Queretaro came into RFK and took care of business, their 1-1 draw with the Black-and-Red meant that the Mexican side would advance to the next round with an aggregate score of 3-1. In both legs it looked like a team that is already in form versus a team that has a ways to go. It’s clear some decisions have to be made regarding the starting 11 for D.C. United, especially as the MLS season starts at the end of this week.
The Black-and-Red made a few changes to their lineup from the first leg against Queretaro. They also made a change to their formation abandoning their 4-4-1-1 from the first match to their standard flat 4-4-2. While they came into this match rather optimistic, the home team that is, D.C. United had a relapse from one of it’s demons from last season. They surrendered a goal just three minutes and 45 seconds into the match, it was a nice goal from the visitors as Edgar Benítez got the ball off a well placed cross from Sinah and headed it back to Angel Sepulveda who calmly collected the ball and slid it past Andrew Dykstra to the near post.
From there, the home side seemed to settle down. Still, they seemed a bit off with their connections. Especially in transitioning from defense to the attack, specifically from the backline to midfield. There were several sloppy passes and flat out bad decisions that did lead to and could have led to quality scoring chances for Queretaro. One of the few positives for D.C. United in the half were the connections from Chris Rolfe and Fabian Espindola, they were able to rekindle the magic they had between them last season and created a couple of quality chances. Another positive in the first half was the play of Sean Franklin, the right back did a good job of handling his defensive responsibilities and assisting in facilitating the attack. He was one of the few defensemen that were able to regularly link with Marcelo Sarvas and Nick DeLeon in midfield, creating a smooth transition.
It was also clear that the visitors wanted to speed up the Black-and-Red, they did so successfully at the start of the game and in a few stretches late in the half. Despite trailing in the possession battle at the half, Queretaro was able to control the game by their pressure. Making D.C. United’s possession somewhat pointless as most of it was spent going backwards.
Things opened up for the home side a bit early in the half, with the Black-and-Red pressing a bit more. Similar to last season, when they were down they seemed to play faster and a bit better. Fabi and Rolfe continued to press in the half, creating two chances that could, well should have resulted in goals. Nyarko got the ball on the right side of the field, right oustide of the penalty box. He used his first step to make a simple move and accelerate past his defender, causing a help defender to pull him down in the box resulting in a penalty kick for D.C. United. Rolfe would step up to take it, but Volpi guessed right and dove to block the kick that was headed for the near post. That penalty kick could have been the third goal, prior to that were Espindola’s two very good chances.
The first of which was created by Rolfe with a clever touch, resulting in a nice thru ball that caught Fabi right in front of the keeper. His touch wasn’t strong enough and he couldn’t quite lift the ball over the sliding Volpi. Shortly thereafter, Rolfe again found Fabi cutting through the box, but Espindola’s touch was off again and the shot went just wide of the near post. The ball would have beaten Volpi had it been placed correctly.
In the 59th minute, Luciano Acosta came into the game. The diminutive player was exactly the jolt that his team needed, causing trouble up front and nearly creating a quality chance on goal. 2016 First Round pick Julian Buescher would come on in the 66th minute for Sarvas, the rookie would score his team’s lone goal of the night on a beautifully struck ball that ducked inside the upper 90(top corner) of the far post.
That would be all the Black-and-Red could muster, the had their chances to tie if not win tonight, but fell short. What is important going forward is that neither Acosta or Buescher seem shy on the field and they both bring something very needed to the attack. Creativity and pace, it’ll be interesting to see what type of roles they carve out over the course of the season.
Below is a clip of Buescher’s strike:
— THE CHAMPIONS (@TheChampions) March 2, 2016