team huddle at richmond

United digs in, earn Open Cup victory

At the conclusion of D.C. United’s victory against their USL Pro affiliate side, the Richmond Kickers, in Tuesday night’s third-round U.S. Open Cup action, United coach Ben Olsen looked on the bright side of things for his scuffling club. “The good thing is we scored some goals tonight, right?” Olsen said jokingly. “We scored some goals. Baby steps.”

After the Kickers and visiting United played 120 minutes of scoreless soccer, the match essentially turned into the end of a D.C. training session with the club’s second- and third-string goalkeepers saving penalty attempts.

Ultimately, United ’keeper Joe Willis got the better of Andrew Dykstra, who’s on loan to the Kickers, making two saves to help D.C. advance to the fourth round of the Open Cup with a 4-2 victory in PKs.

“We walked past each other and I tried to look at him, but he was all serious and kept his head down,” said Willis of his interaction with Dykstra during penalties. “As it was going on, I wanted to talk a little smack, but he kept walking with his head down, so I didn’t say anything.”

Willis credited United goalkeepers coach Preston Burpo for providing him a scouting report on the Kickers’ penalty kick tendencies before the match.

“Whether it’s the league or this tournament, we want to win every game and we want to compete at the highest level,” Willis said. “Obviously, we haven’t had a win in a long time, so it does feel nice. Hopefully this feeling of winning will come back to us and motivate us for the future.”

The victory is the club’s first since March 9, as United are last in MLS with five points in 12 matches (1-9-2). D.C. lost to Portland, 2-0, on Saturday.

“Credit the guys for digging in,” Olsen said. “There were a lot of heavy legs with two days rest and playing 120 minutes. I was looking forward not to having that because of the leg situation for the [coming] weekend. But this tournament means a lot to us right now, especially with the situation we’re in in the league.”

Olsen showed as much by sending a first-choice starting XI to the field, including captain Dwayne De Rosario – who was benched by Olsen against Portland. Aside from Conor Shanosky, every other United player in Olsen’s lineup had started an MLS game for D.C. this season.

“It’s a typical early game in the Open Cup. A lot of the ball, heavy legs. Trying to break down a team that’s pretty organized and committed and playing with a lot of heart is never easy,” Olsen said.

United will next visit Chicago on Sunday (5 pm ET) before playing host to Philadelphia in the fourth round of the Open Cup on June 12 at the Maryland Soccerplex. For tickets, please call 202-587-5000.