[CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE]Sometimes failure can be chalked up as a learning experience and if so, D.C. United has learned it needs great improvement to compete in Concacaf.
Despite missing the MLS playoffs, D.C. will compete in the 2009-10 CCL competition as U.S. Open Cup winner. A 4-2 loss to Honduran club Marathon Wednesday night at RFK Stadium left the four-time MLS champion with just one point from its six Concacaf Champions' League matches and a goal difference of minus-9 (four scored, 13 conceded).
Injured regulars Jaime Moreno and Bryan Namoff were among the players absent, and midfielder Santino Quaranta's expulsion left United shorthanded for the entire second half, triggering waves of attacks on the United goal manned by Zach Wells in place of the suspended Louis Crayton.
Striker Francis Doe (10th minute) and defender Greg Janicki(61st) scored for United, but in-between Marathon scored three goals, including one by former Miami Fusion forward Saul Martinez, and knocked in a fourth midway through the second half. Mario Berrios, Martin Chavez, and former Honduran international Milton "Tyson" Nunezall scored, and Nunez picked up two assists more than seven years after scoring twice at RFK in a 3-2 victory for his country against the USA in a World Cup qualifier.
Fredplayed in central midfield with Quaranta andIvan Guerrero on the flanks in support of Doe and Boyzzz Khumalo up top. Quaranta set up the first goal with a cross that was deflected onto the goalpost and fell nicely for Doe smack it into the net.
Marathon began the match with solid hopes of clinching a quarterfinal place and more than 20 minutes of intermittent pressure paid off when Nunez chipped a ball that Martinez steered past Wells.
A Doe shot hit the outside of the post a few minutes later and both teams stepped up the tempo, and the foul count, rather than settle for a 1-1 deadlock at halftime. Doe and Oscar Bonilla squabbled and were cautioned by referee Benito Archundia, who then sanctioned Quaranta for fouling Berrios in the United half of the field. Quaranta's protest prompted a second yellow and dismissal.
Marathon needed the briefest of periods to exploit the man advantage. Berrios intercepted a United half-clearance and hit a dipping shot into the top corner. Time elapsed since kick-off: 24 seconds.
Nunez tapped home the rebound of a saved Martinez shot eight minutes later. Janicki netted his first goal for D.C. by collecting a flicked free kick under pressure and driving it into the net.
Minutes after coming on as a sub, Luciano Emilio combined with Doe and Fred to open up the Marathon defense again, but no shot resulted and Marathon launched a counterattack. Nunez's pass beat the retreating United defenders and Chavez shot low to score.
A final United chance fell to Doe and keeper Juan Angel Gutierrez stymied him stylishly. Perhaps frustrated by that save, and certainly irritated at Marathon's success in keeping possession despite heavy D.C. challenges, a high kick by Doe caused Archundia to issue his second red card of the evening for serious foul play.
Marathon's victory assured it of a quarterfinal slot, as it sits in a three-way tie atop Group A with 10 points, the same total accrued by Deportivo Saprissa and Cruz Azul. It holds the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage over Cruz Azul, which concluded its schedule by losing 1-0 to Deportivo Saprissa. Marathon and Saprissa conclude group play next week; Saprissa will advance with a tie.