- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Marc Burch and Clyde Simms remember the game well, even though it’s one they would rather forget.

Along with Devon McTavish, Burch and Simms are the only current D.C. United players who were on the field when the Harrisburg City Islanders of USL2 upset the club 1-0 in the U.S. Open Cup in Landisville, Pa., on July 11, 2007. The four-time MLS Cup winners were humiliated in their opening game in the event before 5,000 fans on a high school field. The game went down as one of the biggest upsets in the history of the tournament.

“It was a frustrating game, and they got an early goal,” Simms said. “It was tough. It was on turf, on a small field, and they had a big crowd, so it was a tough atmosphere.”

Burch recalls the Islanders going into a defensive bunker once they scored.

“I remember we had a couple of chances and we missed them,” Burch said. “You miss easy chances, and teams like that will shut you down.”

United faces Harrisburg again in the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday night. This time it’s a quarterfinal game at the Maryland SoccerPlex. United, the defending Cup champion, already has beaten FC Dallas, the New York Red Bulls and the fourth-division Ocean City (N.J.) Barons to reach the quarterfinals.

United struggled last week against Ocean City, an amateur team made up mostly of college players, and needed a penalty kick in the 74th minute from Christian Gomez to take the lead in a hard-fought 2-0 victory.

Harrisburg is the leading team in USL2, two divisions below United, and likely will give it another trying time. The Islanders already have downed an MLS club in the tournament, dispatching the New England Revolution in a 2-1 extra-time win June 30.

“If they get a goal, you’re just fighting back against 10 people standing on the top of the 18-yard line,” Burch said. “This is like a World Cup game for them. Soccer is a weird game. There are always upsets. We’ve got to make it as easy as possible not to have an upset.”

Simms said playing against lower-league teams is always tricky.

“Sometimes they are tougher than MLS teams where you know the guys on the other team and you’ve played against them a good amount,” he said. “Now you’re playing against teams you know nothing about. It’s tough to scout them, and they bring a lot of energy.”

If United beats the Islanders, it will host another lower division team in the semifinals - either the Rochester Rhinos (USL1) or the Wilmington Hammerheads (USL2) on July 21.

Simms noted that the key to victory in these types of games is to match the intensity of their lower-division opponents. There’s an increased importance in scoring first to gain the psychological edge.

“If they get that first goal, they will make it hard for us to get back in the game,” Simms said.

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