- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 29, 2009

D.C. United didn’t break its winless streak in the CONCACAF Champions League, but it did get a 1-1 tie out of its first-leg match Tuesday night against Luis Angel Firpo of El Salvador in the preliminary round of the 2009-10 tournament at RFK Stadium.

Coach Tom Soehn’s squad, which was 0-5-1 in the first year of the tournament, nearly let Firpo break the tie in the 90th minute after defender Avery John committed a foul just outside the 18-yard box and was given a yellow card. But United’s wall blocked Christian Alexander Sanchez’s free kick, sealing the tie.

“It’s hard,” United goalie Milos Kocic said. “I hate tying, and we have so many [times this season].”

The game’s first goal came after defender Greg Janicki turned the ball over deep in United’s territory and Firpo’s Mario Alejandro Benitez put away an unassisted tally in the 27th minute.

Firpo, which had a large group of supporters on hand, got another good scoring chance in the 38th minute when Sanchez had an open shot from 20 yards, but Kocic deflected it wide.

United leveled the score after it was awarded a penalty kick on Sanchez’s reckless challenge of Rodney Wallace just inside the 18-yard box in the 42nd minute. Firpo goalkeeper Juan Jose Gomez guessed correctly as Jaime Moreno shot the penalty kick to the right, but the ball still scooted past the goalkeeper.

After halftime, Benitez intercepted midfielder Danny Szetela’s pass near midfield, resulting in a good scoring chance in the 52nd minute. But he shot it right at Kocic for an easy save.

Soon afterward, United forward Luciano Emilio, who replaced an ineffective Ange N’Silu in the 40th minute, was called offside on what looked to be a golden scoring opportunity.

“We didn’t take care of our chances today; we had plenty,” Soehn said.

A late one-timer at the top of the box by midfielder Andrew Jacobson was United’s last scoring opportunity, but his shot sailed wide right.

“We’ve been through these competitions before, knowing that if you don’t take care of your results at home, you’re going to be in for a tough environment and difficult circumstance [on the road],” Soehn said.

With the result, United remains undefeated at RFK in all competitions this season (12 matches).

United, which will travel to San Salvador for the return leg on Aug. 4, had a quick turnaround after an MLS game Saturday on the West Coast. Consequently, defender Bryan Namoff, who has played every minute in league play this year, and midfielder Ben Olsen sat out Tuesday’s contest.

Soehn’s squad, which qualified for this year’s tournament by winning the 2008 U.S. Open Cup, was without midfielder Clyde Simms (sports hernia) and forward Thabiso Khumalo (wrist). Santino Quaranta was not available after finishing his duty with the U.S. national team Sunday.

United will get a few days off before Saturday’s road contest against Western Conference-leading Houston before its second leg against Firpo.

“I know this: On Saturday we’re going to focus on Saturday and pick up the pieces after that,” Soehn said.

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