Late goals sink United in Champions League group play opener

Two late goals from Jerry Palacios and Mario Berrios set Marathon of Honduras on to a 3-1 victory over D.C. United last night in the opening match of the CONCACAF Champions League in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Defensive blunders were once again the undoing of the Black and Red and they left Honduras with an undeserved loss to open their group play account.

Defender Greg Janicki had a big part in all three goals allowed and it was too much to overcome for the visitors who had played very well for most of the evening. Janicki’s misplay of an otherwise routine clearance in the penalty area gifted Marathon a 1-0 lead in the 24th minute. Janicki whiffed on his left-footed clearance and the ball landed on the foot of former United target Walter Martinez who easily tapped it into goal for the lead.

Both teams got to halftime and United were the aggressors from the restart. In the 48th minute United scored on a corner kick when halftime substitute Santino Quaranta sent in the cross that met the forehead of Julius James. His shot was well saved by the Marathon goalkeeper but the rebound was nodded in by Luciano Emilio to level the score. Emilio had a clash of heads with a Marathon defender on the play and had to leave the match temporarily to attend to a gaping head wound that left him very bloody on the field.

From that point United were the much crisper and aggressive team as their midfield dominated the Honduran side who resorted to long-ball tactics to relieve the pressure. United should have taken the lead in the 64th minute when Quaranta sent in a laser presice diagonal cross to the onrushing Devon McTavish who’s diving header was once again well saved.

United would rue that missed opportunity for in the 83rd minute Jerry Palacios got inside and behind Janicki and slotted the ball past Josh Wicks for the game-winner. A late penalty was dubiously awarded to the home side a few minutes later when Janicki took down Palacios with a hard tackle in the box. Mario Berrios’ first PK attempt was saved by Wicks but the referee awarded a retake when Clyde Simms encroached into the box. Berrios made the subsequent shot and the final was 3-1 to Marathon, a flattering scoreline for sure considering how well United had played on the evening.


United Notes

– Not a banner day for the FSC announcing team of Christian Miles and Christopher Sullivan. Both men made numerous mistakes through the evening, the most aggregious of which was Sullivan’s constant pointing out of United’s “return match at RFK”. It wasn’t until the 92nd minute when Sullivan had realized that this was a group phase and not a two-leg aggregate series. Miles, a person I have slagged on more than one occasion both on the air and in print, was a complete nightmare. In talking about debutant David Habarugira – “it’s his MLS debut tonight”. I love the commitment to soccer that FSC provides, but the sometimes cable access feel of the network is a bit too comical. Last night was no exception

– Danny Szetela and Bryan Namoff remained in DC to train ahead of the Galaxy match on Saturday night. Dejan Jakovic, Christian Gomez and Marc Burch did not make it off the bench. Jakovic was not on the 18-man roster

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