Champions League: DC United pleased to overcome 3-goal deficit after being “blindsided” by Montego Bay

United ventured south for their final CONCACAF Champions League group stage match, taking on Jamaican side Montego Bay United in what looked to be a fairly massive mismatch

D.C. United’s trip to the Caribbean wasn’t supposed to be a particularly challenging one.

United ventured south for their final CONCACAF Champions League group stage match, taking on Jamaican side Montego Bay United in what looked to be a fairly massive mismatch. Montego Bay – coached by former Tampa Bay Mutiny and Colorado Rapids boss Tim Hankinson – had hardly made a whimper in Group H, trampled over by both United and Panamanian side Tauro FC.

But things did not go according to plan on Tuesday night. The tournament debutantes took advantage of a reserve-heavy United side, storming out to a shocking 3-0 lead before crumbling under a late United rally that resulted in a 3-3 draw at Montego Bay Sports Complex. Though they’d already secured advancement to the tournament’s knockout phase, the draw cost D.C. a shot at a top-three seed.

“I’m very proud of our team and our guys for the resilience of coming back from a 3-0 deficit,” said United assistant coach Chad Ashton, who assumed managerial duties from Ben Olsen for Tuesday’s encounter. “I think it’s on me a little bit that they didn’t show up ready to play and took things for granted the first half and really didn’t know what hit them.

“I think you have to give the other team a lot of credit; Montego Bay played very well, especially the first half they had us on our heels, and before we knew what hit us it was 2-0. So, a real credit to them for being very organized and taking the game to us.”

D.C.’s XI looked out of sorts during the early phases of the first half, perhaps a bit taken aback by an energetic Montego Bay. After midfielder Jermain Woozecroft opened the scoring 26 minutes in, Jamaican national teamer Dino Williams doubled their early lead, smashing home the first of his two tallies in the 30th minute. His second came on a second-half penalty kick.

“At halftime it was only two,” said Ashton, “so we started the second half and got the penalty [called against us] and again I think our guys… [didn’t] know what hit them. Felt like a truck blindsided them, but at the same time I think that was another thing that helped them dig in. We talked about it at halftime, that we needed to work harder; we didn’t have the right mentality the first half.

“I think we thought we were gonna come out here and just cruise around and cruise through a win. It doesn’t matter where you play or who you play. If you don’t come out with some real fight and some real personality and you don’t do the hard work, you’re not going to get a result.”

D.C. did eventually come to life. Former Columbus Crew SC forward Jairo Arrieta got things started with a hard-fought strike from close range mid-way through the second half. Center back Kofi Opare was well-positioned on United’s second tally, his diving header cutting Montego’s lead to one.

And Michael Farfan did well on United’s third goal – which came in stoppage time – controlling a miss-hit shot inside the area and sending a composed effort past the outstretched arms of Montego goalkeeper Jacomeno Barrett for the equalizer.

“It’s give and take a little bit,” said Ashton. “I’m not pleased with how we started, I’m not pleased with our mentality going into the game. I think we’re in Jamaica, we’re wanting to be at the pool, wanting to get some sun rather than thinking about a soccer game. And again, by the time we figured out we were in a soccer game, it was almost too late.

“Again, it shows resilience, it’s a situation that, with young players, you want them to be able to experience and deal with adversity, especially in places they haven’t been before. For them to really work their tails off and dig themselves out of that hole is a real credit to all of those guys.”

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