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Gomez penalty conversion enough as United gains first ever Champions League win 1-0 in Trinidad

It only took nine CONCACAF Champions League group stage and two preliminary qualifying matches for D.C. United to notch their very first win in the international competition. Christian Gomez’ 14th minute penalty was all the Black and Red needed to get a bit more confidence going ahead of their next group match a week from Thursday at RFK Stadium against Marathon of Honduras.
After three matches played, United is firmly in third place with 3 points. A win over Marathon will make the remaining two group matches very interesting. United left about a half dozen starters back in Washington D.C., a combination of badly needed rest, injuries and suspensions. With that United only took 16 players down to Port of Spain and fielded yet another makeshift lineup that saw Clyde Simms in the back line of United’s 4-5-1 formation. Luciano Emilio was the target player with Gomez roaming freely all night just behind him.

Danny Szetela, Andrew Jacobson and Devon MacTavish all drew rare starts and their fresh legs were a big part of the improved performance from past weeks from the Black and Red. Aside from a ten minute spot of play from the home side late in the first half, United were in complete control of the match as Jebloteh were reduced to taking chances from the inordinate amount of free kicks given by the sketchy at best refereeing crew. A number of bizarre calls seemed to go against United all night long including the yet unseen this calender year call of six seconds of possession against United’s goalkeeper Milos Kocic. The resulting free kick was the worst of a terrible litter of poor free kicks from Jebloteh.

United got the games lone goal in the 14th minute when a Jebloteh defender clearly blocked a cross coming from Szetela through the penalty area. Gomez stepped up and easily beat the Trinidadian goalkeeper. While United didn’t create all that many chances outside of a few late ones as Jebloteh was pushing upfield looking for the equalizer, they did a more than credible job of keeping possession and forcing the home side to attempt to apply pressure to get the ball away from United. United obliged on a few occasions with their own bizarre turnovers but for the most part the midfield triangle of Rodney Wallace, Jacobsen and Gomez kept United in control from start to finish.

United has now ended their worst stretch of matches for the season after playing 10 games in 31 days and 4 different countries. Now they can get back to DC and get some proper training in (which they couldn’t do when they were playing every 3 days) and prepare for the stretch run of this competition as well as the highly important MLS playoff chase. United will face Marathon of Honduras on Thursday, Sept 24th at RFK. Three days later they get back into MLS play against the San Jose Earthquakes at RFK and then face Jebloteh again on Wednesday, September 30th.

United Notes

– Bryan Namoff, Jaime Moreno, Josh Wicks, Ben Olsen, Santino Quaranta, Marc Burch, Dejan Jakovic and Fred were all left back in Washington.

– Ty Shipalane made his United debut subbing in for Emilio in the 78th minute and should have scored in the 90th when he was all alone in front of net, courtesy of a fine individual move from Gomez

– Milos Kocic got a rare start and has yet to taste defeat this season wearing the Black and Red goalkeeper jersey. Interesting…………

United hangs on for 2-1 win over Harrisburg to reach Open Cup semi-final round

For 50 minutes in last nights U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal matchup between D.C. United and the Harrisburg City Islanders, it really wasn’t much of a match. United got up top early thanks to early goals from Boyzzz Khumalo in the 8th minute via a beautiful bending ball from Devon McTavish and an Andrew Jacobsen header from a corner kick in the 18th minute. United was in complete control of the match.

That all changed in the 49th minute when City Islander midfielder and captain Mo Odour was sent off for a vicious elbow to the face of United midfielder John DiRaimando. At this point you would expect the MLS side to step on the necks of their USL2 foes and put them away. In a season that has seen United repeatedly allowing teams to stay in matches due to not finishing chances and mind-numbing defensive mistakes, it was yet another mistake that allowed Harrisburg the confidence they needed to get back into the match.

In the 64th minute, United defender Greg Janicki was a bit too casual in trying to thread a ball to a teamate and simply passed it right into the path of the City Islander’s most dangerous player on the evening Ty Shipalane. The crafty South African sped towards United’s goal and was tackled off the ball by United defender Avery John. However the loose ball found it’s way to the left foot of Harrisburg midfielder Nicki Paterson who easily beat Milos Kocic to half the deficit at 2-1.

Harrisburg kept appyling the pressure to the clearly rattled United defense and nearly drew the match level in the 73rd minute when substitute David Schofield managed his way past the United defense and rocketed a shot off the underside of the crossbar and sent shockwaves through the crowd of 2,137 at the Maryland SoccerPlex. United managed to dodge that bullet and even managed a few counterattack chances that should have put the game away for good but never materialised. United did manage to score twice in the second half but both goals were called back for sketchy offside calls.

United now will face the Rochester Raging Rhinos, a 2-1 winner over Wilmington last night, in the semi-final round on July 21st at the Maryland SoccerPlex.