D.C. United made it through 70 minutes of scoreless soccer on Tuesday night in Mexico, holding Queretaro and giving themselves a chance to advance in CONCACAF Champions League play for the first time. But the last 20 minutes proved deadly for United, as Los Gallos scored twice and have a commanding 2-0 lead heading into the second leg.
The Black-and-Red had their opportunities throughout the game, but could not find a way past Tiago Volpi in Queretaro's goal. Eventually, United - in their first meaningful game of the season - wore down and conceded twiceas Yerson Candelo and Edgar Benitez found the back of the net for los Gallos Blancos. Steve Birnbaum was denied by the woodwork and then Volpi, and Taylor Kemp nearly had a wonderful goal but struck the bar himself in the second half.
United almost exploited a weakness early on in the game, as Volpi was called into action in the 4th minute. A series of corners for the Black-and-Red included an opportunity for Birnbaum, who guided a header on target, only for Volpi to push it off the bar.
Moments later, Los Gallos were making a break at the other end, with Edgar Benitez getting around Sean Franklin, and sending a cross into the middle. The ball fell to Emanuel "Tito" Villa, but his shot on the ground was cleared out by Bobby Boswell, as Andrew Dykstra scrambled to recover his position.
Neither team carved out any dangerous chances for the rest of the opening 15 minutes, but a flick from Angel Sepulveda in the 19th minute found Villa in the middle of the box, but the striker could only send his header over the bar from six yards.
Fabian Espindola then got in on the action for United, testing Volpi at the near post from inside the box, which Volpi had covered. Two minutes later, a diving header from Sepulveda on a free kick for Queretaro bounced just wide of Dykstra's near post.
The outside backs for Queretaro also had their looks at goal, with George Corral sending in a long range shot from a short free kick that saw Dykstra dive back as the ball flew just over the bar. And in the 35th minute, former US international Jonathan Bornstein took sight with a volley, but Dykstra did enough to parry the ball away.
United had the final chance of the half, as Luciano Acosta, in his competitive United debut, fired in at Volpi, whose parry gave up an inviting rebound. Espindola was the first to react, but the Argentine couldn't get enough on the shot, and Volpi covered as the second asking.
Candelo, who came on for Villa in the 31st minute, created the first moment of danger in the second half, as his well struck cross from the right hand side just missed Benitez, who had found himself just in front of goal. Nick DeLeon and Bornstein then traded long range shots in the 54th and 58th minutes, but neither was able to really test either keeper.
The woodwork again saved Queretaro in the 60th minute, as this time Kemp was denied. Cutting in onto his less favored right foot from just outside the Gallos Blancos box, Kemp's gorgeous shot had Volpi beat, only for the effort to slam off the corner of the goal, preventing any follow up chances.
Volpi's heroics kept the game scoreless in the 67th minute, as Birnbaum was denied twice on the doorstep. A rehearsed long throw from DeLeon caught Queretaro unprepared, finding Birnbaum at the near post, but the initial shot was blocked by a sharp reflex save from Volpi. The ball fell to Birnbaum for a second time, but his volley under pressure from Miguel Martinez was saved again by the Brazilian goalkeeper.
Those saves made all the difference, as it was only four minutes later that Queretaro grabbed the lead. A long ball played into United's end was eventually collected by Benitez, who managed to hold up play to allow his teammates into the fray. Benitez drew the collapsing defense before passing square to Candelo who lashed a vicious shot that beat Dykstra at the near post for the 1-0 lead.
Benitez forced a save out of Dykstra in the 78th minute, but the Paraguayan persisted, eventually finding the back of the net in the 83rd minute. A tired D.C. back line could only watch as Sinha, left with space by the midfield, chipped a ball in over the top. Franklin tried to get a head on the ball but missed, allowing Benitez to collect the ball in behind the entire United team, and fire past Dykstra for the two goal advantage.
United couldn't muster any discernible chances to finish the game, despite a free kick in a good spot just before stoppage time. The initial service was poor and easily cleared, but Patrick Nyarko pumped it back in for Boswell, who could only head over the bar,,
As a result of the critical second goal against, United will need to win by either a 2-0 scoreline or by 3 clear goals in next week's second leg on Tuesday at RFK Stadium.