Photo by Jose L. Argueta/ISIphotos.com
By AVI CREDITOR
BOYDS, Md. – With an efficient attack and a defense that bent a bunch and broke just enough times, the New England Revolution kept its hopes of making the U.S. Open Cup field of 40 alive.
Kheli Dube scored twice and rookie Alan Koger added the eventual game-winner as the Revolution withstood a late barrage to defeat D.C. United, 3-2, in an Open Cup qualifying match at the Maryland SoccerPlex Tuesday night.
New England will meet Sporting Kansas City in a final qualifying game next month, with the winner claiming one of Major League Soccer's two play-in spots in the tournament proper.
The Revolution looked to have wrapped the match up in the 69th minute when Koger, the final selection of the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, finished off a series of failed clearances to put New England ahead, 3-0.
With the Revolution conceding possession and putting as many as nine defenders behind the ball, D.C. took advantage and chipped away over the course of the final 20 minutes.
D.C. Designated Player Branko Boskovic struck twice in a nine-minute span, scoring in the 73rd and 82nd minutes to tally his first two first-team goals since signing with the club last summer.
"Boskovic was very good, very sharp, dictated the game," D.C. coach Ben Olsen said. "These aren’t always easy games to play in when you are a European international, but he comes and plays hard."
After being denied on two 20-yard free kicks, once on a diving save by Revolution goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth and once by the right post, Boskovic broke through by finishing inside the area after a lay-off pass from substitute Charlie Davies.
Moments later, Boskovic brought United within one off a strike from about 23 yards to set up a wild last eight minutes.
He ended up on the wrong end of a Koger challenge in the 86th minute, though, and was forced off the field with what team officials deemed a knee contusion. D.C. had already exhausted its allotment of substitutes, so the team played through the final whistle a man down.
United's best chance to equalize came when Andy Najar put on a dazzling dribbling display, weaving his way in and out of Revolution defenders and into the penalty area where he took a tumble but was not granted a penalty.
"I think we did a good job of bending but not totally breaking," Revolution defender Ryan Cochrane said. "I think they were pretty much on top of us the last 20 to 30 minutes of the game there, but that’s just sometimes the way it goes when you’re playing with a lead and a team is kind of desperate to push everybody forward."
D.C. outshot New England, 17-9, and had 11 corner kicks to the Revolution's one, but it was the visitors who made the most of their opportunities.
"When you’re three up, you don’t expect to lose the game," Revolution coach Steve Nicol said. "It was tight, but in the end I think we deserved it."
The Revs opened the scoring in the 34th minute, when Ousmane Dabo, making his debut with the team, sprung Kenny Mansally with a well-weighted ball down the right. Mansally carried toward the penalty area before squaring for Dube, who beat Pat Onstad on a first-time shot.
Dube scored again just two minutes into the second half, putting home a bouncing feed from Koger from just inside the box to give the Revs a 2-0 edge.
"I like to score, and you’ve got to make sure you use every chance you get," said Dube, who has only appeared in one league match for the Revs this season. "When there’s a chance, you try to prove yourself, and hopefully it works out."
With the result, the Revolution handed D.C. it's first-ever loss in Open Cup qualifying. United hadn't been excluded from the U.S. Open Cup field since 2002 and had reached at least the semifinals of the tournament in each of the last three seasons.
Instead it's the Revolution continuing on, hoping to match its 2007 feat of lifting the trophy.
Revolution Homegrown Player Diego Fagundez made his senior-team debut, replacing Dabo in the 76th minute. … Michael Augustine also made his debut for the Revolution, replacing Otto Loewy, who exited in stoppage time with an injury. … Benny Feilhaber, Shalrie Joseph and Matt Reis were among those on the Revolution who didn't make the trip to Maryland. … Boskovic, who didn't think his injury was serious, confirmed that he'll be getting an MRI. "On the field I feel pain, and I think this guy’s broke my leg, but now it’s better," he said.
D.C. United – Pat Onstad, Brandon Barklage, Rodrigo Brasesco (Dax McCarty, 79), Ethan White, Daniel Woolard, Andy Najar, Branko Boskovic, Kurt Morsink, Santino Quaranta, Blake Brettschneider (Chris Pontius, 64), Joseph Ngwenya (Charlie Davies, 68).
Unused subs: Bill Hamid, Conor Shanosky, Perry Kitchen, Stephen King.
New England Revolution – Bobby Shuttleworth, Darrius Barnes, Ryan Cochrane, Otto Loewy (Michael Augustine 90+), Chris Tierney, Ryan Kinne, Stephen McCarthy, Ousmane Dabo (Diego Fagundez, 76), Sainey Nyassi, Kenny Mansally (Alan Koger, 45), Kheli Dube.
Unused subs: Tim Murray, Zack Schilawski.