BOYDS, Md. – Two goals from Kheli Dube and an additional strike from Alan Koger staked the New England Revolution to a 3-0 lead before the defense held on for a gutsy 3-2 win over D.C. United in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play-in match on Tuesday night at Maryland SoccerPlex.
With the victory, the Revs advance to the final round of play-in matches, in which they’ll travel to face Sporting Kansas City with a spot in the formal U.S. Open Cup bracket on the line. The date and time of that match will be announced on Wednesday, April 27.
Dube struck twice – in the 34th and 47th minutes – before Koger scored his first professional goal to extend the Revolution’s lead to 3-0 in the 69th minute. Branko Boskovic pulled two goals back for D.C. in the 73rd and 82nd minutes to provide a tense finish, but the Revs held out through six minutes of stoppage time.
In striking a balance between league and cup play, head coach Steve Nicol opted to leave many of his usual starters in Foxborough to prepare for this weekend’s West Coast trip to face Chivas USA. Recently-acquired U.S. National Team midfielder Benny Feilhaber, captain Shalrie Joseph and goalkeeper Matt Reis were among the group which didn’t travel for Tuesday night’s game.
Nicol deployed a 4-4-2 formation with Chris Tierney wearing the captain’s armband and playing left back. Ousmane Dabo made his Revolution debut after recovering from a right quad strain, partnering Stephen McCarthy in central midfield.
Play was bogged down in midfield throughout the opening stages, with both sides struggling to generate chances in the final third. D.C. created the game’s first legitimate scoring opportunity in the 24th minute, Boskovic lashing a low drive wide from 25 yards out.
The Revs returned the pressure just two minutes later when Kenny Mansally sprung Sainey Nyassi into space down the right wing. Nyassi delivered a low pass across the face of goal, but Dube scuffed his effort wide of the left post. Dube was at it again in the 31st minute, sending a long-distance drive just over the bar.
Persistence eventually paid off for Dube, who opened the scoring in the 34th minute. Dabo’s clever ball sent Mansally streaking into the right side of the box, and the Gambian hit a square pass to the penalty spot for Dube to slot inside the left post with a first-time effort.
Leading 1-0 at halftime, the Revs made one change following the break. Koger entered to mark his Revolution debut, replacing Mansally.
Koger made an immediate impact, assisting on Dube’s second goal as the Revs doubled their lead in the 47th minute. The former William & Mary forward settled a bouncing ball and delivered a short pass to Dube, who drilled another low shot inside the left post from the top of the box.
United threatened to pull one back just four minutes later when Boskovic curled a 20-yard free kick up and over the wall, but Revolution goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth was at full stretch to his left to push the ball around the post. Boskovic had a carbon-copy free kick in the 58th minute and delivered a similarly dangerous shot, this time seeing his effort kick off the outside of the right post.
The home side was left to rue its missed opportunities as Koger pushed the Revs’ lead to 3-0 in the 69th minute. Koger saw his first effort kicked away by D.C. goalkeeper Pat Onstad before his second attempt was blocked by a sliding defender. It was with his third crack that Koger finally broke through, sending a low blast into the back of the net from the right side of the box.
Boskovic finally pulled one back for United in the 73rd minute, finishing a nice piece of interplay between Kurt Morsink and Charlie Davies at the top of the box. Davies played the final pass, which Boskovic received and dispatched inside the right post from 15 yards out.
Diego Fagundez – the Revolution’s 16-year-old Home Grown Player – made his first-team debut in the 76th minute, replacing Dabo. Fagundez slotted into a forward position, pushing Dube back into central midfield.
D.C. continued to press and cut the deficit to 3-2 in the 82nd minute, as Boskovic was again the goal scorer. The Montenegrin received a pass from Andy Najar before drilling a long-distance shot just inside the right post, past the sprawling Shuttleworth.
A late charge couldn’t produce an equalizing goal, however, and the Revs held on for the victory.
The Revs will return to league action on Saturday, April 30, when they make their third cross-country trip of the season to visit Chivas USA. Kickoff from The Home Depot Center is set for 10:30 p.m. ET.
2011 U.S. Open Cup – MLS Play-In Round
New England Revolution at D.C. United
April 26, 2011 – Maryland SoccerPlex (Boyds, Md.)
New England Revolution 3, D.C. United 2
NE – Kheli Dube (Kenny Mansally) 34
NE – Kheli Dube (Alan Koger) 47
NE – Alan Koger (unassisted) 69
DC – Branko Boskovic (Charlie Davies) 73
DC – Branko Boskovic (Andy Najar) 82
New England Revolution: Bobby Shuttleworth, Chris Tierney ©, Ryan Cochrane, Otto Loewy (Michael Augustine (91+), Darrius Barnes, Ryan Kinne, Ousmane Dabo (Diego Fagundez 76), Stephen McCarthy, Sainey Nyassi, Kheli Dube, Kenny Mansally (Alan Koger 46)
Substitutes Not Used: Tim Murray, Zack Schilawski
STATS*: Shots: 9; Shots on Goal: 4; Saves: 3; Corner Kicks: 1; Offside: 1; Fouls Committed: 18
D.C. United: Pat Onstad, Daniel Woolard, Ethan White, Rodrigo Brasesco (Dax McCarty 79), Brandon Barklage, Santino Quaranta ©, Kurt Morsink, Branko Boskovic, Andy Najar, Joseph Ngwenya (Charlie Davies 68), Blake Brettschneider (Chris Pontius 64)
Substitutes Not Used: Bill Hamid, Perry Kitchen, Stephen King, Conor Shanosky
STATS*: Shots: 17; Shots on Goal: 5; Saves: 1; Corner Kicks: 11; Offside: 3; Fouls Committed: 7