D.C. United was outclassed by an opponent that was superior in terms of fitness, speed, skill and technique throughout its opening Concacaf Champions League group against Deportivo Saprissa of Costa Rica Tuesday. But rather than admit that its regional club counterparts are still several strides ahead of Major League Soccer, it's best to blame the referee that left D.C. down to ten 10 after the first-half dismissal of Devon McTavish.
After viewing a replay of the incident, United General Manager Dave Kasper called Mexican referee Marco Rodríguez's decision to eject McTavish "an absolute joke," writes Steven Goff. Coach Tom Soehn said his first impression of the call was that it was "real soft." Maybe so, but his team was already 1-0 down and being comprehensively outplayed when the game was 11 versus 11.
"I thought we could have played with them and pulled out a win," D.C. defender Marc Burch said, "but when you lose a man, you are chasing the game." And Soehn was quoted as saying in the Washington Times: "Credit our guys, we didn't stop fighting short-handed, and we could have tied up the game but their keeper made some key saves." Never mind that it took United over an hour to get a shot on target, and that the away side outshot them 17 to 10.
Our view: Just 6,105 fans turned out for the competition's debut at RFK Stadium, and at least one third of those were dressed in the purple of Saprissa. Perhaps the home fans got wind of Soehn's plan to pick half a reserve team, while the club raised the price of its cheapest tickets from $20 to $25. Or maybe they've had enough of watching United struggle against Concacaf opposition this season -- they already lost at home to Mexican clubs twice in the Superliga, and were eliminated by Pachuca in the last edition of the Concacaf Champions Cup in spring.
Add to that the qualifying round defeats of New England and Chivas USA at the hands of Joe Public (Trinidad & Tobago) and Tauro FC (Panama) respectively, and the question for MLS fans is no longer, "How would our teams fare in the English Premier League?" More pertinently, given the Puerto Rico Islanders' victory over Tauro Tuesday, and the qualification for the group phase of the Montreal Impact ahead of Toronto FC, perhaps it should be, "Are we still good enough to compete with the United Soccer Leagues?"