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Reserves have D.C. United in prime position to advance in CONCACAF Champions League play

After wins against Arabe Unido and Montego Bay in their first two matches, United is now a draw away from quarterfinal qualification

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Having already cleared their biggest hurdle of the CONCACAF Champions' League group play, D.C. United came into Tuesday's match against Montego Bay United knowing that a win would put them on the verge of qualification for the knockout stages next spring.

And despite a lively effort from a MBU side that still hasn't begun league play, the Black-and-Red eventually eased to a 3-0 win at RFK Stadium behind goals from Miguel Aguilar, Kofi Opare, and Conor Doyle.

"It's a win. It's 3-0, I think if we're getting greedy it should've been more than that," United manager Ben Olsen said after the game. "I think if that group would have a little bit more minutes under their belts together, maybe some of the final stuff would've clicked and that could've happened."

The group that featured on Tuesday was almost the same exact side that went down to Panama last week and picked up three points. The lone change saw Michael Farfan start the game, while Steve Birnbaum was relegated to the bench, moving Markus Halsti to center back alongside Opare.

That means a more-or-less reserve side won the game against MoBay, and those same players have United on the cusp of advancing out of their group. A draw in their next game - at home against Arabe Unido - will see D.C. through to the quarterfinals.

The same combination that won the game in Panama was the source of the first goal against the Jamaican side. Last week, Farfan had picked out the run of Aguilar with a back heel, which allowed Aguilar to apply the finish. Against Montego Bay, Farfan again fed the ball into a charging Aguilar, who took two touches before sliding the ball home for the 1-0 lead.

"You can see the chemistry between us. We made eye contact," Aguilar said postgame. "I saw him when he had the ball. And he knew where I was going to run in to, and he put the ball right there."

"That angle, that was the only place I could go - hard and low."

Olsen said postgame that he had advised Aguilar that the rookie needed a couple of fixes to his game after his performance in Panama. Despite the game winning goal, Olsen said that Aguilar lost possession too often for his liking, something that Aguilar focused on against Montego Bay.

"We asked Miguel tonight to just kind of simplify his game," Olsen said. "He gets his goal down in Panama, but I don't think he had a great game. Just losing possession too many times. [Tonight], he created a lot of possessions, picked the right times for his magic and for the most part he played simple and he was one of the bright spots tonight."

"He always tells me to connect passes. I connect passes, and then once the game opens up, do what you know how to do," Aguilar added. "Tonight it showed. I kept it simple, just gave the ball to the open guy. When it was my time to go and take guys on, I did that."

The team's focus now shifts back to MLS play, where the team will need to end a two game slide this Sunday in New Jersey against the New York Red Bulls to maintain space at the top of the Eastern Standings.

But when United returns to the CCL in three weeks, the team will be geared up to advance on their own terms. United could conceivably advance while losing their next two matches, but based on play in Group H thus far it seems like September 15th's home game against Arabe Unido is a good opportunity to wrap things up.

"I think we're doing well as a team. I think all of us together are putting in good performances. We will just take it from there," said Farfan.