For the first time in a while, D.C. United had a chance to celebrate Wednesday night.
"Situations and moments like that you always remember, and you want to taste that again," United coach Tom Soehn said after his team beat the Charleston Battery 2-1 to win the U.S. Open Cup for its first tournament trophy since 2004. "There are other things on the horizon that we have to accomplish."
Top among those things is qualifying for the MLS playoffs. At 32 points, United is tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference but is ahead of all but one team in the West. With the top two teams in each conference and then the next four regardless of conference making the playoffs, United is in good position - especially considering its schedule over the last eight games.
United's next six matches, starting with Saturday's game at the San Jose Earthquakes, are against teams in the weaker West. However, four of those games are on the road, and United hasn't beaten a team from the West away from home this season. The club has a 4-4 record against teams in the West and a 6-6-2 record vs. the East.
"How the West has been looking lately, we need to steal some points from them," United defender Marc Burch said. "We are beating ourselves up in the East."
United travels to San Jose with a depleted roster. The team's two top goal scorers - Luciano Emilio (11 goals) and Jaime Moreno (nine goals) - and two defensive players will be out.
Emilio aggravated a groin injury while scoring the first goal against the Battery, and Moreno is on duty with the Bolivian national team. Meanwhile, defensive midfielder Joe Vide pulled a hamstring Wednesday, and key defender Bryan Namoff is suspended for the game with yellow-card accumulation.
Vide, who was waived by San Jose earlier this year, was particularly upset he was not able to make the trip.
"That's a game I had marked on my calendar," he said.
But there is good news. United midfielder Marcelo Gallardo, who played 10 minutes against Charleston, is slated to get his first start since June 29 after recovering from sports hernia surgery. Before Gallardo's injury, United was in the midst of an eight-match unbeaten streak in all competitions. Since then, the club hasn't been able to string two wins together.
Ryan Cordeiro and Rod Dyachenko are listed as replacements for Emilio and Moreno on the attack. Francis Doe also is an option, but all are scoreless in league play.
The resurgent Earthquakes are unbeaten in seven games (3-0-4). San Jose struggled early in the season, but the club's fortunes changed with the signing of English midfielder Darren Huckerby, who has three goals and three assists in six games.
"They have added five, six new players, and it will be difficult to win there," said United midfielder Ivan Guerrero, who joined United a month ago after playing 14 games for San Jose this year.
United defeated San Jose 3-1 at RFK Stadium in June but has not won in Northern California since June 3, 1998.
Champions League note - After preliminary games came to a conclusion this week, United now knows its lineup in group play of the CONCACAF Champions League, which kicks off this month. United will host Deportivo Saprissa (Costa Rica) on Sept. 16, Cruz Azul (Mexico) on Oct. 1 and Marathon (Honduras) on Oct. 29.
The Champions League features the best 24 teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean. The winner qualifies for next year's Club World Cup.