Sespite winning 2-1 last night a RFK, DC United is still out of the CONCACAF Champions Cup on a 2-3 aggregate against Mexican side Pachuca.With two goals in the last 5 minutes, DC United looks like if they had just 10 more minutes, they could have moved into an aggregate tie and extra time.
But alas, Pachuca played the two leg football set up will, taking a solid 2-0 lead at their home field last week and playing just well enough to win. DC United, capitalizing on their momentum amassed with an impressive 4-1 win over MLS side Toronto FC, United looked like they could pull off the difficult challenge of winning by two goals to push the extra time. However, there were a lot of missed chances that simply cannot be ignored.
Emilio, Fred and Marcello Gallardo all missed quality chances that had they been converted earlier in the match would have put Pachuca in a position of chasing the current match rather than holding for the total goals win. I will give a little leeway to Gallardo, as he is new to the team and still finding his way a bit in the MLS. But Fred and Emilio have been here with this club for a while and Emilio in particuar is supposed to make more of his chances. But even my leeway for Gallardo only goes so far.
For his part, I think DC manager Tom Soehn did a brilliant job with this match. I think moving to a 3-4-3 line-up really opened up the scoring opportunities without really harming the defense. I think he is finding combinations among players that can really help this team during the MLS season. In particular, the Gonzalos, Peralta and Martinez, are doing well in the back line. The combination of Clyde Simms in a defensive midfielder with Gallardo as a holding midfielder looks promising as well. Right now though, I think that Simms is one of the most underrated players in the MLS. Santino Quaranta seems to making the most of his return to DC United (and some people are prepared to forgive his previously immature and boorish behavior when left DCU as just that immature). I though his play of the last two games is a marked improvement over previous years (although I admit I didn't watch as closely when he played elsewhere).
Having said that, I think that Soehn has some work to do in specific areas. The outside backs are giving me trouble. I don't know what it is either with the combinations between the midfield and the fowards that seems to trouble me. Maybe a little patience is necessary to let the lines gel a little, but the midfield has been able to hold and control the ball, but the movement from the midfield to the attacking third just seems shaky.
DC United travels to Salt Lake City to take on Real Salt Lake on Saturday. They should hold their heads high for their play, despite the heartbreaking dismissal from the Champions Cup.