The most-decorated team in league history hadn't won a trophy since the MLS Cup four years ago, and had to fight every minute to subdue the Battery, which bounced back after conceding an early goal and withstood a chanting, swaying, smoky RFK atmosphere to nearly force overtime with a second equalizer.
Instead, D.C.'s goals by Luciano Emilio and Fred trumped a fierce Ian Fuller drive as the second-tier team looked anything but second-best in the final that ended 2-1 for United.
"Getting a chance to run around with a trophy in front of our fans, who deserve it more than anybody, is a great feeling," said D.C. United head coach Tom Soehn, who played for Chicago's double-winning team in 1998 that captured both the MLS Cup and Open Cup. "You remember that stuff. There are a lot of things you forget but situations and moments like that you remember. You want to taste that again. I hope they all got a great taste of it because there are other things that we still have to accomplish."
D.C. gets back to the business of qualifying for the playoffs Saturday in San Jose, a return trip for ex-Quakes Joe Vide and Ivan Guerrero, who since being acquired in July have helped shore up the United midfield.
Yet containing the stubborn Battery proved difficult, though D.C. stunned the USL team in the fourth minute when Santino Quaranta ran onto a Jaime Moreno through ball and as he went down under a crunching tackle, the ball bounced to Emilio, who fired it high into the top corner off the fingertips of Battery keeper Dusty Hudock, one of several former MLS players on the Battery roster.
Emilio hobbled off a few minutes later, unable to continue after aggravating a groin injury he'd suffered during league play last weekend. Rod Dyachenko came in just in time to see Charleston equalize. Ex-MLS defender Nelson Akwari played a ball that isolated Chris Williams against D.C. left back Marc Burch, and Williams evaded Burch to lay off a ball that Fuller cracked between unsighted keeper Louis Crayton and the near post.
Guerrero could have restored United's lead in the 14th minute when Quaranta's pass split open the Battery right flank but Guerrero shot into the side netting. Charleston playmaker Lazo Alavanja, whose brief MLS career included a stint in D.C, used one of his many productive possessions to fire a shot in the 20th minute that cleanly beat Crayton but hit the base of the far post.
Five minutes before halftime, Vide had to limp off and his replacement, Fred, took up his spot at right midfield, leaving Quaranta in the middle to hit numerous incisive balls. Fred narrowly missed just before halftime when Moreno's lob sent him in alone, but his chip sailed off-target, and with the last move of the first half Quaranta squandered a fine cross from Guerrero.
United got the winner in the 50th minute by taking advantage of brief indecision in the Battery defensive half. Clyde Simms played a ball forward that seemed harmless enough but Dyachenko's dummy froze the defenders and Fred took up the chase to easily beat a marooned Hudock.
Charleston continued to press. Devon McTavish blocked a Alavanja close-range shot to force a corner, which produced a brief flurry during which Crayton disappeared into a maze of legs to snare the ball. United tried to hold the ball in midfield -- Argentine maestro Marcelo Gallardo played the last 10 minutes -- but seldom did, and so retreated to the edge of its penalty area or even deeper to fend off attacks led by Alavanja and substitute David Kenga.
A scramble in stoppage time ended with a ball in the net but the goal disallowed for an a an offside ruling against Marco Reda (formerly of Toronto FC). The final whistle from referee Mark Geiger ended Charleston's quest to become the first lower-division team since the 1999 Rochester Rhinos to win the Open Cup, and gave United the 12th trophy in its history.
Sept. 3 in Washington, D.C.
D.C. United 2 Charleston Battery 1. Goals: Emilio 4, Fred 50; Fuller 10.
D.C. United -- Crayton, Burch, McTavish, Martinez, Namoff, Vide (Fred, 40), Guerrero, Simms, Quaranta, Emilio (Dyachenko, 7; Gallardo, 80), Moreno (Cordeiro, 92+).
Charleston -- Hudock, Akwari, Nylen, Reda, Wilson, Alonso, Williams (Spicer, 73), Armstrong (Kenga, 82), Alavanja, Fuller (King, 80), Patterson.
Referee: Mark Geiger.