United hold edge heading to Jamaica

I think that was the biggest problem," Rimando told The Washington Post. "The ball got up there and just died. Once I committed, I had to come. And when I came, I ran into (defender David Stokes). We made a big mess out of it -- it should've been nothing."

United do carry the advantage though, thanks to an early strike by Eskandarian and a late game-winning header by second-year winger Gros. MLS Cup 2004 MVP Eskandarian picked up right where he left off last year, volleying United on top after just five minutes. But his strike partner, former Bolivian international Jaime Moreno, didn't look as comfortable in his return to action, missing several good opportunities to open his 2005 account.

The Black-and-Red's defense often looked shaky as the team still works toward shoring things up in the back after the departure of Ryan Nelsen during the offseason.

Though the conditions of the field remain to be seen, the climate in Jamaica is sure to be an improvement from the first leg. Sub-freezing temperatures made play difficult for both sides, though the increase in heat and humidity could cause problems for a D.C. United side still working towards full fitness.

On Sunday evening, Harbour View had the best possible springboard toward the second leg as they returned to National Premier League action with a 4-1 away victory against Reno. Jomo Gordon hit home right on the stroke of halftime, then first-leg scorer Shelton doubled the lead just before the hour mark. Lovel Palmer then scored a pair of goals on either side of a Reno strike to provide the final scoreline.

"I was not too pleased in the decision making in the first half with our choice of passes, but in the second half choices were more in keeping with expectations as we were keeping more possession," said Harbour View coach Donovan Hayles to The Jamaica Observer. "This is what we wanted to address going into Wednesday's game. As was there to be seen, our flank players were doing the right thing in that position and this was encouraging because here is where we think we can hurt D.C."

Harbour View will have to win by two clear goals to advance. If the Jamaican side ends the regular 90 minutes ahead by one goal, leaving the scores level on aggregate, then 30 minutes of extra time will be played. If the score is still tied after the additional half hour, the series will be decided on penalty kicks.

The winner of the D.C. United - Harbour View clash will take on the winner of the series between Mexico's Pumas UNAM and CD Olimpia of Honduras. Those teams played to a 1-1 draw in their first leg match last Wednesday in Tegucigalpa, with the return leg to be played in Mexico City on Thursday.

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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