Sudamericana heartbreak for D.C. United

D.C. United were cruelly dumped out of the Copa
Sudamericana on Thursday night with a 3-2 loss to
Universidad Catolica in the second leg of their
round-of-16 match in Santiago, Chile. The
Black-and-Red were up 2-0, but surrendered three goals
to lose 4-3 on aggregate.

Jorge Quinteros scored two goals for the hosts,
including the game-winner four minutes from the final
whistle, to send United back to the U.S. wondering
what might have been.

United jumped to a lead after only 13 minutes thanks
to a combination between Jaime Moreno and Christian
Gomez. Moreno made a weaving run from right to left
and laid the ball off to Gomez at the top of the box.
The Argentinean made no mistake with the finish,
firing the ball into the lower left corner to put
United on top 1-0 in the match and 2-1 on aggregate.

Ten minutes later the Black-and-Red missed a golden
opportunity to extend their lead. Dema Kovalenko sent
Jamil Walker through on goal and the speedy striker
was dragged down a Catolica defender. The referee was
ready to wave play on, but his assistant flagged and
the penalty kick was awarded. Moreno stepped up to
take the shot, but José María Buljubasich guessed
right and made the save for Catolica.

Seconds later D.C. did get its much-deserved second
goal. Again Gomez was the architect, this time
whipping in a swerving ball from the right flank that
clanged off the far post, struck Buljubasich in the
back and bounced over the line.

The hosts cut into United's lead five minutes before
the intermission. Eduardo Rubio beat the D.C. defense
on the left sideline and carried the ball to the end
line. Once there he cut the ball back to strike
partner Quinteros, the low cross knifing between
Brandon Prideaux and goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Quinteros easily finished from close range and the
half soon came to a close.

Gomez nearly put the game out of reach 10 minutes
after the restart. Santino Quaranta slipped a pass
between Catolica defenders and Gomez moved in on goal
with only Buljubasich to beat. Gomez went for finesse
and attempted to lift the ball over the onrushing
'keeper, but Buljubasich was up to the challenge and
kept it a one-goal game.

United coach Peter Nowak opted for a conservative
approach with 25 minutes to go, withdrawing Gomez and
inserting the more defensive-minded John Wilson. He
immediately got involved in the attack, bursting down
the left wing, but United couldn't take advantage of
the chance.

Rimando made his best save of the night at the
70-minute mark. Catolica attacking midfielder Dario
Conca uncorked a powerful shot that skipped off the
slick surface and was heading to the corner of the
net, but Rimando sprawled to his left at full
extension to touch the ball onto the post and out of
play.

The UCLA product was not as fortunate in the 78th
minute when he was beaten on a free kick. Rubio
brought the aggregate score to 3-3 when his curling
left-footed free kick nuzzled into the far post.

United were then dealt the death-blow four minutes
before full time. Second-half substitute Josh Gros
couldn't climb high enough to win a head ball in his
own box and the ball was dumped back in front of
Rimando's net. The MLS veteran came charging out for
the ball, but Quinteros beat him to it and nodded the
ball home to give Catolica the lead and the win.

The defending MLS Cup champions will return to league
action on Oct. 1 when they visit the MetroStars
in a crucial Eastern Conference clash. The
Black-and-Red currently sit in second place in the
Eastern Conference with 47 points, though they have
yet to clinch a spot in the 2005 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This
story was not subject to the approval of Major League
Soccer or its clubs.


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