- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 4, 2008

After a 12-year absence, American soccer’s oldest piece of silverware is back in D.C. United’s crowded trophy cabinet on the fourth floor at RFK Stadium.

United defeated the Charleston Battery 2-1 to win the U.S. Open Cup at RFK on Wednesday night. The win gave United, MLS‘ most successful club, its 10th domestic title and first since winning the MLS Cup in 2004.

“You set goals in the beginning, and this was one of them,” United coach Tom Soehn said. “As you achieve goals, there are bigger fish that you want to get. We’ve got a season to worry about, but we will enjoy it tonight and be back to work tomorrow.”

United’s Brazilian contingent of Luciano Emilio and Fred got the goals against the stubborn South Carolina club that plays in a division below MLS in the nation’s soccer pyramid.

Once an obscure event, the U.S. Open Cup is a single-game knockout tournament that is open to professional, semipro and amateur clubs.

The win earned United $100,000 in prize money and an automatic berth in the 2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League, which guarantees the club international games next fall.

“This was my first time as a captain to hold the trophy, and it was very special to do it in front of our own fans,” said Jamie Moreno, who helped set up the first goal.

United previously won the U.S. Open Cup in 1996 at RFK, beating the minor league Rochester Rhinos 3-0 when MLS teams first entered the 94-year-old event.

After holding United to a 1-1 score for 50 minutes Wednesday night, the Battery refused to relent. United started the same lineup that earned a scoreless tie with the visiting Red Bulls four days ago but soon had to readjust because of injuries that forced two costly first-half substitutions.

It looked like it might be an easy victory for United when it cracked the Battery’s defense in the fourth minute. Moreno made a clever back-kick to Santino Quaranta, but the midfielder lost the ball after a defender pulled him down at the top of the box. The loose ball came to Emilio, who lofted a shot from 18 yards into the top corner of the net to beat goalie Dusty Hudock.

However, the goal came at a price. Emilio strained his groin taking the shot, and Rod Dyachenko replaced him three minutes later.

The Battery responded six minutes later when Ian Fuller beat United goalie Louis Crayton with a shot after defender Marc Burch failed to track down Chris Williams, who assisted on the goal.

“It was not an easy game,” said Crayton, who made one save.

Charleston, which defeated two MLS teams to reach the U.S. Cup final, almost took the lead in the 20th minute, but former United player Lazo Alavanj’s shot hit the post.

United suffered another blow when Fred had to replace injured midfielder Joe Vide, who pulled a hamstring. Fred had a scoring chance moments after he took the field. But with only Hudock to beat, he shot wide. Fred redeemed himself by giving United the lead in 50th minute when he slotted the ball past Hudock from seven yards out off an assist from Clyde Simms.

“I was fortunate in 2004 to be part of [the MLS Cup],” Quaranta said. “It’s not easy to win championships, and when you get that feeling, it’s contagious.”

United designated player Marcelo Gallardo, who has not started a game since June 29 because of a hernia injury, played the last 10 minutes off the bench and helped United hold on to the lead.