DC advances past Firpo on penalties

Christian Gomez put his penalty kick off the post and past CD Luis Angel Firpo goalkeeper Juan Gomez to send D.C. United to the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League after both teams played to a 1-1 draw on Tuesday night and a 2-2 draw on aggregate in the second leg of their preliminary round series at Estadio Cuscatlan in San Salvador.D.C., the first Major League Soccer team to advance out of the preliminary stage, was perfect during the shootout and join Group B with Toluca of Mexico, Marathon of Honduras and either San Juan Jabloteh of Trinidad and Tobago or San Francisco FC of Panama.Chris Pontius, Danny Szetela and Ben Olsen struck for United in their first three kicks, while Dennis Alas, Jorge Sanchez and Victor Merino put the ball past D.C. goalkeeper Josh Wicks. When Manuel Salazar put Firpo’s fourth attempt over the crossbar, D.C. United had their chance and Marc Burch struck his shot powerfully down the middle. Christian Sanchez kept the Salvadorans alive, scoring to Wicks’ right, but moments later Gomez ended the game for D.C., putting his shot in off the post to end the drama. Unlike the opening leg, D.C. coach Tommy Soehn went with his best XI on the road, replacing eight starters and switching to a three-man backline, while Firpo coach Agustin Castillo used the same lineup that earned a 1-1 draw at RFK Stadium last week. Less than 10 minutes into the game, D.C. had the game’s first quality scoring chance when Luciano Emilio chipped the ball to the back post where Santino Quaranta’s downward header was momentarily bobbled by Juan Gomez before the Firpo goalkeeper picked up the ball. In the 23rd minute, Firpo’s Carlos Monteagudo turned Olsen around on a run toward the endline and crossed to Mario Benitez, who headed back across the goal and wide of the net. Firpo took a lead in the 39th minute, as Leandro Franco beat Wicks from the penalty spot. Burch swung his arm, making contact with a cross toward the far post, prompting referee Oscar Moncada to point to the spot and book the D.C. defender. Franco stepped up to take the kick, appeared to come to a complete stop and pushed it to the left of a confused and dejected Wicks, who argued to no avail that Franco’s penalty was illegal. However, United equalized three minutes later after Jose Campos was booked for hauling down Quaranta 25 yards from goal. Christian Gomez placed the free kick perfectly to the left of goalkeeper Juan Gomez, who slapped at the attempt, but couldn’t stop it from entering the net. It was a critical goal because D.C. had leveled the aggregate series after the two teams played to a 1-1 draw at RFK Stadium last week, and it also left the sides level on away goals.D.C. put pressure on the hosts after the break, penetrating the Firpo defensive third often in the opening 15 minutes of the second half, but United was unable to put the critical second goal past Gomez. One minute from full time, Merino got a step on Rodney Wallace, but he put his shot off the outside netting, momentarily drawing a huge ovation from a portion of the crowd that saw the net ripple. Campos slipped a clever ball to Franco, who got on the inside of defender Dejan Jakovic in the second minute of second-half stoppage time. However, the Brazilian also could only put the ball off the outside netting for the final scoring chance of regulation time. Andrew Jacobson’s low attempt from distance stunned Gomez in the opening minute of extra time, but his shot skipped just off the mark. In the 98th minute, Campos shielded Jakovic and raced in alone on Wicks, but Jacobson did well to track back and push the ball out of trouble. One minute later, Wallace cut inside of a Firpo defender and fired from distance. Gomez dived to his right and parried the shot away and covered up the rebound before Fred was able to pounce. Fatigue set in for both teams at the end of the first 15 minutes of extra time, limiting the scoring opportunities as penalties loomed. D.C. was reduced to 10 men for the final two minutes of extra time as Fred was given a straight red after he kicked out at Monteagudo after being dispossessed in midfield. But neither team was able to break the deadlock before Gomez’s dramatic penalty kick sent D.C. through to the group stage.D.C. United vs. Luis Angel FirpoAugust 4, 2009 -- Estadio CuscatlanSan Salvador, El Salvador Scoring Summary: LAF -- Leandro Franco (penalty kick) 39DC -- Christian Gomez (unassisted) 42Penalty Kick Summary: LAF -- Dennis Alas: goalDC -- Chris Pontius: goalLAF -- Jorge Sanchez: goalDC -- Danny Szetela: goalLAF -- Victor Merino: goalDC -- Ben Olsen: goalLAF -- Manuel Salazar: missDC -- Marc Burch: goalLAF -- Christian Sanchez: goalDC -- Christian Gomez: goalD.C. United -- Josh Wicks; Bryan Namoff, Dejan Jakovic, Marc Burch; Santino Quaranta (Andrew Jacobson 88), Ben Olsen, Rodney Wallace, Christian Gomez, Fred; Luciano Emilio (Szetela 91), Jaime Moreno (Chris Pontius 72). Sustitutes Not Used: Milos Kocic, Avery John, Devon McTavish, Greg JanickiLuis Angel Firpo -- Juan Gomez; Victor Turcio, Carlos Monteagudo, Jorge Sanchez, Manuel Salazar; Lenadro Franco (Ruben Quijada 109), Christian Sanchez, Jose Campos (Victor Merino 84), Dennis Alas; Mario Benitez, Edgar Leguizamon (Juan Campos 70). Substitutes Not Used: Henry Hernandez, Edwin Gonzales, Herbert Barrera, Emerson Veliz. Misconduct summary: DC -- Marc Burch (caution) 38LAF -- Jose Campos (caution) 41DC -- Dejan Jakovic (caution) 45DC -- Bryan Namoff (caution) 66DC -- Christian Gomez (caution) 92LAF -- Mario Benitez (caution) 116DC -- Fred (ejection) 118All statistics contained here are unofficial.