- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 20, 2018

At the end of the first half of extra time, D.C. United forward Darren Mattocks dropped down and laid on his back.

After 105 minutes of action — interrupted by a 90-minute weather delay and exacerbated by midfielder Chris Durkin’s red card eight minutes into the added period of play — United appeared to be holding for a chance at penalty kicks to decide Wednesday’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match against Orlando City SC.

They got that chance but couldn’t capitalize.

With fans gathering behind the goal at the Maryland SoccerPlex four hours after the match was scheduled to start, Orlando defeated D.C. in penalties, 4-2, after drawing 1-1. For the fifth straight season, United failed to advance to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup.

“Physically, mentally, like, it’s exhausting,” Mattocks said. “You just want the game to end, but you’re still out there giving it your all. So, as I said, it’s a tough one, you know? We really wanted this one.”

In front of an already sparse crowd at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Maryland, the supporters thinned further during the 90-minute weather delay. When action resumed around 8:30 p.m., the players’ voices could be heard around the ground. Midfielder Luciano Acosta’s opening goal sparked a “D.C. United!” chant, barely audible over the rain pelting the metal bleachers and saturating the pitch.

Forward Justin Meram’s shot squirted through goalkeeper Steve Clark’s legs and trickled over the goal line, leveling the contest at one in the 16th minute.

In an environment that looked more like a high school contest than the top flight of American soccer, D.C. and Orlando missed key chances to break that deadlock.

Two minutes apart, City forward Stefano Pinho and midfielder Robert Allen pulled attempts wide left. Then, with play flowing through Acosta, United forced goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr. to make three saves late in the second half.

“If the great chances you create don’t go in, you go to PKs. And anything can happen in PKs,” coach Ben Olsen said. “It was a very good game from us. It’s disappointing not to get the win.”

Having 10 days separating the U.S. Open Cup match and United’s next MLS contest, Olsen fielded a strong lineup. Midfielder Ian Harkes and Clark were the only two players who had started three or fewer league matches to start Wednesday.

With a match looming Saturday, Orlando rested stars Dom Dwyer and Joe Bendik. Defender Yoshimar Yotún was also absent, representing Peru in the World Cup. Orlando coach Jason Kreis was also fired Friday with his squad in the midst of a six-game league losing streak.

“I think what we saw with them is a renewed commitment,” Olsen said. “When a coach gets let go and a new guy comes in, even on an interim basis, he changes some things and that can jell a group to work a little extra harder.”

Interim head coach Bobby Murphy earned his first win with a penalty shootout as midfielder Yamil Asad’s effort was saved by Edwards and Acosta’s attempt to chip struck the crossbar.

So, four hours after the 7 p.m. start time, D.C. was knocked out of the U.S. Open Cup when forward Josué Colman slotted home Orlando’s fourth penalty.

“A really tough one to swallow,” Mattocks said. “It was always going to be a tough game.”

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