Real Salt Lake was adamant in Tuesday's Lamar Hunt Open Cup final. And I don't just mean that as an adjective. They were harder than steel and completely immovable, perhaps a little too stiff in their desire to turn away D.C. United.
United spent the first 45 minutes of Tuesday's match without a shot on goal as RSL defended with spirit. It seemed every 50-50 joust left D.C. players bouncing off RSL players with looks on their faces that seemed to be saying, "Who are these guys?"
D.C. wasn't going anywhere, though. Seemingly content to park the proverbial bus in its box, hoping to spring for a counterattack, the tension Tuesday night was palpable. RSL controlled the tempo throughout the first half and D.C. looked as though it was taking itself out of the game, but rope-a-dope doesn't only pertain to boxing.
In the 45th minute, a seemingly tired D.C. United broke through the RSL defense and Lewis Neal threw a brutal uppercut off a broken defensive play, knocking a left-footed stinger past two RSL defenders and into the far corner to put United up 1-0.
When the second half resumed, RSL found D.C. United's end of the field even more fully packed-in than it had been in the first half. D.C. continued its physical play and RSL probed every inch of their defensive line for holes, throwing everyone everyone, including Nick Rimando. But a terrific performance from D.C. keeper Bill Hamid and central defenders Dejan Jakovic and Ethan White kept the score at 1-0 and for the second time in a major tournament final in Salt Lake City, RSL had to watch an opposing team raise a trophy on their home field.
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