Ben Olsen

Early goal seals United’s fate in CONCACAF Champions League

Washington, D.C., March 1, 2016 – D.C. United knew they had an uphill climb to advance to the semi-final round of the 2016 CONCACAF Champions League after falling behind 2-0 in Mexico last week.

What they didn’t expect was to be virtually eliminated from the competition just four minutes into the return leg at RFK Stadium. Querataro scored on their first attempt at goal in the 4th minute and by virtue of that all-important away goal, United would have needed to score four times without conceding over the remaining portion of the match.

“It changes everything, it changes the entire game,” United coach Ben Olsen said in his postgame news conference. “When you dig yourself in these holes, it’s tough to get out.

“Three minutes in, all of a sudden game’s over. Just like that.”

Tried as they might, United didn’t have the mental or physical ability to overcome such a deficit. Unfortunately for United they’ve made it a habit in recent two-leg affairs to go down big in the first leg and come up short in the second. Four of the last five two-legged series United has come home to RFK trailing by at least two goals. That makes for a difficult but not impossible task.

However, Angel Sepulveda put any chance of a comeback on ice with his cool finish in just the fourth minute. United defender Taylor Kemp should have done much better at clearing a loose ball along the left sideline by crafty Mexican international Sinha schooled the Maryland grad and whipped in a cross into the heart of the penalty area. United defenders Steve Birnbaum and Sean Franklin poorly tracked the ball and allowed Edgar Benitez to knock down a header to Sepulveda who gave goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra no chance.

Despite the huge mental letdown, United pushed forward and should have equalized early in the second half after Patrick Nyarko was awarded a penalty after a nifty move in the area before being hauled down. The normally reliable Chris Rolfe had his penalty well saved by Brazilian net minder Tiago Volpi, who was ultimately the difference maker in the two-leg series.

United did have one shining moment of brilliance in the match and it was the debut goal of United’s top draft pick Julian Buscher in the 84th minute to at least salvage a draw in the match. Buscher received a touch pass from fellow substitute Luciano Acosta and proceeded to head towards goal when he unleashed a 28-yard swerving rocket that clipped off the right post and past Volpi. It seemed fitting that a world-class strike was the only thing that got past Volpi in this series.

United now will have lick their wounds and turn their attention to their season-opening match against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday evening in Carson, California. The Galaxy were also eliminated from the Champions League when they lost 4-0 in Mexico against Santos Laguna last night.

 

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