Second-half surge lifts United past Marathon

WASHINGTON -- D.C. United needed a resounding win against CD Marathon on Thursday night to give themselves a reasonable chance to advance into the knockout stages of CONCACAF Champions League, and after a scoreless first half the Black-and-Red dug deep and produced exactly the result they required, cruising to a 3-0 win on the strength of a Luciano Emilio brace.Political unrest in their home country forced Marathon to take an arduous road just to reach the U.S. capital city, including an 8-hour bus ride across the border to Guatemala, but United showed little sympathy as they controlled possession throughout and eventually broke down the Hondurans' resistance to put themselves in pole position for second place in Group B.United trotted out a blend of youth and experience in their first XI as Ben Olsen and Santino Quaranta were joined by Rodney Wallace and debutee Tiyi Shipalane in midfield while Luciano Emilio partnered with Chris Pontius up top. Julius James and Clyde Simms anchored a patchwork defense as another newcomer, Lawson Vaughn, made his first D.C. appearance at right back.The home side started brightly and should have gone in front barely six minutes after the opening whistle. Quaranta found Pontius with a booming diagonal ball into the Marathon box and the rookie leaped up to nod a sterling pass down into the path of Emilio, but the Brazilian screwed his effort wide of the right-hand post from seven yards out.Moments later, Pontius again showed impressive aerial ability on a D.C. corner kick, rising above the crowd to snap a header on target only for the effort to be cleared off the line.United bossed possession early on, but the Hondurans were waiting for chances to counterattack and they very nearly cashed in on one such opportunity in the 14th minute when Carlos Mejia cracked a long-range shot that drew a fine diving parry from D.C. goalkeeper Josh Wicks.Emilio carved out another good look at goal with a quick change of pace at the top corner of the Marathon penalty box in the 32nd minute, creating space to hit an angled blast that was bravely blocked over the crossbar by Juan Obelar. United's target man broke free again just seconds later but with even more time to pick his spot, he still could not find a way past Obelar as the netminder produced another clutch save to keep the match scoreless.Mejia soon tested Wicks again as he loped forward in support of striker Walter Martinez -- reportedly a transfer target for United last winter -- and sent in a low shot that deflected dangerously off Avery John's foot but could not squirt past United's 'keeper.United had reason to feel unlucky to enter halftime without a goal to their credit, and they kicked off the second period with attacking intent that was quickly rewarded. John made an enterprising run down the left channel and sent a cross into the six-yard box that was met by a well-placed header from Emilio as a flat-footed Obelar could only watch it bounce into the side netting for a 1-0 D.C. lead.The goal boosted D.C.'s confidence and they soon doubled their advantage with an opportunistic sequence in the Marathon box. Quaranta tracked down a deflection near the penalty spot and dropped the ball back to Moreno, who gave a reminder of his legendary finishing instincts with a canny poke that nestled just inside the post to hand United the two-goal lead they craved.Marathon coach Manuel Keosseian tried to stanch the bleeding with a double substitution, bringing on Fernando Castillo and former LA Galaxy midfielder Pando Ramirez. But the visitors' evening took another turn for the worse when Emilio struck again to run the score to 3-0.Floating into space behind Marathon defender Erick Norales, the Brazilian beat the offside trap to latch onto a smart through ball from Olsen and advance on Obelar before slotting home a calm finish.The goal gave his club an ideal scoreline, one that could prove pivotal should the Black-and-Red finish level on points with Marathon at the end of group play.Tempers flared in the dying minutes as referee Silviu Petrescu gave United captain Jaime Moreno two yellow cards in quick succession after he appeared to elbow Mario Berrios while shielding the ball. Both sides felt hard done by and expressed their displeasure with Petrescu's decisions, but after several minutes of added time the final whistle eventually arrived and United left with the convincing victory they needed.United are home in the Champions League in their next match, next Wednesday against Trinidadian side San Juan Jabloteh, with a league match against the San Jose Earthquakes in between on Sunday afternoon at RFK Stadium.SCORING SUMMARY DC: Luciano Emilio (Avery John) 47DC: Jaime Moreno (Santino Quaranta) 55DC: Luciano Emilio (Ben Olsen) 71MISCONDUCT SUMMARY DC: Avery John (caution) 26CDM: Mario Beata (caution) 82CDM: Mario Berrios (caution) 84DC: Dejan Jakovic (caution) 88 DC: Jaime Moreno (caution) 90CDM: Glen Brown (caution) 90DC Jaime Moreno (ejection; second caution) 90Referee: Silviu PetrescuAssistant Referees: Darren Clark, Daniel BelleauFourth Official: Baldomero ToledoTime of Game: 1:59Attendance: 5280