United cap perfect Champions League group play with 1-0 win in Panama

D.C. United capped off a perfect group stage in the CONCACAF Champions League stage with their 4th win in four matches, this time a narrow 1-0 win over Tauro FC in Panama City, Panama tonight. As a result, United is now booked for a top seed in the upcoming knockout stages of the tournament which will begin in early 2015.

It’s unknown at this point which of the top four seeds United could command, but they can’t do any worse than the fourth seed as there are only three other teams that could possibly match United’s perfect 4-0 record in group play. Those matches are being played tonight through Thursday to determine which teams finish where.

Armed only with thirteen reserve players and rent-a-goalie from the MLS Player Pool, United eked out a 1-0 win through some good fortune as Conor Shanosky scored the game’s only goal in the 24th minute when a routine clearance from a free kick ricocheted off the Homegrown players face and into the goal.

Not surprisingly, both squads put out complete reserve sides and the early played dictated as much. Shanosky’s goal pushed United in front in the 24th minute as United started to take control of the match. However, the home side turned the tables in the last quarter hour and pushed the tempo but rarely forced any saves from United goalkeeper Joe Willis.

After the break, it was United who was bossing the play and they have should have doubled their advantage on numerous opportunities but were lax in their approach play and couldn’t find that final pass to unlock the Tauro defense.

It appeared that United did take a 2-0 lead midway through the second half but Collin Martin’s goal was ruled out for being offside after Lewis Neal’s one-time volley was parried into the path of Martin. Replays showed the call to be the correct one, a rarity for the far side linesman who called United offside multiple times though they appeared to be onside on most of those calls.

Regardless, United kept the pressure on the hosts and finally pulled back into a defensive shell in the last ten minutes and found themselves very fortunate to keep the clean sheet when Willis pulled off a stunning one-handed save in stoppage time to preserve the match.

United will now travel back to D.C. tomorrow and rejoin the rest of the squad who were home resting for their final league match this Saturday afternoon in Montreal. With a win over the Impact and a Seattle home win over the Los Angeles Galaxy, United will move up to the #2 overall seed by virtue of their tie-breaking number of league wins over the Galaxy. Both teams currently sit on 17 wins. United will know by the second half of their match exactly what they will need as the Sounders/Galaxy tilt is kicking off an hour before their match starts at 4pm EST.

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