US Open Cup: DC United going full bore into semifinal as one chance to salvage dismal season

WASHINGTON – In two prior visits to Toyota Park this season to play the Chicago Fire, D.C. United have been outscored, 6-1. The most recent, an embarrassing 4-1 result on July 20 that still irks United’s players. Ben Olsen’s club also hasn’t won a game on the road this season.

Yet the task facing them in arguably their biggest game of the year to this point – a semifinal matchup in the US Open Cup on Wednesday (8:30 pm ET, streamed live on Chicago-Fire.com) with a chance to advance to the championship match – will not only be to beat Chicago, but to do so on the road at Toyota Park.

“Despite how our season’s gone, if we can come out of here and hold that [Open Cup] trophy, we can walk out and say, ‘At least we accomplished something this year,’” said United captain Dwayne De Rosario.

De Rosario has been especially effective for United during this Open Cup, netting a hat trick in a win against Philadelphia and the game-winner against New England. He started up top with Luis Silva in United’s 3-1 victory against Montreal on Saturday, a pairing that seemed to work well. Olsen also said following Tuesday’s training that Chris Pontius is traveling with the team after missing three straight matches and could provide an extra boost to the attack.

“He knows the game, he understands the game and plays the game with a rhythm similar to how I play,” De Rosario said of Silva, who’s scored three goals in three matches with D.C. “The more we play together, the more I think that synergy will grow.”

As Olsen announced following the victory against Montreal, Joe Willis is expected to start in goal Wednesday for United. Willis also started the July match when D.C. conceded four goals.

“Obviously, I personally made a lot of mental mistakes [in that match]. As a team, we got bullied around,” Willis said. “We’re using it as motivation. Last time we were there, they kicked our ass. I’m still pissed about it. I know 99-100 percent of the locker room is still pretty pissed about it. So revenge might not be the right word, but we’re looking to make up for what happened last time.”

Olsen said as a player he was never in a situation where an Open Cup meant so much to a club. Coming off D.C.’s biggest league win of the season, there’s likely no better time for United to find some success in a season that’s had its fair share of disappointments.

“We look at the Open Cup as an opportunity to get some W’s and to get some happiness back in our lives,” Willis said. “And this team has played unbelievably well in the Open Cup.”

Said Olsen: “To us right now, this is our one chance to get that trophy.”