If this is the year a Major League Soccer team is to become the first to win the CONCACAF Champions League, the league’s hopes almost certainly rest upon the shoulders of the Montreal Impact after D.C. United were thoroughly beaten by Costa Rican champions Alajualense, 5-2, in Alajuela on Thursday night.
Head coach Ben Olsen had no choice but to rest 2014 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year honoree Bill Hamid, but selected very much a first-team lineup otherwise. As it turned out, sitting Hamid, who is still recovering from a nagging shoulder injury that ailed him for much of the 2014 season, and starting Andrew Dykstra was the one change United could least afford to make.
Dykstra suffered through a nightmare first half, letting in three goals before the half-hour mark, making blunderous mistakes on the first and third.
Dykstra committed a foul inside his own penalty are and Ariel Rodriguez converted form the spot in the 15th minute, setting into motion a 12-minute period United fans will want to soon forget. Jose Ortiz doubled Alajualense’s lead in the 22nd minute, before Fabian Espindola headed over the ‘keeper to pull a goal back for United two minutes later. The two-goal lead was restored in the 27th minute by Johan Venegas after Dykstra spilled a cross for a tap-in.
Ortiz scored his second of the game nine minutes after halftime with a low, long shot inside Dykstra’s near post, putting the two-legged tie pretty well out of reach for United, but Steve Birnbaum’s 88th-minute header of a Fabian Espindola cross made the score 4-2, with the important part being the two tie-breaking away goals.
Hope is fleeting, as any MLS fan who’s ever been invested in one of the league’s CCL campaigns will tell you, as Jonathan McDonald beat Dykstra from close range two minutes later to restore the three-goal advantage and stranglehold on the tie.
The return leg will be played next Wednesday (8 pm ET) at RFK Stadium.