WASHINGTON — Wednesday night’s third-round matchup in the U.S. Open Cup was a rematch a decade in the making, but 10 years later, D.C. United still edged past the Richmond Kickers, this time 1-0 in another game decided by penalty kicks.
It was a strong defensive effort by the Kickers. Even with two noticeable absences from the starting lineup, midfielder Nil Vinyals, the USL League One player of the month, and center back Dakota Barnathan, Richmond was able to prevent D.C. Black from converting a goal early.
The Kickers were able to get comfortable and began to make their way up in the attack and got two chances on goal before going into the locker room at halftime.
At halftime, United switched up tactics, moving from a 3-5-2 to a 4-4-2 in order for the fullbacks to press higher and provide more chances.
“In the first half we felt that they just had one center forward and we had three center backs, so there were a couple of center backs not marking anyone and we could quite get enough pressure on their fullbacks,” assistant coach Peter Shuttleworth said. “We thought it made sense to press the ball a little bit higher.”
Despite being two divisions lower in the American soccer rungs, Richmond put a scare into D.C. United of the MLS on Wednesday night.
In the 50th minute referee John Griggs signaled for a penalty after Jake Mecham fouled D.C.’s Andy Najas in the box.
“I think it was unfortunate that the referee called a penalty,” Kickers coach Darren Sawatzky said. “I felt it was a little bit soft, particularly the way the game had gone.”
Yamil Asad was able to score the goal away past Akira Fitzgerald, who was returning to the pitch after becoming a father last month.
The Kickers were able to draw an opportunity for a penalty in the 74th minute when Kharlton Belmar was fouled in the box by a D.C. defender. Emiliano Terzaghi took the kick, but Alex Bono made the save.
“It’s pretty rare that Terzaghi misses a penalty kick, but at the end I felt like we did enough that we could’ve won the game tonight,” Sawatzky said.
Coming into the game, Shuttleworth said that they had to prepare for the Kickers’ wide style of play.
“We knew they wanted to make the pitch big, we knew they have wide players that play with full width, and they also have pace and ability,” Shuttleworth said. “We knew that was their threaten and that the center forward was a good player as well.”
Overall, Sawatzky was proud of his team.
“I feel for the guys because it was a great performance,” he said. “I’m proud of our guys. They showed passion and stuck to the game plan.”
The main takeaway from this game was the experience.
“For many of them this is the biggest stadium they’ve played in, and it gave them the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with an MLS team that’s on a hot streak right now,” the coach said.
D.C. United will move on the round of 32 in the Open Cup. The last time they played against the Kickers, they went on to win the Cup that same year.
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