Champions League game #4: DCU 2 - Saprissa 2

What a battle.  What a game.  I can't decide if I'm happy or disappointed.  A win seemed within reach - it was within reach! - but a bit of poor refereeing combined with some bad luck led to a 2-1 deficit late in the match.  Rodion Dyachenko's header with just a few minutes left in the game pulled United even, however, and a draw was the result.  You certainly can't question the team's desire, heart and work ethic.  United earns its first point in Champions League play with the young guys' gutsy performance. 

UPDATE (1:55 a.m. ET):  Post-game quotes below.  Some of the team will travel to Houston tomorrow, while others will head back to D.C.  More tomorrow. 

D.C. United Head Coach Tom Soehn
On the game:
We had a young team out there – most of the guys don’t have much first team experience.  It was a great test for them, but ultimately I’m disappointed in the result.  I thought at the time when the first goal came for them, the referee needed to use his discretion and stop the game and give us a chance to take him [Quavas Kirk] off the field.  He had a great look and saw that the injury was real and he needed to use discretion.  But, overall, our young guys competed very hard – it’s obviously never an easy environment to play in –  but we created two quality goals and that should have been enough to win the game.
On defending after going up 1-0:
It’s very simple – when you’re on the road you have to get a road result.  We executed, we scored two goals on the road in a situation where we had a lot of our first team guys missing, so what we lacked in some of the better players we made up for in heart.  Our guys showed a great desire to defend tonight and counterattack and we created two goals on the road – I think it’s a credit to our young guys.
On having one point through four games:
It’s very disappointing.  We take a lot of pride in our tournaments.  Right now, our League play overshadows the tournament – there’s a big desire to make sure we make the playoffs and unfortunately we have to sacrifice some of the tournament.  But, at no point are we giving up – if we have to act as spoilers, that’s what we’ll accomplish, but our guys will continue to show heart and desire and continue to fight up until the last game.
D.C. United midfielder Rod Dyachenko
On the result:
I’m pleased that we came out with a tie at least.  The way things were headed towards the end it looked like we might let it slip away.  I think we deserved – the first 75 minutes – I think we deserved the win, in my opinion.  The ref was terrible, he was making every call for them, but at the end it’s a good result to come out with a tie.
On his goal:
[Marc] Burchy and I have been talking about really bursting into that near space, at the near post, so as soon as he hit it I just ran right for it.  I didn’t think I was going to get the ball, but somehow it just slipped through.
On Saprissa’s first goal:
Quavas went down and I understand they had it for one attack towards goal while he was down, they all saw he was down, then the ball got popped out towards midfield and they kept playing.  The ref saw it, he [Kirk] kept on lying there, Saprissa crossed the ball to Quavas’ side where his man was, so it was two against one on the far post and he headed it back across – it was a terrible goal, but that’s the way it goes.  If the referee doesn’t take hold of things, that’s what happens.
On the team’s effort:
I think it was a great test for us.  I think the guys came out and responded really well – it’s one of the toughest atmospheres you’ll play in.  You can talk about experience and all that, but we had heart, we battled for each other.
D.C. United goalkeeper Zach Wells:
On the game:
I thought it was a great battle.  We left the field exhausted and everyone put as much as they had into it.  To come out with a 2-2 draw after going down 2-1, coming back and scoring that goal in the 90th minute showed a lot of character and showed what this group of guys is about. 
On the team’s efforts:
I thought we organized well the whole game – we defended well.  We were able to absorb quite a bit of their attack and deal with it for the most part.  I don’t know, it’s a group of guys that love playing for each other and I think it shows in that everyone battles and keeps their heads up no matter who makes mistakes nobody gets down on each other.  I think everyone has that one common goal and I think it shows.  I thought last week the same group of guys had a very solid performance against Cruz Azul and the same thing this week in a hostile environment with a lot of things working against us, with the crowd on their side with… seemingly some other things going their way.  To come out with a 2-2 draw was, I guess, a fair result. 
D.C. United defender Mike Zaher
On the result:
On the night, I think we all came in with great attitudes thinking this is another opportunity for us to show what we’re about, similar to the Cruz Azul game.  I felt like we got more confident, built on from the Cruz Azul game.  We had that togetherness that carried us into this game.  We scored early in the game and from there we buckled down.  We knew they were going to come at us and obviously being away, with their fans, it was a hostile environment.
On the game’s challenges:
Obviously, the ref really hurt us tonight.  I thought we had everything against us – the environment, the refs, the fans – everybody was kind of like, we’re throwing in the towel on this tournament, but we felt like we showed what we were capable of against Cruz Azul, lost on a lucky goal, but we stepped up and did it again tonight.
On Saprissa’s first goal:
I don’t think anyone let up, expecting the bal to go out of bounds [because of Kirk’s injury], but in your head you’re thinking “okay, they need to kick this ball out of bounds – sportsmanship is sportsmanship.”  I understand the initial attack, no one is going to kick the ball out of bounds if they have a scoring opportunity, but then, once we get rid of it, it’s just sportsmanship. I can’t believe the referee let play continue like that after we had cleared the ball. 
On the night’s final impression:
You come away with a little of both disappointment and happiness – we proved a lot tonight.  You have to come out of that game with your head up, especially with the variables that weren’t in our favor.  We still ended up getting the point.  When’s the last time this team came away with two goals – it’s been how many games since we scored? – not to mention, gotten a result, whether it’s a tie or a win.  I would have loved to win tonight, I think everyone thought we fought hard enough and deserved to get the win, but how can you be upset?  We should be holding our heads up and looking forward to Houston and turning our season around.  Hopefully, this lights a spark for this team, for the club, for the organization and we turn it around and get into the playoffs now.