D.C. United had to be patient with the unfamiliar and uneven conditions at Jamaica’s National Stadium for its CONCACAF Champions League road clash with Waterhouse FC.
But once the Black-and-Red steadied their footing at the venue more commonly known as The Office, they took a giant step toward the quarterfinals of the international tournament with a 2-1 victory that included a pair of quality goals from Fabián Espíndola.
With two wins in two tries over Waterhouse (2-2-0, six points), D.C. United (2-0-0, six points) owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Jamaican side in group play. To clinch the group, United needs only one point from two matches against Panamanian side Tauro FC (0-2-0, zero points), the first of which will take place at RFK Stadium on Sept. 24.
At The Office, Espíndola stole the show for the visitors with a magnificent individual display five minutes before halftime and added an insurance goal six minutes after the break.
On the first goal, he intercepted a pass near midfield and turned toward the Waterhouse goal. With three defenders converging, Espíndola pushed the ball ahead toward the right corner of the box. Using his lesser right foot, he then deftly chipped the ball just inside the far left post over Waterhouse goalkeeper Richard McCallum.
Espíndola added the crucial insurance goal with another back post finish, this time with his head off a cross from Samuel Inkoom, who made his D.C. United debut.
Inkoom began the night at right back before moving up to right midfield at halftime when Sean Franklin entered the match for Alex Caskey, who suffered a number of crunching tackles in the first 45 minutes.
Chris Pontius also entered in the second half, making his first Champions League appearance following his MLS debut against the New York Red Bulls six days before.
The tenor of the match changed in the 69th minute when Taylor Kemp was ejected after a second yellow card for a potential goal-saving tackle just outside the box. Hughan Gray powered the ensuing free kick over Bill Hamid and off the underside of the crossbar to pull the home team back within a goal.
But Hamid refused to be beaten, making a couple of key saves down the stretch, including a sprawling stop in the 93rd minute, and the 10-man United squad hung on for three points.
United returns home next Wednesday for more CCL action as it hosts Tauro FC. Buy tickets here.