D.C. United celebrates in the locker room after defeating Real Salt Lake to win the 2013 U.S. Open Cup and qualify for the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League. (Photo courtesy of D.C. United)
SANDY, Utah – D.C. United became the first team to qualify for the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League with a 1-0 victory over host Real Salt on Tuesday in the final of the 100th U.S. Open Cup.
Lewis Neal’s late first-half goal was enough to give his team a third U.S. Open Cup crown before 17,608 spectators at Rio Tinto Stadium. D.C. also captured the 1996 and 2008 titles.
Interestingly, United has won more games in this year’s Open Cup (four) than it has registered victories during the Major League Soccer season (three).
With the first half drawing to a close, the visitors went ahead in the 45th minute. Midfielder John Thorrington delivered a cross from the left into the box. Salt Lake’s Carlos Salcedo deflected the ball, but Neal was there to beat diving goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Real emerged from the break in a determined mood, trying all it could to net the equalizer.
In the 52nd minute, Ned Grabavoy split the D.C. defense and forced goalkeeper Bill Hamid into a lunging stop. Hamid also saved an effort by Costa Rica international Alvaro Saborio with nine minutes left in regulation time.
More than four minutes into second-half stoppage time, Real’s Nat Borchers crossed from the right to second-half substitute Devon Sandoval, whose right-footed side volley was blocked by Hamid.
Two minutes later, Saborio was left unmarked for a downward header that D.C. defender James Riley diverted off the crossbar.
D.C. United will be making its third CCL appearance next year (2008-09, 2009-10). It is unbeaten in its last four games in the competition, conceding only two goals over that stretch.