David Ousted of D.C. United celebrates during the penalty kick shootout against the Richmond Kickers in the Fourth Round of the 2018 US Open Cup. Photo: D.C. United
D.C. United supporters got their third chance to watch their local side at home this season. And then some. After a very long road trip United returned ‘home’ to the Maryland SoccerPlex on Tuesday night, were held to a 1-1 draw before defeating North Carolina FC of the USL 4-3 in penalties in their first match in the 2018 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
With a match on the road against the Seattle Sounders on Saturday and another road test against Toronto FC on Wednesday, United coach Ben Olsen opted to go with a mix of starters and reserves to start the contest. Holdover midfielders Chris Durkin and Paul Arriola gave the side some shape along the spine, allowing them to move the ball some through the midfield. They made gradual progressions against a North Carolina defense that was bullish on ceding any territory.
Eventually D.C. did get an attacking chance off with Arriola ripping a shot from just inside the eighteen yard box in the 11th minute. But goalkeeper Alex Tambakis was there to make the stop, diving right to keep things level.
North Carolina were not so lucky in the 25th minute, when United midfielder Ian Harkes picked up his own rebound and slotted it into the back of the net to give D.C. the 1-0 advantage. It was his second career US Open Cup goal, two more than his dad, Hall of Famer John Harkes.
In the second half, North Carolina’s attack came alive. Using their speed on the outside, NCFC started to force United’s compact defense to break ranks. That allowed for additional space inside for NCFC to exploit. In the 70th minute, substitute Marcel Kandziora took a header off of a cross into United’s box. Although his chance initially looked to be on target it would go wide. While they were unsuccessful, North Carolina would equalize. In the 83rd minute, after a corner kick into the box was headed away by a D.C. defender, NCFC forward Marios Lomis snared the rebound. After a clever controlled touch he delivered an impressive volley past United goalkeeper David Ousted to tie things up at one. The goal was Lomis’ third of the tournament.
After extra time did not produce a winner, the two sides went into penalty kicks. The two sides traded goals in the first round with both Daniel Rios and Yamil Asad scoring for NCFC and D.C. respectively. The second round was a different story as Kyle Bekker of North Carolina saw his chance parried away by Ousted. United forward Darren Mattocks seized the opportunity for his side’s next chance, scoring the go-ahead goal. While Harkes missed his chance in round number four, the blow was lessened as NCFC’s Peabo Doue saw his own shot go wide of the mark. In the fifth and final round, United sealed the win with Bruno Miranda doing the honors.
“I only walked through [their penalty kick tendencies] but I try to read the player when he comes up,” said Ousted. “I try to read what he wants to do, what kind of player he is, what kind of foot he has on him. You see that in the strikes in the game. It’s just about trusting that gut feeling and getting a little bit of luck.”
For United, it was their first time eliminating a professional team since their improbable US Open Cup championship in 2013.
“First of all, [the win] means a lot for the club. Secondly, it means a lot for me to be able to win a [US Open Cup] and win a trophy,” said Ousted. “I think it’s five games, then you’re with a trophy. That’s a short way to get a trophy so we definitely want to win it. I want to win it so we’re going to go full out.”