Chris Pontius had been waiting for months to be part of the D.C. United rotation, facing injury, setbacks and gradual working back into the lineup. Eddie Johnson had dealt with a concussion in training, a recovery and unfortunate recurrence of symptoms and missed his own share of games. Both came back in tonight's CONCACAF Champions League game and found minor relief, scoring goals for the Black and Red en route to a 2-0 shutout over Tauro FC of Panama. With nine points from three games in their group, D.C. has secured advancement in the group (the first team in CONCACAF to do so), making next month's game against the club in Estadio Rommel Fernandez a formality, unless seeding for the next round is in play.
The first half started like any other game between a team in one League who is leading their conference and another team in another conference who is eighth out of ten teams in their League. D.C. United held 60% of the possession in the first half, with 89% passing accuracy. But accuracy of same in the final third started slow and eventually got to 75% by halftime. The crossbar thwarted two different challenges: Jared Jeffrey hit one off it in the 37th minute (after a free kick ball toed to him by Pontius, making his first start of 2014), and minutes later, Ismael Diaz rattled one off Joe Willis' net.
Pontius would find glory early in the second half as Inkoom's cross into the area minutes in would reach him and he headed it past Eric Hughes in the 48th minute to open scoring for the night, his first in competition since a September 14, 2013 2-2 draw against the Los Angeles Galaxy. In the 55th, a backheel from David Estrada to a waiting Johnson found the net for a second. Tauro, playing with little inspiration as it was to that point, had what was left of the wind in their sails removed as the game played out in front of 2,576 in RFK Stadium, and the 2-0 score played out to the end.
"We got some guys that needed minutes minutes and most importantly got the result to go into the next round..." Ben Olsen said. "It was great to see him (Pontius) back and Eddie (Johnson), both of them did a very good job and we were a different team...both put on very good performances."
Pontius, who says he could have gone longer, said, "it felt good for the 60 minutes I was out there."
D.C. United stays home and plays the Philadelphia Union Saturday at Estadio RFK.