D.C. United headed down to Jamaica to face off against Montego Bay having already qualified for next spring's CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. But with a win, United could have secured a top three seed in the quarterfinals and ensured that they would host at least one knockout round second leg.
Instead, after taking only 14 players down to the Caribbean, United allowed Montego Bay to take a 3-0 lead early in the second half before coming all the way back to earn a point in a 3-3 draw. Jermaine Woozencroft scored Montego Bay's first ever CCL goal in the 26th minute, and Dino Williams added to United's shock three minutes later by giving the islanders a two goal advantage.
A penalty kick early in the second half was finished off by Williams, giving MBU what seemed to be an insurmountable three-goal advantage. But goals from Jairo Arrieta, Kofi Opare, and Michael Farfan - the last one coming well into stoppage time - gave United a draw on the road.
Chad Ashton, in charge for the second time in the group stage this year, fielded a team that had all the Champions League regulars, though Jalen Robinson moved inside to center back, while Luke Mishu slid over to right back, with Miguel Aguilar played an left back role.
Montego Bay was the superior side for most of the first half, but couldn't find the breakthrough early on despite getting into several dangerous positions. Williams came close to opening the scoring after he rounded Robinson, but his first effort was saved by Andrew Dysktra. Williams got a second crack at it as Dykstra spilled the ball, but the Virginia native was able to block away the follow-up attempt.
United were riding their luck, but that luck ran out in the 26th minute thanks to some quick thinking from Dwayne Ambusley. The midfielder was quick to play a free kick for MBU after drawing a foul near the touchline, finding Woozencroft behind United's back line. Wide open, Woozencroft took a touch into the area before calmly placing a shot beyond Dykstra for the well deserved lead.
Williams, the danger man for Montego Bay in the reverse fixture, then added to the Jamaicans' advantage three minutes later with his first of the competition. A pass from Donovan Carey allowed Williams to cut in front of Robinson, with the Jamaican international delivering an excellent first-time shot into the roof of the net for a 2-0 lead.
Montego Bay began to retreat after their goals, allowing United two opportunities toward the end of the first half. Arrieta's cross was parried away by Jacomeno Barrett, with the ball falling to Chris Pontius in the box. The former MLS All-Star got a shot on target, but Cordel Simpson flew in along the goal line to save the shot and MBU cleared the danger.
Arrieta had another chance as the half came to a close, but the Costa Rican's shot from distance was over the mark, after he took advantage of an opportunity after his pass was deflected in the attacking third.
Momentum quickly swung back in Montego Bay's favor in the second half though, as Jared Jeffrey was harshly adjudged to have taken down Carey in the box. Williams took advantage of the spot kick, sending Dykstra the wrong way and giving the Jamaicans a three goal cushion.
Aguilar had a curling effort just wide of the mark, before Arrieta scored in the 59th minute, to get United back into the match. Arrieta started the move with a pass out wide to Facundo Coria, who then crossed back into the box for Arrieta. The ball was knocked down - as were Arrieta, Barrett, and a defender - but Arrieta was quickest to react, as he recovered to fire home from 8 yards out.
Conor Doyle came close to getting United within a goal, only to be denied by Barrett. Collin Martin's corner kick was knocked out to Jeffrey, who laid a pass into Doyle in the box. Doyle curled an effort on target, but a sprawling Barrett was able to push the ball over the bar for another corner.
That corner however, was turned in by United as Opare scored for the second consecutive Champions League game. Arrieta won the first header from Martin's corner, and a diving Opare was all alone at the far post to nod home, getting United back to 3-2 in the 78th minute.
Williams hit the side netting looking for his hat trick to put the game away, before an odd sequence at the other end culminated in Jeffrey badly mis-hitting an indirect kick - awarded for a rare high kick call - from 11 yards out. A more conventional Coria free kick from 25 yards out was nearly turned in by United, before chaos broke out and the indirect kick was awarded. Farfan laid the ball off for Jeffrey, but the center midfielder smashed his effort well wide of the goal.
The missed chance was not the last for the Black-and-Red, though. Farfan completed the comeback in the 93rd minute with a calm, composed finish. A cross into the box from an awkward angle was knocked down by Farfan, who rolled the ball away from a defender with the sole of is foot before curling the ball past Barrett and inside the far post.
United now must wait for other groups to finish up before finding out who they will play in the quarterfinals next year. The Black-and-Red, looking to end a five-game winless streak in league play, return to MLS action this Saturday with a road match against the Montreal Impact (5PM, Comcast SportsNet).