- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 7, 2005

After a spirited performance in an often testy game, D.C. United had to settle for a 1-1 tie last night against Mexican champion UNAM Pumas in the opener of the CONCACAF Champions Cup semifinals before 21,185 at RFK Stadium.

It was a well-earned result for the Major League Soccer champions, but United will face a stiff challenge in the second game of the series at 73,000-capacity Estadio Olimpio on Wednesday night in the high altitude of Mexico City.

The tournament determines the top club in the hemisphere.

Last night’s game started at a blazing pace. United goalie Nick Rimando was required to make a big save in the opening minute on a long-range shot by Fernando Espinosa.

United took a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute. Jaime Moreno, United’s longest-serving player, made a long run on the left flank, delicately beat a defender and delivered a perfect pass for Argentine midfielder Christian Gomez to head in an easy goal from just inside the 6-yard box. Steve Guppy got an assist on the goal.

While Moreno shined in the first half, he set up the tying goal in the second half when he pushed Israel Castro off the ball and in the box to give Pumas a penalty kick. Ailton da Silva tied the game with the spot-kick, sending Rimando the wrong way and Mexican fans into a frenzy.

“I don’t know what the referee saw, but we can’t reverse it,” Moreno said.

United coach Peter Nowak was furious with the call.

“I hope this stuff doesn’t happen down there,” he said.

The Mexican-American soccer rivalry was heightened at RFK by a large turnout of festive Mexican fans cheering on Mexico City’s famed team.

Last night’s game was the first since RFK has been modified for baseball. Notable was the outline of a baseball diamond covered by turf and the missing stands behind the north goal.

Throughout the game workers were busy cleaning up the outfield wall after someone wrote -D.C. United - by the 380-foot marker.

“We found a foot-length oval stake in the ground in the warmup,” United defender Mike Petke said. “Right in front of Nick in the first half, there’s a divot 5-foot wide that goes down half a foot, but [Pumas] had to play on the same field as us.”

Forward Santino Quaranta replaced Guppy in the 70th minute, and striker Freddy Adu came in for Gomez eight minutes later. Jamil Walker came in for Alecko Eskandarian with five minutes remaining.

Adu could have won the game in the 90th minute, but after some nice footwork he shot wide.

“Now we have a monkey on our back because we didn’t finish our chances and must go down there and play hard,” Rimando said.

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