On April 22, 2009 at RFK Stadium, FC Dallas and D.C. United faced off in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play-in match. D.C. prevailed 2-0 and went on to be the runner-up last year while FCD failed to win a single game in the event for the first time since 2003.
On Wednesday, the same sides meet again in the same venue in a USOC play-in that will feature the only two winless sides in Major League Soccer. FCD comes off a 2-2 tie in league play against Seattle at Pizza Hut Park, where they needed a 94th minute penalty kick by Jeff Cunningham. Schellas Hyndman’s club is 0-1-3 in MLS this season.
The Red-and-Black has also struggled out of the gates and has lost all four games of its young season.
FCD midfielder Dax McCarty, who was part of the 2007 team that lost in the final to New England at Pizza Hut Park, realizes DC has struggled but still expects a very hard-fought game in the nation’s capital on Wednesday night.
“It’s a very important game. I think D.C. United is a good team that just hasn’t gotten the results they’ve been looking for,” McCarty said. “I think they’re sort of similar to us in that they try to play good soccer. I know they have a couple new players but they’re definitely going to be hungry. I know it’s an important game for them and also for us.”
No matter who his team faces, Hyndman knows the USOC has some added meaning for him and his club.
“The first important thing is it has Lamar Hunt’s name on the trophy,” Hyndman said on Monday. “The second important thing is it’s a great opportunity for the younger players to get games because we don’t have a reserve league. It’s very important that we get them games. And then the third thing is it continues to develop a mentality and a culture of winning.”
That’s a statement McCarty clearly agrees with.
“It’s a very important competition for us. Lamar Hunt, it’s named after him,” the FCD midfielder said. “He’s our late owner and founder and he had a big influence on soccer in this country. I think in 2007, we made it to the final and that was a very important game for us. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to pull it out. We haven’t done as well in the competition the last few years and we’re looking to right that this year and go far.”
Speaking of Cunningham, the veteran striker has played in 20 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup matches in his career and has scored four goals with five assists. During his time with Columbus, he played for the 2002 USOC champs and assisted on four goals during the Black-and-Gold’s run to the title.
“It’s a great opportunity to win a trophy. Every time you compete, you want to win,” the FCD forward said. “So it’s another opportunity for the club to add silverware to the clubhouse for the team and organization. It’s something that we take pride in. Our owner, that’s his tournament, so it’s even more special for the organization. We’re going to go out and compete to win.”
While Wednesday night’s affair won’t count in the league standings, McCarty knows that he and his teammates need a win regardless of who it’s against and in what environment.
“To get a win against an MLS team in an important competition is key,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve started the season poorly but results are all that matter. Unfortunately, we’re one of a few winless teams and we need to change that. Whether that comes in the Open Cup or in MLS play that doesn’t matter, we just need to get a win.”