D.C. United eased into the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions' Cup, defeating CD Olimpia of Honduras 3-2 Thursday night at RFK Stadium and claiming their two-leg series 7-3 on aggregate.
A pair of goals from Luciano Emilio, one in each half, and a penalty from Christian Gomez sent the 2006 Supporters' Shield winners into the final four, where they will face CD Guadalajara (Chivas) of Mexico.
United made one change from the lineup that earned last week's 4-1 result in Tegucigalpa, as Ben Olsen gave way to second-year midfielder Devon McTavish on the right wing.
The steady rain that began during pregame warmups continued as referee Mauricio Navarro initiated proceedings, further drenching RFK's already-soft playing surface. The conditions made an immediate impact as a slip from Bryan Namoff allowed Wilson Palacios to race onto a through ball and skip a low cross through the United goalmouth barely two minutes in, but Olimpia had no one there to finish the chance that could have made an immediate impact on the tie.
As would be expected with such a commanding aggregate lead, United looked intent on keeping a compact shape and waiting for chances to counter, but that only seemed to encourage the adventurous forays of an Olimpia side with little to lose. Olimpia's Wilson Barahona snuck forward from his center back spot to make an overlapping run down the left channel and deliver another teasing service across the face of Troy Perkins' goal, but once again the visitors lacked sufficient numbers in the box. Then Maynor Figueroa should have done better when he rose unmarked to meet a 17th-minute corner, but his header was miscued and looped harmlessly over the top.
But United captain Jaime Moreno was handed the clearest chance of the young match three minutes later, slashing from the left flank before slotting a quick pass to his strike partner Emilio at the top of the penalty area. Despite close marking from two Olimpia defenders, the Brazilian curled a beautiful first-time flick into the path of Moreno's run but with only Valladares to beat, the veteran's soft shot rolled wide of the target.
The rain began falling with increased intensity, making field conditions ever more treacherous, and Perkins had to be on his guard when Figueroa blasted a well-hit shot from distance that the United netminder palmed up into the air before gathering.
United's back line were making things even more difficult for themselves with some slipshod passing under high pressure and they finally paid the price in the 29th minute when Namoff scuffed his clearance deep in his own corner and compounded the error by clipping Barahona as he cut back onto his right foot in the penalty area.
Navarro hesitated for an instant before pointing to the spot, and Hendry Thomas stepped up to convert the penalty kick that breathed new life into Olimpia's Champions' Cup campaign.
Yet for all their enterprise in attack, the Hondurans were once again let down by subpar defending and were well and truly punished by their former star Emilio in the 37th minute.
When Boswell's speculative long ball out of the back somehow got through to Moreno in the Olimpia box, their back line panicked and collapsed on the Bolivian, who laid back to Emilio. The target man's initial feint bamboozled another throng of reckless defenders, allowing him to touch the ball forward and drill a low shot underneath Valladares to level the score and push D.C.'s aggregate lead to 5-2 as halftime approached.
United made two changes at the break, bringing Olsen into the center of the park to replace Brian Carroll and exchanging Jamil Walker for Moreno up top. The new entries made their presence felt right from the start, as Olsen roamed forward to earn a penalty kick that doused Olimpia's flickering hopes just four minutes into the second stanza.
After Navarro whistled for the game's second spot kick, Gomez did the honors, curling his shot into the lower side netting for a 2-1 lead that gave the Hondurans a real mountain to climb.
For his part, Walker was finding plenty of space as the visitors paid particular mind to the danger posed by their old teammate Emilio, yet the speedster spurned several good chances that his fellow striker created. First Walker ran onto Emilio's square ball and smacked his shot off the advancing Valladares' chest, then failed to convert a clear one-on-one in the 55th minute as Valladares deflected his bid for the top corner of the net.
United's celebratory evening was marred by an injury to goalkeeper Perkins, who had to exit the match with a quadriceps strain as backup Jay Nolly made his D.C. debut.
Olimpia finally got another breakthrough 15 minutes from time when Wilson Palacios slipped a classy ball behind the D.C. back line for substitute Jose Pacini to slot home under Nolly, knotting the contest at 2-2. It was just reward for Palacios' standout efforts all evening, and proved to be his last touch of the match as he was replaced by Jesus Alberto Navas before the ensuing kickoff.
Newcomer Emilio had already used this Champions Cup series to make a memorable first impression on the United faithful, and he further cemented his burgeoning reputation with a cheeky finish in the dying moments.
Gomez had found him with a diagonal ball into the Olimpia box and the well-traveled Brazilian gracefully scooped the ball over the challenge of Nahun Avila before calmly finishing past Valladares from a tight angle to assure the Black-and-Red of another well-deserved victory.
Charles Boehm is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.