Overcoming last week's disastrous 5-2 loss in Costa Rica against Alajuelense in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League was always going to be a tough task for D.C. United, and Wednesday night's performance proved just that. Needing at least a three goal lead to advance, United won 2-1 on the night, with goals from Fabian Espindola and Jairo Arrieta. Alajuelense all but ended the proceedings in the 71st minute, as Johan Venegas scored to make it 1-1.
Knowing that they needed three goals to advance to the semifinals against the Montreal Impact, United got off to a slow start in the first half. With Bobby Boswell went closest for D.C. in the first quarter hour of the game, but his header from Espindola's corner was over the bar.
Alajuelense then looked to turn the screw on United and end the contest overall. From Espindola's cleared free kick, Alajuelense broke quickly, before Ariel Rodriguez picked up his head, and took a shot from 50 yards out. With Bill Hamid back peddling towards his goal, the 2014 MLS Goalkeeper of the year could only palm the ball over the bar for a corner.
Steve Birnbaum then committed a turnover deep in his own half that gifted the ball to Rodriguez in the 18th minute. Rodriguez lined up a shot from outside the box and beat Hamid with his effort, only to be denied by the post. A follow up effort from Ronald Matarrita was bobbled by Hamid, who quickly covered up.
Minutes later, Boswell had another chance with a header in the box from a Chris Pontius cross, but the defender's header went wide with the goal begging.
United found their breakthrough in the 36th minute, when Jairo Arrieta notched his first goal for the Black and Red. United broke quickly from their own half with a long ball up to Espindola, who laid a pass off to Arrieta. Arrieta found Nick DeLeon out wide on the right in space, but the midfielder had his cross weakly cleared out. Arrieta found himself at the top of the box with time and space, and expertly placed a shot beyond keeper Dexter Lewis.
The first half ended chaotically, as referee Walter Lopez lost complete control of the proceedings. Manager Ben Olsen was sent off for arguing with Oscar Reyna, the fourth official, before fouls and yellow cards from both teams marred the final minutes of the first half.
Espindola had a chance to cut into La Liga's lead early in the second half, as he found a way to trap Chris Korb's early cross at his feet in the middle of the box. But while turning, Espindola screwed his shot wide of the mark, with a defender and Lewis between him and the goal.
United's chances of advancing vanished in the 71st minute, as Johan Venegas scored to put the tie out of reach. A long ball played forward by Alajuelense was poorly dealt with by Korb, who only managed to knock the ball down in his box. Armando Alonso left the ball for Venegas, who powered a shot past Hamid to make it 1-1 on the night.
D.C. had little life left in them after that, needing three goals to get beyond La Liga. But after Perry Kitchen was denied a weak penalty claim, Espindola had a free kick from just outside the box in the 80th minute that was palmed away by Lewis.
Espindola tied United's club record of goals scored in the Champions League with a penalty in the 89th minute.The Argentinian striker won a penalty as he tried to turn in a Conor Doyle cross. Espindola expertly finished the penalty right down the middle, moving him into a tie with Christian Gomez with four Champions League goals for United. But at that point, it was a mere consolation, as United couldn't muster up the requisite two goals in stoppage time.
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