- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 30, 2009

D.C. United already has beaten two Major League Soccer teams in its attempt to defend the U.S. Open Cup title. Next up is an amateur club from the New Jersey shore.

But coach Tom Soehn isn’t letting the level of competition affect his mindset.

“We’ve had a lot of experience in the Open Cup, and it’s a tournament that on any given day any team can win,” Soehn said.

United beat FC Dallas and the New York Red Bulls to reach the official stage of the U.S. Open Cup, but the Ocean City Barons present a different challenge in Tuesday night’s round of 16 game at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds.

The Barons already have won $10,000 for being the last amateur team alive in the tournament, and Tuesday’s game is the biggest in the franchise’s history.

“For those guys it will be the chance of a lifetime,” Soehn said. “If we don’t get up for the game, they could cause us problems. It should be a game that we can handle without a problem, but if the U.S. team can upset Spain, they could upset us. That’s the joy of soccer.”

The Barons roster is made up mostly of college students and part-time players. The club plays in the Premier Development League (PDL) of the United Soccer Leagues (USL) in the fourth tier of America’s soccer pyramid, three divisions below MLS.

“The pressure is on D.C.,” Barons coach Neil Holloway told Atlantic City’s NBC40. “They are the big boys. They are supposed to beat us. But soccer is a funny game, and sometimes if Lady Luck is on your side and you do the right thing you have a chance.”

The Barons already have upset two higher division teams, beating USL2 clubs Crystal Palace Baltimore and Real Maryland.

“We have to go into this game with the same mentality that we are still playing an MLS team,” defender Bryan Namoff said. “We are defending our title, so we won’t take this lightly or go in thinking that we have the game won.”

The last time United played at the SoccerPlex, Namoff scored the game-winner in a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire in the quarterfinals of the 2008 Open Cup. United went on to win the title, downing the Charleston Battery 2-1 at RFK Stadium on Sept. 3.

United will be missing a chunk of key players for the game. Defender Dejan Jakovic has been called up to play for Canada, and midfielder Santino Quaranta is in the U.S. team camp for the upcoming Gold Cup. Jaime Moreno (hamstring), Luciano Emilio (knee) and Fred (abductor) are all recovering from injuries and are sidelined.

Greg Janicki will replace Jakovic in the center of the defense, while midfielder Devon McTavish and striker Thabiso Khumalo likely will start.

The winner of Tuesday’s game plays the winner of the game between the Harrisburg City Islanders and New England Revolution in the quarterfinals July 7.

Note - United waived defender Anthony Peters, a developmental player who did not see any action with the club.

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