First Impressions - D.C. United 2 : 1 Pachuca C.F.
Aggregate - D.C. United 2 : 3 Pachuca C.F.
DC United Eliminated from CONCACAF Champion's Cup
That was easily one of the most entertaining and fun matches I have seen in a long time. It was a game that managed to be wonderfully entertaining for all 90 minutes, that had chances for both teams, that had key defensive plays from both back lines, that had midfield combinations that made you smile with all being right in the world. It was, quite simply, one of the best games as an entity I have seen in some time.
In the end, United won the day, but lost the war. At nil-nil it was a wonderful to watch. Tom Soehn did what a manager had to do: He made the moves to give his team the chance to deliver. And there were chances. Emilio's touch wide of the post, the penalty Fred earned but was not awarded, the various bombs by Pachuca players just over the crossbar... Before Pachuca earned the first goal of the night, United had three very good chances to put the ball in the net, and came away empty. When Pachuca scored, putting themselves up three goals, I felt that United would fold the tent after all the effort they had put forward.
But they didn't. They ran like hell. Everyone did. They kept pressuring. Yes, the final ten minutes felt a bit frantic, but that's when they finally broke through. First on Dyachenko's goal (of which 50% of the credit should go to Bryan Namoff, who stepped up, eluded one defender, and then sent Fred in on goal before Fred slotted the ball to Rod). Then on Niell's goal (which was all Fred's touch. You might argue he was trying to control the ball and it got away from him, but I think I saw him look to locate Niell, and that's enough for me to call it intentional.) They fought to the end.
The problem was that too much of this story was written in Mexico. United had to play the way they did, and take the risks they did as time went on, and that invited exactly the kind of goal Pachuca eventually converted. The game was lost then, as we always feared it might be. It is almost sad that we had to make it close so we were reminded of the fact.
Still, I am proud of the effort I saw tonight from D.C. United. They played well. Well enough to earn the result they did, perhaps even well enough to have forced this series to extra time. This is not a moral victory, but this result tonight showed me more than the four goals against Toronto did.
Feel free to comment for the debrief. My sense is the man of the match is Bryan Namoff (though I would love to hear your recommendations). Center official Jose Aguilar was pretty poor, but somehow managed not to ruin the match. And as for the bad, I only have one element I'm planning to talk about in the debrief, but I'm always curious.