D.C. United just can’t seem to do anything wrong these days.
Having already qualified for the quarterfinals of 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League play, United sent a mere 14 players – most of them bench players or reserves – to Panama to take on Tauro FC in their group stage finale. Though already through to the next round, there was still much at stake: United could wrap their hands around a potential number top-four seed with a victory, crucial in recent years to making a deep run into the knockout rounds of CCL.
The ragtag bunch managed to squeak out a 1-0 victory at Tauro, weathering a late storm on defense and relying on a little bit of luck on the other side of the ball to nab the game-winner. Conor Shanosky’s inadvertent strike in the 24th minute would be all United needed; all that’s left for United now is to wait and see how the other groups in CCL play shake out while they await their quarterfinal opponents.
"I think it was important for us to come down here and get a result to put us in the best possible position in regards to seeding for the next stage of this tournament,” said United assistant coach Chad Ashton, who assumed head coaching duties for the evening while Ben Olsen stayed with the first team in D.C. to prepare for their regular season finale. "So, we wanted to come down here and pick up a win and we can’t do anything about the other games but hopefully that puts us in the top three or four seeds moving into the next stage of the tournament.
"I think Tauro played a good game. They came out, they put us under pressure, they had some chances at the end to equalize, they have some very good young players that I think some MLS teams will be looking at in the future. We’re impressed.”
United’s lineup featured a few regular contributors on the first team and a host of others who’ve been relied on for depth throughout D.C.’s 2014 campaign. For a host of youngsters – including Homegrown products like Michael Seaton and Collin Martin – the experience was likely a valuable learning tool, a small taste of the scrappy nature of CCL play.
"Again, it’s great for the future of the club, it’s great for young guys to get experiences in foreign countries, in hostile environments,” said Ashton. "Again, playing in a place that they’re not comfortable playing in, playing in a place that’s foreign to them and playing against players that they haven’t seen before and having to adjust to that is a great experience for them. It’s gonna make them better for it.
“Hopefully some of our young players continue to move forward and hopefully they have an impact in the next stage as well."