After Gaining Advantage, United Settles for a Tie

United's Ben Olsen tries to keep the ball away from Monaracas defender Gustavo Trujillo in a SuperLiga match at RFK Stadium on Wednesday.
United's Ben Olsen tries to keep the ball away from Monaracas defender Gustavo Trujillo in a SuperLiga match at RFK Stadium on Wednesday. (Toni L. Sandys - The Washington Post)
By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 26, 2007

It does not seem to matter whether D.C. United is playing in MLS's regular season or international competition. The club simply cannot finish scoring opportunities and, as a result, is letting games slip away.

Last night, United faltered against Mexican club Monarcas Morelia, relinquishing a late lead while holding a man advantage and settling for a 1-1 tie in its SuperLiga opener before 13,335 at RFK Stadium.

Christian Gomez's long free kick put United ahead in the seventh minute, but after Morelia's Luis Angel Landin received a red card early in the second half for an incident with Bobby Boswell, Diego Martinez tied it with a sensational strike in the 79th.

"We came out with the right bite and we got the goal and we got the red card" against Morelia, United midfielder Ben Olsen said. "Everything was going good, but then we have to manage the game better."

United will host Club America of Mexico City on Sunday evening and then travel to reigning MLS champion Houston on Wednesday, needing at least one victory to maintain its hopes of reaching the semifinals of the inaugural eight-team tournament.

The draw was a clear disappointment for United, which is winless in its past three league matches and has been plagued by poor finishing of late. D.C. took the early initiative last night, moved the ball quickly and confidently, and played with a renewed energy against an opponent in preseason form.

Gomez swerved a 28-yard shot around the wall and just inside the right post to give United the lead. But with Morelia creating little of substance and forced to resort to chippy tactics, including an undetected cheap shot to Fred at midfield, D.C. could not pull away.

In the 34th minute, Fred slotted a pass between a defender's legs to Rod Dyachenko, who set up Luciano Emilio for a seemingly simple finish. But the ball hit a seam in the turf that covers the baseball infield and took a hop. Emilio made contact with his shin, and the ball flew over the crossbar.

"We finally got bit by the infield," United Coach Tom Soehn said. "That's a big goal, that's 2-0 and that really puts them on their heels."

United gained a man advantage about 10 minutes into the second half when Boswell and Landin tussled for the ball at midfield. Boswell said Landin "got a hold of me in a spot that no man likes to be gotten a hold of" and, a moment later, Boswell kicked Landin in the groin area while attempting to make contact with the ball. When Boswell turned away, Landin shoved him from behind.

Landin was given a red card, Boswell a yellow.

The game was beginning to disintegrate, which, despite being a man up, was a troubling development for United. Its rhythm lost, D.C. watched Wilson Tiago hit the far post with a 10-yarder and Gonzalo Choy test Troy Perkins from distance.

United regained its stride midway through the half, but continued to miss opportunities. Olsen crossed to Fred for a one-timer from 12 yards that streaked over the crossbar and Emilio challenged Moises Muñoz from 15 yards.

United's inability to stretch the lead proved costly as Martinez settled Adrian Aldrete's pass and belted a half-volley from the top corner of the penalty area to the far side of the net.

In added time, United threatened several times, but came up empty again.

"Martinez scored a great goal," Soehn said. "If you're going to go down like that, at least it's going to be a play like that that's going to bite you. But we had plenty of chances to put the game away."

United Notes: Team president Kevin Payne returned from Argentina, where he reportedly made an offer to superstar midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron. Payne declined to acknowledge talks took place, but did say: "He's been a great, great player, one of the best in the world for a long time, and still has a lot in the tank. He would certainly be a guy on our radar screen."

A decision is expected within a week. United is also in the running for two young midfield prospects from Argentine club Estudiantes.

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