Second-Half Surge Lifts Pachuca Over United

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 2, 2008

D.C. United stumbled in Mexico again last night, conceding a pair of second-half goals by reserve Luis Montes and falling to Pachuca, 2-0, in the first leg of the Champions' Cup semifinals at Estadio Hidalgo.

Montes's strikes in the 63rd and 81st minutes sent United to its fourth road loss without a victory against Mexican clubs since 2005 and left the MLS team in need of a two-goal victory April 9 at RFK Stadium to force an overtime period and, if necessary, penalty kicks.

The series winner will advance to the finals of the 46-year-old regional tournament, which will send the champion to the Club World Cup in December in Japan.

The Houston Dynamo faces Saprissa (Costa Rica) in the other semifinal, starting tonight in Texas.

Playing at 7,900 feet, United showed promise in the first half and made it to intermission in a scoreless tie. But Pachuca, the tournament's defending champion, consumed the game in the second half with its possession and did not allow United to sustain an attack.

The visitors survived Jose Francisco Torres's 28-yard blast off the crossbar in the 48th minute, but Pachuca's pressure was too much to withstand.

Eighteen minutes into the half, Montes, a 21-year-old midfielder, collected the ball on the left side, just outside the penalty area. Goalkeeper Zach Wells anticipated a cross and, when he cheated a bit toward the middle, Montes tucked a ferocious shot just inside the near post before Wells could reach back to stop it.

Pachuca pressed for another, but it was United that had two quality chances to draw even. Despite its lack of possession, United was able to muster a counterattack in which Luciano Emilio's shot from inside the penalty area was blocked and Marcelo Gallardo's cross a moment later was cleared from the six-yard box.

United did not threaten again, and in the 81st minute, after Devon McTavish committed a foul on the edge of the penalty area, Christian Gimenez drove in a free kick that a hard-charging Montes nodded past Wells before crashing into the net.

Wells's sub-par second half followed a strong first half, in which he stopped Juan Carlos Cacho's clear bid from 10 yards and disrupted Pachuca's aerial game.

United's only threat before halftime came in the seventh minute when quality long balls from Gallardo and McTavish led to Emilio chasing down a deflection deep in the penalty area but not having an angle in which to shoot as goalie Miguel Calero scrambled back into position.

United, which lost its MLS season opener at Kansas City on Saturday by the same score, will return to Washington to play its MLS home opener Saturday night against Toronto FC (0-1).

¿ EUROPE: Cristiano Ronaldo soared to head in Paul Scholes's cross in the 39th minute, Wayne Rooney added a second-half goal and visiting Manchester United defeated AS Roma, 2-0, in the first leg of the European Champions League quarterfinals.

Ronaldo dashed to the net and leaped for his seventh Champions League goal of the season, moving ahead of Barcelona's Lionel Messi atop the scoring list. Ronaldo has 36 goals in all competitions this season.

Also, 17-year-old Bojan Krkic scored in the 12th minute to give Barcelona a 1-0 victory at Germany's Schalke. Thierry Henry's shot was fumbled by goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, and Henry played the ball back across for Krkic, who tapped it in at the far post.

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