U.S. Open Cup reaction: D.C. United revel in victory, Real Salt Lake wallow in defeat – Video

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Following D.C. United’s shock 1-0 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final win over Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium on Tuesday, soccer fans across America are scratching their heads as to exactly how that happen.

D.C. are by far the worst team in MLS this season, after winning just three of their 30 league games so far they sit rock bottom of the standings and are on course to break many MLS records, not the good kind.

But on Tuesday night in Utah, they rolled their sleeves up and put all that to one side and stunned home team Real Salt Lake to snatch the silverware.

(MORE: D.C. United stuns Real Salt Lake in 2013 U.S. Open Cup final)

United were the deserved winners, but RSL’s failure, once again, in front of their home fans on the big occasion is worrying.

Many thought they were one of the favorites to hoist MLS Cup in 2013, but they couldn’t even lift the Open Cup at home against MLS’ worst side.

They must regroup, fast. Here’s all the reaction from a jubilant D.C. United and a downbeat RSL.

D.C. UNITED – LAMAR HUNT U.S. OPEN CUP CHAMPIONS 2013

“It’s been a strange season,” head coach Ben Olsen said on the pitch after the game. “To have the smiles on those guys faces right now is unbelievable, they’ve forgotten about the negativity of the year. We managed to find focus in this Open Cup and come way with something, even in a season of turmoil with a trophy. I credit hose guys, I credit the organization, everybody, I credit out fans. Our whole organization, we didn’t let the wheel fall off.”

And United’s manager knew that if his squad kept plugging away, their fortunes would turn around sooner rather than later. The Open Cup has been a welcome distraction all season long, as their league play has been nothing short of abysmal.

source: Getty Images
D.C. United captain Dwayne De Rosario and General Partner Will Chang , along with fans, celebrate their 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake.

“We did a great job sticking together,” Olsen said. “The wheels never fell off and there were a lot of times they could have. “We took the Open Cup extremely seriously from the first game. Each game, our belief in the Open Cup grew. The size of the game helped us focus. Some of the guys who have a tough time focusing when it doesn’t matter really did what they needed to do.”

“If we [had lost] this one, it’s back to the drawing board,” Olsen said. “Now we have a new energy about us to finish the season in the right way and look forward.”

Lewis Neal was D.C.’s game-winner, as his left-footed strike just before half time proved the difference between D.C. and RSL. The Englishman hailed their Open Cup performances and the positives it’s brought in a dismal regular season in MLS.

“It’s a huge confidence boost,” Neal said. “We’re under no illusions that the season has been terrible from top to bottom. But for some reason in this cup, we’ve played really well.”

REAL SALT LAKE – LAMAR HUNT U.S. OPEN CUP RUNNERS UP 2013

Real Salt Lake have been here before, damaging defeats in front of their home crowd as they look destined to win a trophy.

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Javier Morales reacts to Real Salt Lake’s 1-0 defeat against D.C. United

But past failures still don’t make it any easier to accept, as defender Chris Wingert explains.

“It is extremely tough,” Wingert said. “It feels a little bit surreal, like a bad dream right now. I can’t believe it. I’m shocked. I thought for sure we were going to win.

“I can’t believe we had to sit there on the field after the game and realize we came up short — again. I don’t know if I have the words to describe how tough this is.”

Head coach Jason Kreis was also stunned by RSL’s poor showing when it really mattered. The Utah outfit have been riding high in the Western Conference for most of the regular season but when it really mattered — in 2011 falling 1-0 to Monterrey in the CCL final second leg, unable to overturn a first-leg deficit against FC Dallas in the 2010 MLS playoffs and many other occasions — his side put in a pretty dire performance.

“It is something I can’t really put my finger on,” Kreis said. “How we can get so close and how we can have so much momentum through the majority of the season and we get to get to a game like this and we can’t seem to put things together. We can’t seem to get over that last hurdle.”

Salt Lake just didn’t get out of the blocks and several of their big name players like Alvaro Saborio and Javier Morales just didn’t perform.

They still have an MLS Cup and a Supporters’ Shield to challenge for, but if they’re not careful, before too long RSL will be known as MLS’ nearly men.

Or maybe that’s already the case.

Mkhitaryan holds key in United’s deal for Sanchez

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This is getting very, very interesting. The late bid from Chelsea and Man City’s exit from the deal aside, there’s been another twist in this saga.

Manchester United’s move for Alexis Sanchez appeared to be getting closer to completion but the agent of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the suggested makeweight in the $48 million deal between United and Arsenal, has thrown a spanner in the works.

Mino Raiola has told The Times that United’s deal for Sanchez won’t go through unless his client agrees to join Arsenal.

“Manchester United is not going to sign Sanchez unless Mkhi agrees to join Arsenal.”Raiola said. “Sanchez is part of the Mkhi deal, not the other way around.”

Wow. Okay. He’s really doing this. Now, Mkhitaryan is a good player. You aren’t named the best player in the Bundesliga and signed by Man United if you’re not. But we all know the Armenian playmaker has struggled this season and for the opening half of the 2016-17 campaign after arriving from Borussia Dortmund.

His agent suggesting that Mkhitaryan is the main prize in this deal is obvious from his point of view as he protects the interest of his client, but the rest of the world knows Alexis is the man everyone wants in January.

