United Starts Fast, but Can't Hold On

Adolfo Bautista, left, celebrates with Alberto Medina after scoring for Chivas and tying the Champions' Cup semifinal at 1-1. (Guillermo Arias - AP)
By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 4, 2007

D.C. United got off to a spectacular start against Mexican power Chivas last night, but allowed the tying goal just before the half and fell behind on goalkeeper Troy Perkins's gaffe, resulting in a 2-1 defeat in the second leg of the Champions' Cup semifinals at rainy Jalisco Stadium in Guadalajara, Mexico.

United was seeking to become the first MLS team to win a competitive match in Mexico in 10 attempts, and for the first 40-plus minutes, D.C. appeared on its way. Jaime Moreno provided the lead with a bicycle kick, but Adolfo Bautista scored the equalizer and Gonzalo Piñeda broke the tie seven minutes into the second half when Perkins could not hold a rising shot.

Chivas will play MLS champion Houston or Mexican rival Pachuca in the two-leg finals of the 45-year-old regional club championship. The winner will earn a berth in the Club World Cup in Japan in December.

"We missed an opportunity," Coach Tom Soehn said. "The goal that really hurt us was the one right before the half. It would have been nice to have a lead at the half."

Unlike the 1-1 tie in the series opener three weeks ago at RFK Stadium, United dictated play throughout the first half and drew three early corner kicks, prompting derisive whistles from the restless crowd.

Chivas began to find its stride midway through the half and forced Perkins to come off his line and break up a clear opportunity deep in the box.

Despite losing left-side midfielder Josh Gros to a possible concussion in the 29th minute, United continued to force play and was rewarded seven minutes later on Moreno's splendid goal.

Moreno broke out in transition from the midfield circle and pushed the ball to Luciano Emilio on the left side. When defenders closed on him, Emilio slid the ball back to Moreno in the middle of the box. With his back to the goal and goalie Luis Michel out of position, Moreno lifted the ball to himself and lofted a 14-yard bicycle kick into the right side of the net for his first goal of the tournament.

United could not get to intermission with the lead, however. Ramon Morales launched Alberto Medina with a long ball down the left flank and into the box. Medina, who had broken away from Facundo Erpen, touched a cross to Bautista for an easy, seven-yard one-timer past Perkins.

Chivas carried the momentum into the second half and went ahead on Perkins's blunder in the 52nd. Piñeda's 30-yard shot had pace and accuracy, but Perkins should have stopped it. Instead, the high bid slipped between his hands and into the net.

Michel preserved the lead four minutes later, making a reflex save on Christian Gomez's sliding one-timer.

United struggled to regain its first-half form and, with Chivas attacking with confidence, the margin threatened to grow.

Sensing the match slipping away, Soehn turned to newly acquired Fred in the 66th minute and lifted Stephen deRoux, Gros's replacement.

Perkins kept his club in the game with two late saves, but his teammates were unable to convert a scramble deep in the box in the 89th minute.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company