Coming into the final, the two teams could hardly have been in different positions. Real had the second-best record in MLS and the league's best offense. D.C. lay in last place, with the league's most impotent attack and leakiest defense.
Throughout the game, RSL dominated possession, passing and chances, but failed to penetrate a dogged team set up to frustrate its fluid movements. Skillful Luis Silva was benched in favor of the more workmanlike Lewis Neal.
Indeed, it was D.C. that went into halftime with the 1-0 lead, courtesy of a Neal goal just before the interval. John Thorrington worked his way down the left wing and whipped in a cross. Carlos Salcedo was there to get a touch, but the ball fell for Neal to nip in and send a shot into the far low corner.
The home side nearly responded immediately through its captain. Barely a second after the restart, Kyle Beckerman was up the other end, ripping a powerful drive from distance, but Bill Hamid was relieved to see the shot fizz wide.
Real Salt Lake pushed hard for an equalizer after the restart. Its most threatening moment came in the 59th minute, when Sebastien Velasquez smashed a shot off Hamid's crossbar from the edge of the penalty area, and Alvaro Saborio and Nat Borchers both saw headed efforts go wide in the following minutes.
As the game ticked closer to time, RSL threw more men forward. Devon Sandoval came on as a substitute and almost set up Ned Grabavoy at the end of regulation before Chris Korb, who was in impressive form all night, managed to scramble the ball away amid goalmouth chaos.
RSL narrowly escaped total disaster in stoppage time when Nick Rimando was strangely shown only a yellow card for impeding Conor Doyle as the last man. Despite the lack of ejection, Salt Lake could not find an equalizer, with Hamid's close range save on Sandoval and James Riley's block on Saborio's late header from a corner the home side's closest efforts in the closing minutes.
The Open Cup win is D.C.'s third all-time, joining 1996 and 2008 successes and tying the capital club with three otherd for third-most wins all-time. It is the first major trophy won by Ben Olsen as a head coach, and the club's first since it last won the competition in 2008.