Moreno Comes In, United Moves On

By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 9, 2008

With D.C. United's offense stalling last night in its U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal against the Chicago Fire, Coach Tom Soehn tried several things to provide life to his team.

First, midway through the opening half, Soehn shifted the midfield formation, hoping to provide forward Luciano Emilio with more help. Then he inserted two substitutes at halftime in hopes of sparking the stagnant attack.

Still, United struggled to put anything together. Finally, it was the move Soehn thought he wasn't able to make that ended up being the difference.

In the 62nd minute, with D.C. trailing 1-0, Soehn inserted veteran Jaime Moreno, who Soehn had thought would not be able to play because of an abdominal strain. Moreno sparked the United attack, assisting on both goals to lead United to a come-from-behind 2-1 victory in front of 4,118 at Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds.

"He adds so much experience in holding the ball and the flow got a lot better," Soehn said. "The game changed dramatically when he came in, even though he wasn't in for a long time."

United first drew even on an all-substitute goal, a credit to two of Soehn's moves. It came in the 77th minute, just 15 minutes after Moreno entered the game, when the veteran's low driven cross -- set up by a perfect sliding tackle from halftime sub Craig Thompson -- found the foot of the other sub, Francis Doe, who redirected it to the far post.

Then, nine minutes into the first overtime, Moreno's shoulder-height corner kick was headed to the far post by defender Bryan Namoff, giving United a thrilling comeback victory.

With the win, United advanced past Chicago for the first time in nine matches in knockout competition.

"I just tried to give a little life to the whole team," Moreno said. "We reacted at the right moment and it was just one of those games where it could go any way. We fought tonight very hard and we are very pleased with the result."

United fell behind in the 36th minute, when a rusty defense finally broke instead of just bending. A long diagonal ball from Logan Pause -- and perhaps a miscommunication among United defenders -- seemed to freeze rookie midfielder Pat Carroll on the right wing. The ball skipped by the stationary Carroll and to the feet of Fire defender Daniel Woolard, who easily lifted a shot over United goalkeeper Zach Wells -- who had charged way off his goal line.

Three minutes later, United escaped a repeat of the goal. This time, Chad Barrett served a diagonal ball from the sideline. The ball seemed to fool Wells, who looked as if he thought the ball would bounce through to him at the top of the box. The bounce instead curled around to midfielder Chris Rolfe, who narrowly missed an open goal wide right, keeping United alive.

Doe and Thompson, who was playing in his first game for United, entered at the half and added energy, and United's defense cut down on mistakes. "We just realized you can't make mistakes back there," defender Marc Burch said. "Being a goal down we knew we had to clean up how we were playing. In the second half I thought it got better. When Jaime enters it always gets better."

Then, after Namoff's header gave United the lead, an already bitter rivalry heated up even more.

Both Chicago star Cuauhtémoc Blanco and Burch were red-carded in the 108th minute after an altercation in front of the teams' benches. Burch shoved Blanco over after the Mexican national team star punched the ball out of midfielder Clyde Simms's hands. Burch will miss the semifinal to serve a one-game punishment.

"He came up and swung as hard as he could and tried to hit the ball and hit Clyde in the stomach," Burch said. "He thinks he can do whatever he wants. I went over and I pushed him. I didn't hit him, I didn't go after him, I just pushed him down. He's not going to do that to my teammate. He stood up and tried to poke Clyde in the eye and cut his eye open.

"I don't like him, I don't think he's a good person. He's a great player but when he's out there he's doing stuff that you shouldn't be able to get away with."

United will host the New England Revolution in a semifinal on Aug. 12 at RFK Stadium. New England advanced after defeating USL2 team Crystal Palace Baltimore, 5-3, in penalty kicks last night in New Britain, Conn., after the teams were tied at 1 after 120 minutes.

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