- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2007

For D.C. United, last night was the right time and RFK Stadium the right place to play famed Mexican club Guadalajara Chivas.

Riding high with a 10-game unbeaten streak in league play, the MLS club won its Copa Sudamericana round of 16 series opener 2-1 in front of 21,022. Despite playing more than a half with just 10 players, United bravely held on to a one-goal lead behind fine goalkeeping from Troy Perkins.

The teams will meet again in Guadalajara on Tuesday night in the two-game, aggregate-goal series. With the win, United gives itself a better chance than in the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup earlier this year. In that tournament, against the same team but in the MLS preseason, United tied at home before falling by a goal on the road.

Last night, Ben Olsen and Clyde Simms scored United’s goals in a frenzied game that was made all the more difficult following Marc Burch’s ejection for a second caution in the 44th minute. Sergio Santana scored for Chivas in the 61st minute, but United was able to hold on.

“Obviously it was unfortunate that we went down a man,” United coach Tom Soehn said. “When we came back in the locker room, we said we wouldn’t panic and we would look for a goal. We stuck with the guys in there. It’s a game where they are going to throw everything at you because they have nothing to lose. Credit our guys: They fought and fought and made it hard for them.”

A large following of Chivas fans had a lot to cheer about as the visitors looked like the better team in the early going. But against the run of play, United took the lead in the 23rd minute.

United midfielder Fred delivered a perfect pass across the front of the Chivas goal for Jaime Moreno, who failed to make contact with the ball. However, Olsen hovered on the right side of the box and made the most of a bad defensive clearance when he fired a low shot past goalie Luis Ernesto Michelle.

United not only weathered Chivas’ attack after the break, but it finished its first man-down opportunity in the 55th minute as Simms hammered home a rebound off Christian Gomez’s free kick.

“We said in the huddle coming out at halftime, ‘Let’s help each other out. It’s not going to be easy, and let’s see some smiles, and in 45 minutes it will all be worth it,’ ” Olsen said.

Chivas outshot United 16-2 in the second half, but the United defense held firm.

The Copa Sudamericana is South America’s second most important club event, and top Mexican and American clubs also are invited to participate. The winner of the Chivas-United series will meet Argentine club Arsenal in the quarterfinals.

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