United's Rally Falls Short in Loss to Chivas

United's Bryan Namoff breaks up the attack of Chivas's Sergio Santana during SuperLiga play at RFK Stadium. United suffered its first loss since May 21.
United's Bryan Namoff breaks up the attack of Chivas's Sergio Santana during SuperLiga play at RFK Stadium. United suffered its first loss since May 21. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
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By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 13, 2008

Jaime Moreno has not missed a penalty kick in an MLS match in almost four years, but with an opportunity to draw D.C. United even with Mexican club Chivas late in last night's SuperLiga opener, the team captain faltered.

Ernesto Michel's save on Moreno's low attempt in the 78th minute thwarted United's stirring comeback and helped secure Chivas's 2-1 victory before 22,453 at RFK Stadium.

Omar Arellano scored for Chivas midway through the first half, and Mexican national team veteran Gonzalo Pineda struck with a free kick in the 72nd minute before United rallied. Luciano Emilio converted in the 76th and then drew the penalty kick a moment later, only to see Michel guess correctly by diving to his left on Moreno's bid.

"He made a great save -- credit to him," said Moreno, MLS's all-time leading scorer who has converted 20 consecutive penalty kicks in league play. "I picked my spot and didn't change it. He did well waiting for me."

Michel's save capped an evening that included two United shots hitting the post, stirring play by both sides through the second half, several excellent saves by D.C.'s Zach Wells and a 19-minute delay when several banks of stadium lights failed.

"With all the penalties he has taken in his career, sooner or later he is going to miss one," United Coach Tom Soehn said of Moreno's attempt. "I like his percentages, though."

United suffered its first loss since May 21, snapping an eight-game unbeaten streak, and fell at home to a Mexican opponent for the first time in 10 all-time meetings (5-1-4).

D.C. will host Atlante of Mexico on Tuesday and the Houston Dynamo on Saturday as part of the second-year tournament, which was created primarily for marketing purposes and falls in the middle of the MLS season and before the start of the Mexican campaign.

United was without several injured regulars against Chivas, whose popularity in Mexico is surpassed by only the national team and has a loyal following in the vast Mexican American community.

The match got off to a roaring start, with both sides probing the attacking channels and searching for an early advantage. Wells made a diving save on Sergio Santana's bid and Emilio smashed an angled drive off the near post with such velocity, the rebound struck Chivas's Héctor Reynoso several yards from the net and nearly spun in for an own goal.

Chivas seized the lead in the 24th minute. Ramón Morales held off Clyde Simms in midfield and threaded an exquisite ball into Arellano's stride. Bryan Namoff's challenge was unsuccessful, allowing Arellano to jet past the advancing Wells and tuck an angled shot into the far corner.

United had a prime opportunity to equalize in the 36th, but after being awarded a free kick from 17 yards after Michel handled a back pass, Moreno touched the ball to Emilio for a powerful drive into the defensive wall.

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