- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 13, 2008

D.C. United made what seemed like an easy task look hard, but the club is going to its first title game since 2004.

United booked a spot in the U.S. Open Cup final with a 3-1 win over the New England Revolution on Tuesday night at RFK Stadium.

United struggled to take advantage of a New England team made up mostly of reserves, but Luciano Emilio scored two goals, and Santino Quaranta added the other.

“What are my feelings?” United coach Tom Soehn said. “First half not good but second half much better. We still have a lot of room to improve.”

United will host the second division Charleston Battery in the final at RFK on Sept. 3. Charleston beat the Seattle Sounders in a penalty shootout to reach the U.S. Open Cup title game.

This is the first championship game of any kind for United since winning the MLS Cup in 2004. And while the U.S. Open Cup lacks the prestige of the MLS Cup, the reward for the winner is an automatic berth in the 2009-2010 CONCACAF Champions Cup.

Facing a clogged schedule and needing to rest bodies, New England, which won the SuperLiga last week, played without multiple key starters. Goalie Matt Reis, defender Jay Heaps, midfielder Steve Ralston and striker Taylor Twellman were not in the lineup.

“It doesn’t matter who they have out there. You have to stay focused,” Quaranta said. “It can cause a problem for any team when you don’t see the first 11.”

Desperate for success in this tournament, United fielded its strongest team possible. Defender Gonzalo Peralta and Quaranta both returned to the starting lineup after recovering from injuries.

“We’ve been struggling in the league, so any time you get a chance to win a trophy we are all over it,” defender Devon McTavish said.

United took the lead in the fourth minute when Emilio headed defender Bryan Namoff’s cross past former United backup goalie Doug Warren.

“It’s important for us because we need a championship,” Emilio said. “If you win the final, it is a great motivation for the rest of the season in MLS.”

United struggled after that goal. The Revolution then capitalized when United failed to clear the ball in the 34th minute. Rookie forward Joe Germanese hit a rebound from close range past United goalie Zach Wells to tie the game.

“We took our foot off the pedal,” McTavish said.

An errant pass from Namoff nearly allowed Khano Smith to give the visitors the lead just before the break. But New England’s goalkeeper could do little to stop Quaranta’s goal in the 48th minute.

Quaranta one-timed Jaime Moreno’s pass over the head of the charging Warren from the top of the box to give United the lead.

“It was a great ball from Jaime, and all I had to do was finish it off,” Quaranta said.

Emilio gave United breathing space with his second goal of the night in 81st minute.

The Revolution played the last 19 minutes a man down when defender Wells Thompson was ejected after picking up his second yellow card.

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