United Settles for Tie In Tournament Opener

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 13, 2008

About five minutes from grinding out a road victory in its 2008 debut, D.C. United conceded a goal off a corner kick and settled for a 1-1 tie with Harbour View last night in the first leg of a Champions' Cup quarterfinal series in Kingston, Jamaica.

Devon McTavish scored for United just before halftime, but Lovell Palmer volleyed the equalizer past goalkeeper Zach Wells to leave the total-goals series even heading into the final leg Tuesday night at RFK Stadium.

"I was a little disappointed in the quality," United Coach Tom Soehn said. "We've had better stretches at the end of the preseason and just did not show it tonight."

The 46-year-old tournament serves as the regional championship for clubs from North and Central America and the Caribbean. The winner will advance to the Club World Cup in Japan in December.

United played like a team in its first competitive match in more than four months and employing four new starters. And just 19 minutes into the match, a fifth newcomer, Franco Niell, replaced team captain Jaime Moreno, who departed with a hamstring injury.

Marcelo Gallardo, United's new playmaker, showed excellent touch and technique and was a free kick threat, but lacked explosiveness to escape pressure. Central defenders Gonzalo Mart¿nez and Gonzalo Peralta settled in nicely and absorbed only minor pressure until the final 17 minutes, when Harbour View's attack gained traction.

Niell was the center of controversy in the 23rd minute when he was taken down in pursuit of a ball behind Harbour View's defense. United appealed for a red card, saying the foul prevented a breakaway, but only a yellow card was assessed. Gallardo followed with a 30-yard free kick that was punched aside.

McTavish, starting on the right side of midfield in place of injured Ben Olsen, scored the first goal of his three-year career during first-half added time. From the left side, Fred slipped a pass into Gallardo's path for an 18-yard one-timer. McTavish was unable to get out of the way of the low shot, but collected the ball and smacked a five-yarder into the far corner of the net.

United did not create much after halftime but was not seriously threatened, either, until late. In the 85th minute, after Wells's diving save gave Harbour View a corner kick, Palmer took advantage of a loose ball and directed a six-yard shot into the right side.

"It's disappointing," Soehn said. "We didn't play well enough. We need to be better. I'm glad we got this first one out of our system."

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