D.C. United give Kickers the boot
Despite a second-half scare, D.C. United reversed their upset of a year ago, overcoming the Richmond Kickers of the USL First Division to advance to the quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with a 3-1 victory Wednesday night at University of Richmond Stadium.
After Richmond's McColm Cephas hit a stunning response to Freddy Adu's first-half tally, two late goals from Christian Gomez saved D.C.'s blushes as they escaped with the victory, gaining a measure of revenge for their 2-1 upset by Richmond at the same stage of last year's competition.
The match began with plenty of emotion and aggression, as the fired-up Kickers looked eager to repeat their surprise of a year ago. Referee Abbey Okulaja gave out two yellow cards in the early going, cautioning Richmond's Tim Brown and D.C.'s Josh Gros in the fourth and seventh minutes respectively.
Equally determined to revisit 2004's embarrassing loss, United came out with an essentially full-strength lineup that featured Adu in his favored attacking midfield spot, and the young phenom was active from the start. He marshaled United's possession dominance and came close to scoring in the 16th minute, when he glided past two defenders and unleashed a long-range effort that flew just wide.
Adu's sharpness finally paid dividends in the 26th minute, when he took a pass from Snatino Quaranta and struck another shot from distance that flew past Kickers netminder Ronnie Pascale to break the deadlock.
Richmond finally carved open the D.C. back line in first-half injury time, giving lively striker Chris Carrieri a clear look at the goal from the top of the penalty box, but his low shot was parried away by a sprawling Troy Perkins, deputizing for Nick Rimando for the night.
Ten minutes into the second half, a long spell of United possession in the Kickers end led to a foul on Olsen just outside the box, and a low-level fracas, Adu finally stepped up to the set piece. The teenager curled a beautiful shot over the wall that was bound for the top corner, only to be denied by an excellent leaping save by Pascale.
Six minutes later, a teasing cross from substitute Robert Ssejjemba dropped invitingly for Kickers dangerman Cephas, who leaped high and powered a downward header that bounded just wide of Perkins' left post.
Mike Burke created more danger inside the United box in the 66th minute when his quick feet allowed him to jink past several defenders and slap a quick angled shot that Perkins saw late, but the netminder was well-placed and took the effort in his gut.
United were on their heels now, but they failed to heed the warnings and paid the price in the 70th minute. Cephas cut in from the left channel and cracked an effort that arrowed into the far corner, leveling the score at 1-1 and rousing the buzzing crowd of 8,412.
The equalizer revived the spirits of both the home team and their fans, and seconds later Brown blasted a long shot headed for the same upper corner that Cephas hit, but Perkins threw himself to his left to palm the shot over the bar.
Controversy erupted in the 75th minute as the embattled visitors were tossed a lifeline by referee Okulaja. Dema Kovalenko took a pass from Adu on the left side of the Richmond box and cut inside onto his right foot, but Kickers defender Tony Williams left his leg out too long, tripping Kovalenko just inches inside the penalty box.
Okulaja quickly pointed to the spot, and Gomez, who had come on for Jaime Moreno at halftime, drove a clinical finish into the left side netting to restore his team's lead. The Argentinean pumped his fists in celebration as boos cascaded down from the Richmond faithful, who felt robbed by the call.
Now the momentum which had deserted United just moments before was swinging back the other way, and Adu and Gomez conspired to deliver the death blow in the 81st minute. Adu carried the ball down the left side and sent in an endline cross that just missed the near-post run of Simms, but bounced through the goal box to a late-arriving Gomez.
The Argentinian midfielder was focused on keeping his shot low, chopping his volley into the turf, but it was well-aimed and bounded back across goal and into the side netting past a despondent Pascale.
The Kickers desperately fought for a late goal to reduce the deficit -- and saw Burke sent off -- but United survived to earn a place in the quarterfinals on Aug. 24, when they will face FC Dallas at the Maryland Soccerplex in Germantown, Md. FC Dallas defeated the Columbus Crew 3-1 in extra time on Wednesday night.
Charles Boehm is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round
D.C. United 4, Richmond Kickers 1
August 3, 2005 - Univ. of Richmond Stadium, Richmond, Va.
DCU -- Freddy Adu (unassisted) 26
RIC -- McColm Cephas (unassisted) 68
DCU -- Christian Gomez (penalty kick) 76
DCU -- Christian Gomez (Freddy Adu) 81
Kickers: Ronnie Pascale - Chris Fox (Matt Bobo 82), Kevin Knight, Tony Williams, Peter Luzak, Richie Williams, Tim Brown, Chris Carrieri (Kevin Jeffrey 45), Sascha Gorres (Robert Ssejjemba 45), Mike Burke, Matthew Delicate (McColm Cephas 45)
SHOTS: 7; SAVES: 5; FOULS: 13; CORNERS: 3
United: Troy Perkins - Brandon Prideaux, John Wilson, Bobby Boswell (Bryan Namoff 45), Freddy Adu, Brian Carroll (Ben Olsen 45), Josh Gros, Clyde Simms, Dema Kuvalenko (Shawn Kuykendall 76), Santino Quaranta, Jaime Moreno (Christian Gomez 45)
SHOTS: 11; SAVES: 3; FOULS: 8; CORNERS: 6
RIC -- Tim Brown (caution) 4
DCU -- Josh Gros (caution) 7
RIC -- Chris Fox (caution) 78
DCU -- Shawn Kuykendall (caution) 83
DCU -- Ben Olsen (caution) 84
RIC -- Michael Burke (ejection) 87
Referee: Abiodun Okulaja
Assistant Referees: Scott Johnson, Daniel Stead
Fourth Official: Ben Jones
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