RICHMOND, Va. – On a night chock full of US Open Cup upsets, D.C. United managed to do just enough to prevent falling victim to the Richmond Kickers.
Hamdi Salihi put United on course with a goal midway through the first half, but the tie wasn’t settled at City Stadium until Marcelo Saragosa’s winner in the 107th minute.
Behind a top performance from ‘keeper Ronnie Pascale, the underdog Kickers did well to hold off the United attack, and then relied on the counterattack to create chances at the other end.
“We made a meal out of that game and we made it more difficult than it needed to be,” United manager Ben Olsen told reporters after the game. “It’s never easy to break down a team that wants to defend with the entire team and then counterattack with two quick guys.”
While Richmond succeeded in creating chances on goal, it took a penalty on the stroke of halftime to find an equalizer. After Chris Agorsor was tripped up in the box by Saragosa, Stanley Nyazamba converted to the penalty that left 45 minutes for either team to find the winner.
But as United began to turn the screw on the Kickers, Pascale began to shine for the hosts. Saves on Josh Wolff, Nick DeLeon, Andy Najar and Branko Boskovic stood out as the Black-and-Red became increasingly frustrated and could not find a decisive goal as the second half wore on.
“He’s always been good,” Olsen said of Pascale after the game. “Year after year, in particular against us, he has been a big time performer here. He is a legend here, and I’m happy that he had a good night tonight.”
The stage was ripe for a winner in extra time, and shortly after the start of the second interval, Saragosa slammed home his first goal for United to put them through to the next round against the Philadelphia Union. The Kickers failed to clear Boskovic’s corner, and the ball fell to the Brazilian Saragosa, who made no mistake from eight yards out.
“I’m happy to score and get a chance to step onto the next level,” Saragosa said after the match. “It was hard for us because we scored and then [Richmond] was fighting hard to get another [goal], but everybody helped each other and I think it’s a great win.”