It is said that Mkhitaryan (who was left out of United’s squad for the 3-0 win against Stoke on Monday due to the uncertainty around his future) would prefer a return to Dortmund but the Bundesliga giants aren’t said to be willing to pay his wages.

Arsenal were interested in Mkhitaryan in the summer of 2016 but he decided to join United instead, but it would appear that getting $48 million and Mkhitaryan for Sanchez, a player who has less than six months to run on his current contract, is a good deal for the Gunners.

Mkhitaryan holds the key to United’s Sanchez deal and it doesn’t seem like he’s in any rush to sort out his future. Could his delay hand Chelsea some time to try and sew up their own deal for Sanchez?

The transfer window shuts in just over two weeks. Tick-tock indeed.

Donovan joins Leon, ready to “win championships” in Mexico

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Landon Donovan, the most accomplished player in American soccer history, is talking about winning championships with his new team in Mexico.

Donovan is returning from retirement for the second time in three years, this time with Club Leon. He was cheered loudly by hundreds of fans during a brief ceremony Monday, an unusual site not seen for Leon since Mexican great Rafael Marquez signed with Leon in 2014.

“I’m very excited, I did not expect that, it was amazing, now I just want to play and be on the field,” Donovan said in Spanish at a news conference. “It is Monday and very late and people are here. Now I need to talk to the coach to set a plan because it’s been over a year since my last professional game and I will need time, but I’m motivated, I want to win championships.”

The 35-year-old Donovan arrived in Mexico last week while rumors swirled about a possible comeback. He announced Friday night he was coming out of retirement to play in Mexico for the first time in his career.

“I don’t believe in walls, I always wanted to play in Mexico because I grew up in California playing with Mexicans since I was like 8 or 9 years old,” said Donovan, who’s the career scoring leader for the U.S. team and in the MLS.

Former U.S. players Marcelo Balboa and Eric Wynalda have played for Leon. Currently, William Yarbrough is the starting goalkeeper for a Leon team that has won seven league titles.

“I spoke with Marcelo Balboa about the city and also with Omar Gonzales (who plays for Pachuca) to know more about the country,” Donovan said. “I also spoke a lot with (former Puebla player) DaMarcus Beasley because I wanted to know as much as possible. I know that the league is different to the U.S. and to England, I think the style of play suits me, I used to play with Mexicans so my style is more Latino and I think I can be successful. That’s important for me”.

Leon reached the quarterfinals last season and will be a stronger side for the Clausura tournament after signing Giles Barnes (Orlando City), Emanuel Cecchini (Malaga) and now Donovan.

Despite not playing for nearly two years, Donovan has created a lot of expectation. The main sports networks in Mexico devoted plenty of air time to the move, and Donovan’s jersey sold out at the stadium before a game against Toluca on Saturday.

“I think it’s a good move, he’s a very skilled player, just remember how he used to made life difficult for us when he played for the U.S. team against Mexico,” said Tigres coach Ricardo Ferretti, who briefly managed the Mexican team before the arrival of Juan Carlos Osorio.

Donovan returned to the LA Galaxy of MLS in September of 2016 following a 21-month retirement and appeared in nine games. He hasn’t played professionally since Nov. 6, 2016.

Donovan played in three World Cups: South Korea and Japan 2002, Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010. He also played in six Gold Cups and won four titles. He scored 57 goals playing for the U.S. team and 145 in the MLS.

Donovan has done broadcast work since retiring and was rumored to be considering a run for U.S. Soccer Federation president. Donovan announced in November that he would not seek the position.

Landon Donovan unveiled by Club Leon

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Landon Donovan was unveiled to Club Leon fans at Estadio Leon on Monday night.

The former USMNT star and longtime LA Galaxy forward came out of retirement for the second time to sign with the Liga MX side this past weekend. Leon finished 7th in the Apertura table, losing to Tigres in the first round of the playoffs. They currently have a perfect six points through the first two Clausura matches, sitting second in the table with a +3 goal differential.

Fans were allowed into the stadium for free, and they packed the lower stand on one end, waving USA flags and holding large “L” and “D” cutouts, and the fans faced a massive board on the field that read “I DON’T BELIEVE IN WALLS.” Chants of “U-S-A” rang out through the stadium before the unveiling.

ESPN reporter Tom Marshall pointed out that the last time the club had such a large event to welcome a player, it was in January of 2013 when the club brought Mexico captain Rafa Marquez in from the New York Red Bulls.

Donovan will don the number 20 for Club Leon.

Report: Rimando to return to RSL

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USMNT veteran and current MLS free agent Nick Rimando will reportedly return to Real Salt Lake for a 12th season with the club, according to a report by Goal.com’s Ives Galarcep.

The report states he received interest on the free agent market from both Los Angeles clubs, but the 38-year-old will return to the club he has made 350 appearances for.

Rimando came to Real Salt Lake from D.C. United in 2006, and has made at least 24 league appearances in every single season since. He has also made 22 playoff appearances for the club across eight playoff campaigns.

He last received a USMNT cap in January of 2017 in a friendly against Serbia, but was part of the 2018 World Cup qualification squad throughout 2017 backing up Tim Howard. Overall, Rimando has played 22 times for the US national team, with 14 goals conceded and nine clean sheets.

The report also states that Kyle Beckerman will return to Rio Tinto Stadium, with the veteran also testing the free agent waters but deciding to re-sign. The pair will be two of just four players left on the roster from the 2009 MLS Cup winning team.