United tops Kickers in extra time

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Looking for their 10th all-time win over MLS teams, the Kickers pushed D.C. to extra time, but could not pull off the win.

The United of Major League Soccer narrowly edged the Richmond Kickers in a hard-fought 2-1 overtime match-up in the Third Round of U.S. Open Cup Tuesday night at City Stadium.  After Hamdi Salihi gave the MLS side an early lead, a boisterous crowd of 5,046 saw the Kickers rally back when Stanley Nyazamba converted a penalty kick seconds before halftime.  Unable to break the deadlock through the second half, it was not until the 107th minute that midfielder Marcelo Saragosa buried the game-winner to avoid a penalty kick shoot-out and send D.C. United through to the next round.

United threatened Kickers goalkeeper Ronnie Pascale in the 10th minute when a free kick was served from distance to the right edge of the box to an awaiting Maicon Santos deep in Kickers territory.  He headed the ball across the goalmouth to an open Hamdi Salihi but his header soared skyward.

Salihi was dangerous again eight minutes later when he rushed onto a miss clearance at the top of the 18 and launched a rocket over the crossbar.  The forward's persistence paid off in the 24th minute when he broke the ice to give the MLS side an early lead.  Santos intercepted the ball at midfield and with one touch played Salihi free at the top of the box.  Turning his defender, he faced Pascale 1v1 but the diving 'keeper could not stop his vicious strike as it bounded into the back of the net.

Hungry for the equalizer, Kickers midfielder Gerson Dos Santos danced down the left wing and played the ball into a crowded box.  Newcomer Christopher Agorsor cut through traffic and got a touch on the ball from close range but his shaky shot bounced inches past the far post.

Then, just before the halftime whistle, the Kickers earned the chance to draw level when Agorsor was tripped up inside the box.  Nyazamba stepped up to the spot and calmly slotted home the high-pressure penalty.

Turning up the pressure in the second half, D.C. midfielder Andy Najar relied on tricky footwork on the left wing to keep the ball in play and handed it off to Josh Wolff.  The United captain drove to the endline and slotted it across the goalmouth.  Pascale was able to get a hand on the ball to intercept the dangerous cross, but the rebound fell directly to Nick DeLeon lurking five yards out. The Kickers veteran goalkeeper made a heroic double save, throwing himself in the line of fire to block his point blank attempt and the subsequent follow up shot.

In a last minute attempt to steal the glory through regulation, Kickers second half substitute Nozomi Hiroyama sliced through the midfield and sprung Agorsor free on the left flank but the sharp shooter's blazing shot was redirected just wide of the near post in the 89th minute.

Just as the second overtime period kicked off, Branko Boskovic lined up a corner kick and delivered an inswinger into the box.  A battle in the air ensued but neither team could control the ball as it fell directly to an unmarked Saragosa, who finished just under the crossbar from seven yards.

In a last ditch effort to push the game into penalty kicks, Kickers defender Sascha Görres served a corner kick into the swarming box.  Dos Santos reached highest and won the ball in the air but his header at the near post glanced inches wide of the target.

The Richmond Kickers return to regular season action and embark on a two game road swing this weekend, rounding out a grueling three-games-in-five-days gauntlet with back to back games against the Harrisburg City Islanders on Friday and the Rochester Rhinos on Saturday.  The Kickers return to Richmond City Stadium on Saturday, June 9 to host the Charlotte Eagles at 7 p.m.

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