Washington, D.C., September 15, 2015 – D.C. United only needed a draw last night to clinch their Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League Group H advancement and did it one better with a comfortable 2-0 win over Arabe Unido of Panama last night at RFK Stadium.
Conor Doyle and Jared Jeffrey notched first-half goals to ease United into the knockout stages of the tournament next February. United has won their group for the second consecutive year and did it in the same fashion with head coach Ben Olsen using almost exclusively reserves through all of their group matches.
United flipped the script of recent matches at RFK by scoring first through Conor Doyle just 36 seconds into the match. The sequence began when central defender Steve Birnbaum (the only First X1 player to start) waltzed through the middle of Arabe Unido’s central midfield and found Chris Pontius on the left wing. Pontius then whipped in a left-footed cross intended for Jairo Arrieta but found it’s way to Doyle on the far post where he one-timed his shot back against the grain for the early lead.
United continued their comfortable tempo and doubled the lead in the 22nd minute when Jared Jeffrey got on the end of a Facundo Coria corner kick and headed home under no pressure from six yards away.
United continued to keep the visitors at bay and rightfully should have had at least one penalty shout early in the second half. Defender Luke Mishu was hauled down in the box rather clearly but the claim was ignored by ref from Guyana and then just two minutes later Coria was taken down as well but no call came forth.
Arabe Unido did have two very good chances of their own in the second half only to see the shots clang off the crossbar. First up was a mammoth free kick from 35 yards by Renan Addles in the 52nd minute that rocketed off the crossbar and five minutes later Abdiel Macia’s close-range effort hit the crossbar before going over after a poor defensive clearance from United.
United had two more good chances to improve their goal differential (and in turn improve their potential top-seeding for the quarterfinals) but Coria’s fine solo bid was well saved by the Arabe Unido goalkeeper as well as Doyle’s stoppage time bid as well.
United now only have their last Group H match left to play next Tuesday night in Jamaica against Montego Bay. As Olsen has done through this competition, he will most likely send a skeleton crew of reserves for the match.
Meanwhile, United will now turn their attention to a critical match at RFK on Saturday when they take on Columbus Crew SC. Columbus trails United by a single point as both teams have just five league matches to go.
United lost the lead in the Eastern Conference to New York Red Bull as a result of last weeks matches after having the lead for nearly four months of the season. A scenario does exist that if United loses to Columbus on Saturday, the Black-and-Red could potentially drop to fourth place in the East, if results go against them this week. Chief among those matches is a Red Bull/NE Revolution match up tonight at Foxborough. A draw between these teams would be the best result for United heading into their match up with the Crew.