1) Last year D.C., like the Rhinos, had an awful league campaign. With United sitting atop the standings this season, does the club prioritize the cup lower?
D.C. United prioritizes the US Open Cup the same way every year, at least under Ben Olsen. Reserve players will be most of the lineup against non-MLS clubs, but then they will field the first-team players against MLS clubs; out of all of the MLS teams, they are definitely in the top tier of valuing this competition. I think that the team realizes that the Open Cup win last year was the only saving grace for the team, and it got them more allocation money and into the Concacaf Champions League.
There is always more pressure as the defending champion, and then there is the added pressure that comes from United actually being good this year. And, as we saw with the Seattle Sounders a couple years ago, the loss of the allocation money that comes from winning the Cup is painful as well. And while, unlike last year, the main focus will still be the MLS Cup playoffs, they will not reach a Mike Petke-level of derision towards the tournament should they lose.
As I said above, it will likely be a mostly reserve lineup, with three possible first team starters in the match. Davy Arnaud is already suspended for the next league match because of yellow card accumulation, and Fabian Espindola is likely to receive a call from the MLS disciplinary committee. Both could start in this game to keep them fresh. Bobby Boswell is the third first team starter who might play, due to a current lack of depth in the center back corps: Jeff Parke, Nana Attakora, and Conor Shanosky are all injured.Joe Willis and Christiano Francois are the only two players cup-tied to Richmond, so United should have the full contingent of reserve players to chose from. As for Eddie Johnson, I wouldn't expect to see him play; I don't think he's necessarily disheartened by being left off of the World Cup team, but it is his continued poor player that contributed to that absence. He still hasn't found his form.