, only toreceive the devastating news of his father’s passing that Friday night.
As Saragosa hastily made his way back to Brazil, theBlack-and-Red mourned his loss. Inthe aftermath of that come from behind win at Gillette Stadium, D.C.’splayers – to a man – talked abouttheir teammate’s grief.
On Tuesday night, they gladly shared in his joy.
“It’s amazing,” said goalkeeper Joe Willis. “He’s beenthrough a lot, had a pretty tough year. He is an amazing guy, a positive guy, and it’s infectious. He brings that into the locker room andhe puts a smile on everyone’s face.”
“We are all happy for him,” added midfielder StephenKing. “Marcelo is one of thoseguys that comes in every day and works hard. Maybe he is under-appreciated around the league, [but] weknow his value and we love having him as one of our teammates.”