Trailing 1-0 at halftime from a goal by Walter Martinez in the 23rd minute on a ball that skipped under the foot of defender Greg Janicki as he tried to clear it, United jumped back to equalize early in the second half with a goal by Luciano Emilio, a veteran of Honduran soccer with Real Espana and Olimpia, in the 48th minute.
The halftime insertion of Santino Quaranta, who replaced Jaime Moreno, helped kick-start the United attack. Quaranta's corner kick swerved to defender Julius James, acquired from Houston earlier in the week, and his sharp header forced a save by keeper Juan Obelar. The rebound popped into the air, and Emilio took a fierce clash of heads from defender Erick Norales as he nodded in the equalizer.
Obelar saved again a few minutes later, parrying a diving header by Devon McTavish from another Quaranta serve out for a corner kick. Marathon, urged forward by its roaring, chanting fans, pushed ahead in the 83rd minute when former Galaxy attacker Guillermo "Pando" Ramirez lofted a ball that Mitchell Brown directed into goalmouth for Palacios, who cut inside Janicki to tap it into the net.
A 2-1 defeat wouldn't have been a terrible result in so tough an environment, but Marathon swarmed forth in the final minutes after Obelar snuffed a good opportunity that Quaranta couldn't finish.
Referee Elmer Bonilla whistled Janicki for a foul in the penalty area and goalie Josh Wicks jolted his teammates by saving Berrios's shot. But Bonilla ordered a re-kick, judging correctly that two United players had encroached, and though Wicks picked the correct side again Berrios' second shot flashed over him high into the net.
In addition to James, Soehn gave starting assignments to former Galaxy midfielder Ely Allen and David Habarugira. All three had been acquired in the past month during a midseason reshuffling.
Concacaf Champions' League
Aug. 18 in San Pedro Sula
Marathon 3, D.C. United 1.
Goals: Martinez (Sabillon) 23, Palacios (Brown) 83, Berrios (penalty kick) 88; Emilio (Quaranta) 48.
Marathon - Obelar, Sabillion, Norales, Beata, Berrios, Acevedo (Ramirez, 73), Castillo (Brown, 60), Rodriguez (Paz, 68), Martinez, Scott, Palacios.
D.C. United -- Wicks, Habarugira (Simms, 75), Janicki, James, John; McTavish, Olsen, Jacobson, Allen (Wallace, 58); Moreno (Quaranta, 46), Emilio.
Referee: Elmer Bonilla.