United moves closer to Open Cup return

By Charles Boehm / MLSnet.comWASHINGTON -- D.C. United took the first step towards defending their U.S. Open Cup title on Wednesday night, serenely dispatching FC Dallas 2-0 in a play-in match at chilly RFK Stadium. Fred and Brandon Barklage scored quality goals on either side of halftime as United enjoyed the majority of possession while their Western Conference counterparts struggled to apply meaningful attacking pressure.Both teams sprinkled a number of reserves into their starting lineups, though United coach Tom Soehn was arguably more adventurous than his counterpart Schellas Hyndman, handing Barklage, Milos Kocic, Boyzzz Khumalo, Andrew Jacobson and Santino Quaranta their first starts of the season.With an eye on his team's impending trip west to take on Chivas USA in California this weekend, Hyndman rested regular starters such as Kenny Cooper, David Ferreira and Dario Sala. But the second-year boss was forced to make a very early adjustment when defender George John limped off barely eight minutes into the affair, to be replaced by Aaron Pitchkolan.Jacobson tried his luck from distance seconds after the change, taking advantage of hesitation in the Dallas back line to uncork a dipping blast that fizzed inches wide of the far post and thumped loudly off the advertising boards.Chris Pontius, Santino Quaranta and Fred were combining to good effect along United's left side and one such move set Fred loose behind the FCD defense just moments later. But with only Burse to beat, the Brazilian tried to place his shot in the far upper corner and missed badly as the ball ballooned high and wide.In the 16th minute, Daniel Torres chopped Khumalo down with a bruising challenge just outside the Hoops penalty area, and D.C. left back Marc Burch used the resulting set piece to sting Burse's hands with a scorching drive that lacked only for placement.But United's constant pressure eventually paid off in the 21st minute as Pontius and Quaranta linked up to set the table for Fred. The Brazilian ghosted in behind Maryland product Michael Dello-Russo, took Pontius' angled pass and advanced on Burse before poking a short-range finish inside the left-hand post for a 1-0 D.C. lead.However, as the half wore on FCD began to haul themselves back into the match, keyed by the passing and possession of captain Pablo Ricchetti in the center of the park. The veteran Argentinean probed United's defense with a number of perceptive through balls and caught the D.C. back line static on several occasions, forcing Bryan Namoff and Greg Janicki to make last-ditch interventions in their own box.Less than two minutes before the break, Barklage whipped a glorious right-wing cross right to a wide-open Quaranta deep in the Hoops box. But the Baltimore native failed to convert the chance, clipping his first-time volley right at Burse.The hosts might have felt that they deserved more for their superiority in the first 45 minutes, and they opened the second stanza as if they planned to cash in immediately, as first Jacobson, then Barklage hammered long-range efforts just wide of the target.Pontius, another D.C. rookie, has been one of the revelations of the young season thus far and his guile won a promising free kick in the 58th minute. Burch stepped up to direct another scorcher on target and once again Burse made an important save, moving to his left to tip the effort wide. But the FCD 'keeper outdid himself on the ensuing corner kick, producing an excellent goal-line block of Khumalo's sharp downward header.The visitors had little choice but to venture forward more aggressively as time ticked away, and United summarily punished them with a timely counterattack in the 66th minute.Quaranta raced down the left channel to corral a long ball out of the back and bore down on Pitchkolan and Dello-Russo before laying an inviting cutback into space ahead of Barklage. The rookie from St. Louis had made a lung-bursting run just to get into the play, but he kept his composure and beat Burse with a classy finish from 20 yards, doubling D.C.'s advantage.Hyndman soon threw Cooper into the fray in place of Jeff Cunningham and the big striker quickly tested Kocic with a long-distance free kick, but the Serbian netminder gobbled up his low drive cleanly.Three minutes from full time, FC Dallas was handed a welcome bit of fortune -- literally -- when referee Jeff Gontarek spotted Greg Janicki's handball in the D.C. box. But FCD gave the opportunity right back as Cooper smacked his spot kick off the base of the left post, then trapped the rebound himself -- drawing a quick whistle from Gontarek for touching the set piece twice in succession.FC Dallas (1-4-1) vs. D.C. United (2-1-3) April 22, 2009 -- RFK Stadium Scoring Summary: DC -- Fred 1 (Chris Pontius 1) 21DC -- Brandon Barklage 1 (Santino Quaranta ) 66FC Dallas -- Ray Burse, Michael Dello-Russo, George John (Aaron Pitchkolan 8), Drew Moor, Daniel Torres, Pablo Ricchetti, Alvaro Sanchez (Bruno Guarda 90), Eric Avila, Dave van den Bergh (David Ferreira 73), Jeff Cunningham (Kenny Cooper 71), Peri Marosevic.Substitutes Not Used: Dax McCarty, Dario Sala, Blake WagnerD.C. United -- Milos Kocic, Bryan Namoff (Dejan Jakovic 62), Greg Janicki, Marc Burch, Thabiso Khumalo, Brandon Barklage, Andrew Jacobson, Devon McTavish, Fred (Rodney Wallace 61), Chris Pontius (Jaime Moreno 73), Santino Quaranta (Anthony Peters 82).Substitutes Not Used: John DiRaimondo, Luciano Emilio, Josh WicksReferee: Jeff GontarekReferee's Assistants: Jason Cullum; Matthew Kreitzer4th official: Terrence AndrewsTime of game: 1:49Attendance: 5,163Weather: Cloudy -and- 55 degrees