Itâ€™ll be interesting to see how United responds to the crushing loss they suffered in Columbus coming so soon after being robbed down in Mexico. They might well take all that anger out on Marathon, or they might wilt like a team with nothing to play for. Which is of course, what they are.
Marathon will undoubtedly be coming in the more desperate team as they need a win to keep pace with Cruz Azul, who are three points ahead, and move ahead of Saprissa with whom they are tied at seven points apiece heading into this match. However, the Mexicans have only one match left in Saprissa, while Marathon hosts Saprissa next week as well as plays DC tomorrow. So, both Saprissa and Marathon actually have the inside track on qualifying with more games left, and Marathon has a much better tie breaking situation than Cruz Azul.
Still, you would hope DC will show enough pride and character to go out with a win at home. At least a little something for the fans to take away from this year and this tournament in particular. DC has never been so humiliated internationally than it has been late in this season. After a glorious, but futile win over Pachuca in April, whoâ€™d have thought it possible it would come down to scrapping for nothing but pride by October? Youâ€™d hope theyâ€™d want to go with at least one win in this inaugural event to salvage some dignity.
Tough to say who plays for DC too. For certain Wells will be in the nets, as every other goalie we have is suspended, as is Craig Thompson. Itâ€™s also very unlikely Namoff or Moreno plays either as they are not fully healthy and thereâ€™s no reason to risk them further. I think itâ€™s also unlikely there will be too many other starters either. Not only have the reserves played exceptionally well and deserve to see this thing out, but the veterans and mercenaries we have as starters may well not be as enthusiastic as they should be given the way this season ended.
And it will take a monumental effort to beat Marathon too. They have easily been the class of this group. They are undefeated at home beating both DC and Cruz Azul, they also tied Cruz Azul in Mexico city (with all their players on the field at the end, I might add bitterly), and barely lost to Saprissa in Costa Rica due to a last minute goal in a match they led most of the way.
They are one of the fastest teams weâ€™ve ever seen and they havenâ€™t slowed up a bit. Theyâ€™re still going to cause match up problems for DC as their attack is varied and punishes mistakes unmercifully. Their defense is also the best in the group with only three total goals scored against, none at home, a mere three given up in Mexico and in Costa Rica. So, no matter how inspired DC is to go out on a winning note, this team will not be easy to beat by any stretch of the imagination, unless maybe they overlook DC entirely, which is certainly understandable.
Now, on a personal note, as much as Iâ€™d like to see DC go out on a winning note at home after such a cruelly disappointing season, truth be told, Iâ€™d be fine with a Marathon win if it helps knock out one of those cheating sides that scored goals against us while players lay on the ground injured. If only it could be Cruz Azul or Saprissa in this last game. Now thatâ€™s a DC win I could rally around most enthusiastically, but Marathon has been impressive, and Iâ€™d hate to think a DC win helps one of those other two festering cheats get into the next round.
Not that Iâ€™m bitter or vindictive you understand. Noâ€¦â€¦ not me. I always say let bygones be bygones. Besides, who could claim collusion if DC got rolled by Marathon? Itâ€™s not like DC has done much in this tournament to begin with. So, why punish Marathon, the only team with as much class as they have talent, which is more than you can say for any other team in this group. If another loss at home means Saprissa, or more likely Cruz Azul is knocked out, well Iâ€™d sleep just fine thank you very much.
Seriously, thereâ€™s going to be no good eulogies for this season. No wistful remembrances of this tortuous season in the years ahead. Even the Open Cup trophy will be more of an afterthought, or maybe even better remembered for the thrilling win over Chicago than it will be for either victory over the two lower division sides DC beat to get it (including New England). Maybe a few fond goals and heroic performances to relish, another trophy in the case, but fleeting moments only. Given the expectations and money lavished on this team, that one trophy is better than nothing of course, but over all simply wasnâ€™t good enough.
A win over Marathon doesnâ€™t erase any of that, but it would at least send the fans home for the winter with something better inside than they left Columbus feeling.