- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A full rainbow appeared over the Maryland SoccerPlex in the 40th minute of D.C. United’s game against the Ocean City Barons in the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday night. Until that point, it was the only thing worth looking at.

Luckily for United, there was no pot of gold for the hardworking amateur team from the New Jersey shore, whose Cinderella run came to end in the round of 16 as United eked out a 2-0 win on late goals from Christian Gomez and Ange N’Silu before 2,021 fans in Boyds.

“They dropped every back in [to defend],” coach Tom Soehn said. “Those situations are tough to break down. We talked about it at halftime on how to do that, and I think we did better at it. That’s part of the learning process. We had a lot of new guys on the field, and they have to grow into the game.”

What should have been an easy win turned into a slog for United, which will play the Harrisburg City Islanders at the SoccerPlex on Tuesday in the quarterfinals. The Islanders upset the New England Revolution 2-1 on Tuesday night.

The Barons, an amateur club that plays three divisions below United in the USL Premier Developmental League, held the home team scoreless until the 74th minute.

Apart from Ben Olsen, Marc Burch and Rodney Wallace, United started with a B-team lineup spearheaded by Thabiso Khumalo and N’Silu.

The New Jersey outfit gave United a scare in the 16th minute when Joe Banks produced an excellent bicycle kick to test United goalie Milos Kocic.

It was scoreless at the half after a listless and sloppy performance by United, which was facing its weakest opponent on paper in 33 Open Cup games.

Forward Chris Pontius replaced Olsen at the break, while Khumalo moved to the right flank. Pontius immediately made his presence felt, getting in a decent shot.

In the 54th minute Barons coach Neil Holloway was ejected for arguing with the officials and had to be forced off the sideline by a policeman.

“I didn’t use any profanity against the referee, and the next thing is I’m being asked to leave the field in the biggest game of our club’s 12-year history,” Holloway said.

Pontius, United’s most industrious player, came close again with a header and two shots, but United still could not break down the Barons.

If it weren’t bad enough for United, John DiRaimondo was injured in a collision with teammate Andrew Jacobson. DiRaimondo who was then replaced by Gomez.

United finally took the lead with 16 minutes left on Gomez’s penalty kick. N’Silu won the spot kick after being tripped up by Barons goalie Tunde Ogunbiyi.

The Barons nearly tied the game in the 88th minute, but United forced a header off the line.

“I looked to see where the ball was, and I saw Devon [McTavish] head the ball off line,” Kocic said.

A minute later Kocic made a full-length save, and United quickly transitioned. Burch took a shot straight at Ogunbiyi, and N’Silu tapped in a rebound to seal the victory.

Police were then called up to break up a fight among fans in the stands.

“For them it’s a big game, and they came out and competed hard defensively,” Soehn said. “I knew they would tuck in, and they did. They looked for us to make a mistake, and we almost did in the first half.”

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