WASHINGTON – Facing their nearest MLS rival for the second straight year in the US Open Cup, D.C. United probably didn't need to be motivated ahead of their fourth-round matchup with the Philadelphia Union on Tuesday (7:30 pm ET). On Monday, head coach Ben Olsen reminded his side of the sporting and monetary value of winning such a game anyway.
“It’s a chance for us to get a trophy back to D.C. United,” Olsen told reporters on Monday. “It’s a chance for the guys to make some money. A lot of these guys don’t get paid that much, so it’s important for them to try to get a little bonus money. And there’s a CONCACAF [Champions League] berth at the end of this, and that’s something I want to be a part of and this organization wants to be a part of.”
That Champions League berth is something that the club has been itching to earn ever since they were bounced out in the group stages in 2009. After qualifying by winning the 2008 US Open Cup against the Charleston Battery, United earned 10 points in their group, which is typically enough to advance. But with Toluca and Marathón gaining 13 and 12 points respectively, United were shown the door early.
With the strength of the team this year, United might have their best chance of returning to the competition, and the Open Cup is just one avenue to accomplish that goal.
“[The Champions League berth] is huge,” Olsen emphasized. “It’s changed everything in this tournament. You are four or five games away from playing in [the CCL], and this organization has always loved being part of that competition. We’ve done well in it.”
After fielding a team last week against the Richmond Kickers that was a mixture of starters, players needing some game time and players returning from injury, Olsen hinted that a near first-team lineup might be his choice against the Union, who United knocked out of the cup last year.
“Both teams will play as good of a lineup as they think they have,” Olsen said. “That’s exciting. ”
United were forced to put in an extra shift last Tuesday night in Richmond on a night filled with Open Cup upsets. The format of the cup, combined with its history, lends itself to some exciting moments. And with the challenge that the Union will present on Tuesday night at the Maryland SoccerPlex, Olsen is looking forward to the seeing what the game holds.
“There are some wild games in the Open Cup," Olsen said. "It doesn’t matter if you are in Germantown, Richmond, Harrisburg or some of the other places we’ve been to. It’s always wild. The Open Cup is a trip."