Salt Lake entered the field at Rio Tinto Stadium for the first time in a final
at the U.S. Open Cup in the club’s history. Also, they came as favorites
because of their outstanding performance in this season in the Major League
Soccer as they currently hold the first place in the Western Conference. Meanwhile,
D.C. United were clearly the underdogs of this dispute being placed at the
bottom of the Eastern Conference.
However, the counter-attack positioning, pressure through the midfield as well as Lewis Neal rebound left footer in the last minute of the first half gave United the edge against RSL in the single-match final awarding the Black-and-Red their third US Open Cup silverware—previous championships occurred in 1996 and 2008.
This victory not only comes with the original trophy from the first Cup but with a direct spot for United in the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League and $250,000. RSL will receive $60,000 as the runner-up.
The home side started more aggressively and for that RSL got most offensive opportunities in the first 45 whether it was through midfielders Sebastian Velasquez or Ned Grabavoy. Also, the Royals placed their defensive line forward, which maneuvered to quickly recover possession.
As for United, they began very shy and trying to organize themselves on the pitch. Forcing defender James Riley to receive an early yellow card at the 22nd minute.
And neither side held back in the 50-50 disputes since RSL and United rested their regular lineups on the weekend when both clubs played for the Major League Soccer.
Toward the middle of the first half the match was more equal, yet RSL were flourishing upfront once against with Velasquez. And slowly United were connecting more passes upfront thank to Nick DeLeon.
With the little momentum created by the Black-and-Red, they found their only shot on target after John Thorrington danced in front of his defender on the left wing, cut to inside of the 18-yard box and fired. RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando punched it toward English international Neal, who punished the home team on 44th minute.
RSL ended the first half leading with an overall of 63.5 percent of possession and in shots on target with four against three for DCU.
The second part of the game kicked off with the home side still dominating most, if not all, offensive efforts. Velasquez had the most dangerous opportunity with a left footer touching the cross bar of DCU ‘keeper Hamid.
Meanwhile, United continued to wait patiently for a killing second goal from a counter-attack.
By the 75th minute RSL entered into the desperate loop switching from their long-range shots to mainly crosses and corners. So manager Jason Kreis, from RSL, decided to try the luck of the club’s top scorer in the Cup, forward Devon Sandoval, who substituted center defender Carlos Salcedo.
The result was a massive amount of close but missed opportunities. But credit should be given to United’s solid defense throughout.
RSL ended the match with almost 70 percent of possession, four on target shots, 19 totals shots and 11 corners. As for United, they reached just six total attempts with only the goal being on target and with a little over 30 percent of the time controlling the ball.
Who was influential and who was ineffective
Most influential player for D.C. United: Lewis Neal
(honorable mentions go to Dejan Jakovic for completing every single pass and winning most, if not all, of his 50-50 tackles and to DeLeon for his continuously runs from the right wing creating the best chances for United in the first half)
Most influential player for Real Salt Lake: Devon Sandoval
(honorable mentions to Velasquez and to Ned Grabavoy on his tirelessly attempts for an equalizer to RSL)
Least influential player for D.C. United: Chris Pontius
Least influential player for Real Salt Lake: Chris Wingert