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Porous Defense Costs United

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By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 16, 2008

D.C. United began its tournament-clogged calendar with bigger ambitions than winning the SuperLiga, an MLS-Mexican marketing concoction that offers modest returns. That said, United has not distinguished itself well in the second-year event, and following a 3-2 loss to Atlante last night, it teetered on the brink of elimination.

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Atlante, a 4-0 loser to Houston in its opener last weekend, scored just before and just after halftime to build a two-goal lead against a United defense that reverted to its wobbly, early-season form.

"There is no sugarcoating anything," Coach Tom Soehn said. "The performance, especially in the first half, was atrocious. There was no commitment, no passion. We came out flat all over, and that's unacceptable. . . .

"Today we accomplished all the things we did when we were 2-7 [in the regular season]. That's the team we looked like today, and that's not good enough."

Luciano Emilio halved the deficit in the 79th minute, but Atlante goalkeeper Federico Vilar stopped reserve Rod Dyachenko's blast late in added time to hand United its second consecutive loss after entering the eight-team tournament on an eight-game unbeaten run in all competitions.

In order to reach the semifinals, United (0-2) must defeat visiting Houston (1-1) by three goals Saturday and hope Chivas Guadalajara (2-0) beats Atlante (1-1) in Santa Clara, Calif. Late last night Chivas edged Houston, 1-0.

"We are very frustrated about how we have played in the tournament," Emilio said. "We can't be eliminated playing at home. It's definitely very disappointing right now."

Luis Gabriel Rey scored twice in the first half and Christian Bermúdez added a second-half strike from beyond the penalty area for Atlante. Francis Doe had United's first-half goal in front of 12,122 at RFK Stadium.

"To me, I thought they were underestimating us a little bit," Atlante Coach José Guadalupe Cruz said through an interpreter. "Whenever there is a wounded team like we were, I think you have to be careful."

Just like Saturday, when it fell behind in a 2-1 loss to Chivas, injury-hampered United conceded an early goal. Gabriel Pereyra slotted a pass through the heart of United's defense to the free-running Rey, who calmly beat Zach Wells to the lower right corner. It became a recurring scene in the first half, as Atlante exploited the passing channels and utilized superior speed to create opportunities.

United's defense continued to spring leaks and was fortunate not to concede another goal right away. Slowly but surely, United's attack gained traction and tested Vilar from distance.

In the 28th minute, D.C. drew even. Capping a well-tuned possession that included several one-touch passes, Francis Doe latched on to rookie midfielder Craig Thompson's cross on the far side and redirected the high-bouncing ball from four yards.

CONTINUED     1        >

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