D.C. United goalkeeper Dakota Niedermeier turned in a performance for the ages on Thursday, stopping five straight penalty kicks and converting the game-winner in a nine-round shootout as D.C. won its third SUM Cup title in four years and second in a row with a heart-stopping 5-4 shootout win over Real Salt Lake after a 0-0 tie.
For full coverage of the tournament, go to HoustonDynamo.com/SUMCup.
It was the second consecutive year in which the SUM U-17 Cup was decided on penalty kicks after D.C. United beat Dallas last year, but Niedermeier made the morning his own. With the teams tied 4-4, D.C.'s Romain Gall hit the left post and walked away almost in tears. But Niedermeier made a full-length dive to his left to deny Junior Jbopau and keep United alive. Both goalkeepers then played their best, with Niedermeier and Salt Lake's Carson Elliot keeping out the next three shots. Niedermeier had phenomenal stops on John Taylor and Eric Christensen that drew oohs and aahs from the other teams watching.
Finally, in the ninth round of the shootout, Niedermeier himself stepped up and coolly fired a low shot into the right side of the net, freezing Elliot. He then dove to his right to stop Julio Alarcon and give United the title. Niedermeier had also made at least four crucial saves in regulation.
In the first half of Thursday morning's final, Salt Lake - with six players from RSL Arizona in the lineup - seemed to adjust better to the stifling heat than D.C. United, which had been considered the favorite based on the teams' Tuesday-night performances. RSL also made good use of its numerical advantage in midfield, with D.C. United continuing to play a 4-3-3 and rely on its experienced backline to limit opportunities.
D.C. United did get several first-half chances, with forward Julian Griggs getting loose on the right side of the penalty area in the 26th minute and stinging a right-footed shot on target that Real Salt Lake's Elliot punched away. Shortly after, forward Cody Albrecht whistled a shot high from distance.
Salt Lake responded quickly, with a great run up the middle by Richard Velasco, who slotted a slick pass into the right side of the box for outside midfielder Nick Semintendi, but he pushed his shot wide right. Semintendi turned a half-chance into a great chance in the 32nd minute, curling a left-footed shot from the top of the box that forced a fine one-handed save from Dakota Niedermeier to tip the ball around the far post. The teams remained scoreless at halftime.
Real Salt Lake had a golden chance to take the lead in the 44th minute when Velasco made a punishing tackle in his own half and carried the ball forward before dropping it off for John Taylor. He played a delayed give-and-go with Junior Jbopau, and the return pass set up Taylor for a one-timer from about 10 yards away, but Niedermeier dove to the middle of the goal line to make a game-saving stop.
RSL threatened again in the 58th minute after a long ball forward by Julio Alarcon found Matt Gay in the middle. He chipped the ball through for Velasco, who lobbed the ball over one defender but had his second lob attempt stymied by Niedermeier, and D.C. was able to clear the rebound.
Niedermeier was put to the test again in the 62nd minute when Taylor let fly from 35 yards, and the United goalkeeper was forced to tip the ball over the crossbar.
Real Salt Lake vs. D.C. United
2010 SUM U-17 Cup - Final
July 29, 2010 -- Robertson Stadium, Houston
DC -- Nathaniel Eggleston (Goal)
RSL -- Richard Velasco (Goal)
DC -- Marco Hurtado (Goal)
RSL -- Nick Semintendi (Goal)
DC -- Julian Griggs (Goal)
RSL -- Matt Gay (Goal)
DC -- Cody Albrecht (Goal)
RSL -- Tanner Clay (Goal)
DC -- Romain Gall (Wide left)
RSL -- Junior Jbopau (Saved)
DC -- Kainoa Bailey (Saved)
RSL -- Cole Nagy (Saved)
DC -- Mahamamoudou Kaba (Saved)
RSL -- Matt Taylor (Saved)
DC -- Jordan Manley (High)
RSL -- Eric Christensen (Saved)
DC -- Dakota Niedermeier (Goal)
RSL -- Julio Alcaron (Saved)
Real Salt Lake -- Carson Elliot, Rayshawn Washington (Eric Christensen 36), Phanuel Kavita, Tanner Clay, Julio Alarcon, Nick Semintendi, Cole Nagy, Richard Velasco, Zander Rados (John Taylor 36), Aaron Caprio (Matt Gay 41), Junior Jbopau.
D.C. United -- Dakota Niedermeier, Jordan Manley, Nathaniel Eggleston, Mahamamoudou Kaba, Marco Hurtado, Tyler Rudy (Ahmed Ismial 70), Cody Albrecht, Suliman Dainkeh (Romain Gall 45), Yaw Amankwa (Patrick Foss 36, Dario Redondo 63), Collin Martin (Kainoa Bailey 41), Julian Griggs.
DC -- Patrick Foss (caution) 50
RSL -- Cole Nagy (caution) 57
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial