Emilio Strikes Old Flame

United's Luciano Emilio fires the ball past Noel Valladares for a goal to tie the game at 1. (Preston Keres - The Washington Post)
By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 2, 2007

Having already built a massive advantage in the total-goals series, D.C. United was under no pressure to win the second and final match against Olimpia of Honduras last night at rainy RFK Stadium. All that was required to reach the Champions' Cup semifinals against Mexican power Chivas was an orderly performance.

United accomplished its task -- and won the game anyway.

Brazilian forward Luciano Emilio continued to bedevil his former club with two goals and reigning MLS most valuable player Christian Gomez scored his third in two matches as United claimed a 3-2 victory before 8,181 spectators to win the series by a 7-3 aggregate score.

United -- a 4-1 winner in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, last week -- will host Chivas on March 15 and travel to Guadalajara, Mexico, in early April.

Despite being only five weeks into preparations for the MLS season, United provided another surprisingly powerful offensive display against a seasoned opponent. Emilio has formed a quick bond with Gomez and Jaime Moreno, showing promising signs of becoming the strong, target forward that United has lacked in recent years.

"If you look at the opportunities we create and the people that are creating them . . . I might even score a couple goals if I had that kind of service," Coach Tom Soehn marveled. "On different days, you are going to see different people step up for us and that's what makes us dangerous."

Emilio's first goal, in which he launched himself out of tight space, tied the match in the 37th minute. His second strike, with a clinical finish, snapped a 2-2 tie in the 84th. By then, by virtue of its big overall lead, United was already well on its way to the next round of the 45-year-old regional club championship.

"I'm not surprised at all," Emilio said of his fast acclimation after being signed in January. "When I first came here, I knew that [Gomez and Moreno] were from South America and we clicked right away, off the field as well, and I knew their style would blend with mine. It's been an easy transition to play with them."

It didn't start well for United. Olimpia patiently built its attack, and with the help of United defender Bryan Namoff's takedown of Wilfredo Barahona, the Hondurans took the lead on Hendry Thomas's penalty kick in the 30th minute.

Olimpia threatened for another, but United absorbed the pressure -- barely -- and tied the score before the break. Moreno gathered Bobby Boswell's long ball in stride and pulled it back deep in the box. He touched it to Emilio, who for an instant appeared boxed in by four defenders. With a powerful surge, however, he found just enough space to drill an acutely angled left-footed shot from eight yards into the far side.

Olimpia was deflated, just as it was in the first leg when Emilio scored just before the half to break a 1-1 tie.

Ben Olsen came on for Brian Carroll at halftime and made an immediate impact, drawing a penalty kick when he was tripped while shooting on the run. Gomez easily converted, all but securing advancement. Jose Pacini scored for Olimpia in the 75th minute against Jay Nolly, who had replaced Troy Perkins (strained quadriceps), but Emilio added his second of the evening with an exquisite touch and calm finish to the far corner nine minutes later.

"It wasn't easy, but we got the win," Moreno said, "and that's all we care about."

United Notes: Midfielder Domenic Mediate, a former Maryland Terrapin who never regained his playing form after breaking his leg last August, was waived. He made eight league appearances and two starts last season. . . . Former United star Marco Etcheverry was named a special consultant to the club. The Bolivian-born midfielder will assist with youth development, serve as a liaison in Latin America and provide scouting. . . . The club announced a new, four-year deal with Comcast SportsNet, which, according to sources, paid a rights fee for the first time. Comcast will show 18 matches, including the eight at home in high definition.

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