Having tied the home leg last week after giving up a precious away goal, DC United had to score at least one to negate the away goal they gave up against Firpo in RFK, and they did just that as the teams traded goals with the Salvadoran power in the first half, before penalty kicks decided the match after extra time.
Nothing like eating crow! And I will take seconds please. With their backs against the wall, DC United trotted into El Salvador on very little rest and played their absolute best players for as long as they could stay upright, and in the case of Christian Gomez, he stayed upright long enough to not only score the tying goal in the match, but the series winning penalty kick as well.
Anyone who assumed United was taking this qualifying match lightly, myself included, was slapped down hard as DC United played their absolute best players almost from start to finish, and all the nay-sayers who think Christian Gomez is washed up were embarrassed once again as he not only played the entire 120 minute match, but he scored DC’s all important tying goal as well as the winning penalty that saw the team through this difficult preliminary match-up with Firpo.
The match was pretty much a midfield struggle throughout as both teams pressed to assert themselves in what turned out to be a very evenly played match.
Firpo established the early pressure, but was thwarted as Salvadoran National team midfielder, Dennis Alas missed a golden shot set up for him in the 33rd minute.
Unfortunately, United defender Marc Burch was to hobble the Black and Red as he gave up a foolish FK along the sideline, and then exacerbated his mistake with a wayward arm on Alas’s freekick into the area that gave up a PK for Firpo in the 38th minute.
CD L.A. Firpo forward Leandro Franco took a sketchy spot kick where he paused before stroking his shot into net after United keeper Josh Wicks had jumped, but his trickery was short lived as DC roared right back to score the all important away goal that swung the match in their favor.
Barely into the 41st minute, United’s Santino Quaranta slalomed 40 yards before being brought down barely 5 yards outside the Firpo penalty area. In exquisite Christian Gomez territory, United’s mercurial playmaker curled a perfect shot over the wall and off the desperate goalkeeper’s flailing hands to tie the match.
The second half and most of the overtime periods were to be pretty uneventful outside of Fred getting a dubious red card on a relatively innocuous challenge. Still, even down to 10 men, DC had no trouble keeping a tight handle on the match, even if they did not manage the winning goal in regulation.
However, PK’s were to be United’s just results as no United player was to miss, while Firpo captain and El Salvadoran National team central defender Noel Salazar blasted his spot kick well over the bar leaving the door open for Burch and Gomez to seal DC United’s trip into the group stage of the CONCACAF Champion’s League.
DC will start group play in a mere two weeks as CONCACAF group play is scheduled to start in the midweek around August 19th. DC will face Toluca of Mexico and Marathon of Honduras as well as likely San Francisco of Panama in that very tough group.
DC United returns to MLS play next Saturday against Toronto FC in Toronto, but has an exhibition match against Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid coming up next weekend.