DC United will be looking to advance to their second straight Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final when they take on the Rochester Rhinos of the USL-1.
This is a rematch of the 1996 final when DC United defeated Rochester 3-0. Three years later though, Rochester would hoist the cup as they beat the Colorado Rapids 2-0. This has been the only time since the inception of Major League Soccer that the Lamar Hunt trophy wasn't won by an MLS side.
DC United advanced to the semifinal by defeating the Harrisburg Islanders (USL-2) by a 2-1 margin. The Rhinos advanced by beating the Wilmington Hammerheads (USL-2) by the same score.
The Rhinos currently sit in fifth place in the USL-1, the league that sits right below the MLS in the hierarchy for US soccer. Their mid-table position is a bit deceiving, however. Of their 16 league games played so far in 2009, only five have been at home. Despite that disadvantage, they are only six points back of league leaders Portland Timbers.
DC United enter the match on a stretch of good form, going 4-1-2 in their last seven games. United find themselves in third place in the MLS Eastern Conference, with a game in hand over leaders Toronto FC. A win in tonight's match at home against Colorado would see them vault to the top of the table.
Rochester Rhinos will pin their hopes on forward Johnny Menyongar, who is tied for third in goals in USL-1 with five on the season. Menyongar also brings international experience to this semifinal match as he has been capped nine times for Liberia. Midfielder John Ball is also a crucial part of the Rhino's attack, registering four assists already this season.
Rochester's defense has been rock solid, allowing only 14 goals in their 14 league games so far this season. Their offensive production has been rather poor, though, as they have only scored a total of 18 goals. Kenney Bertz is their leader in the back, as he has gone the full 90 in every Rochester match so far this year.
DC United obviously have no lack of talent, and have the good fortune of being one of the healthiest teams in the MLS. Santino Quaranta is away on international duty, but could be back if the US falters against Panama.
Other than Quaranta, Tom Soehn should have a full squad to pick from, though with only two days rest his side, will probably feature a lot of reserves.
DC United is tied for the most goals scored in the MLS with 26 so far this season, and will surely create problems for Rochester in the back. With the likes of Jaime Moreno, Luciano Emilio, Fred, and roookie of the year candidate Chris Pontius, United should have the firepower to squeeze out a result and will look to successfully defend their title, at RFK, against the winner of the Sounders vs Dynamo match.
Prediction: DC United 1-0 Rochester Rhinos