Goals late on in the match from Jerry Palacios and Mario Berríos were just enough for Marathón to earn all three points, after Luciano Emilio equalized for United in the 47th minute.
For United, with a flurry of games in the upcoming weeks, it was an opportunity to give several new members of the squad their first starts, as David Habarugira, Ely Allen, and Julius James all made their first start for the club. United, who have never won a Champions' League under this format in the two years of its existence, looked to just be able to hang on to a vital point, until they were finally unraveled by a determined Marathón side.
In the early stages of the game, Marathón tried to set a quick tempo to the game, while United attempted to control ball, and slow down the pace of the game. Neither team succeeded in fully implementing their plan of action, as the game was stuck in between for the opening stages. Chances early on were few and far between, as neither team settled into the game immediately.
The first dangerous moment came in the 12th minute, with Marathón right back Mauricio Sabillón bombing forward to get in a dangerous cross. Julius James was in a good position to deal with the cross, but his clearance flew across the face of goal, nearly resulting in an own goal. Marathón could not take advantage of the resulting corner, and the danger was gone.
Moments later, United had a chance at the other end. Cultured talisman Jaime Moreno laid off a pass for Andrew Jacobson well outside the box, but Jacobson met the pass with a well driven shot, which Marathón keeper Juan Angel Obelar pushed over the bar for a corner. It was a well hit shot, but was met with an equally matched save. United then failed to capitalize on the resulting corner.
Jacobson had the next chance for United in the 23rd minute, but another well hit long range effort was at Obelar who was able to make the save. From there, Marathón took the lead.
Marathón quickly moved up the field from the Jacobson shot, and eventually, Sabillón was released down the right hand flank, in behind United's defense. His cross into the box was not the best, however, United defender Greg Janicki failed to clear the ball, and it bounced straight to striker Saul Martinez. Just a few yards out from goal, Martinez made no mistake, easily beating United keeper Josh Wicks, putting Marathón up by a single goal.
United were not totally set back by the goal, and were able to control the tempo of the game for some time following the goal. Whilst unable to create any real goal threatening opportunities, United reduced Marathón to a team looking for a counter through the long ball, something which United was able to easily withstand.
In the closing stages of the first half, United were able to create a flurry of chances, but to no avail. Jacobson again received a pass outside of the box, this time from Ben Olsen. Jacobson again unleashed a powerful shot, but it was again tipped over the bar by Obelar. From the resulting corner, Ely Allen sent in an inviting ball, which was cleared out for another corner. He played it short to Moreno, who weaved his way into the box, before firing a shot that Obelar was able to parry away. That ball then fell to Olsen near the top of the box, but he was unable to get his shot on target, and Marathón went into halftime with the 1-0 lead.
Santino Quaranta came on in the second half for Moreno, and his presence was immediately felt, as United found an equalizer in the 47th minute. United won a corner, which was taken by Quaranta. The well placed cross was met by the head of James, but Obelar was able to parry the ball up. Emilio was the first to the ball, and headed it past Obelar, while taking a header to his face. The ball just trickled past Obelar, and United were level, despite Emilio ending up with a bloody face.
The game then fell into another lull, with neither side really taking advantage of the other. Jacobson had another shot from outside the box, but it just sizzled wide of the post, in what amounted to the only real chance in the following ten minutes after the goal. With the next chance though, the complexion of the game would change for good.
Quaranta picked up the ball near the corner of the Marathón box, and looked to send a cross into the box. His perfectly weighted cross found Devon McTavish at the far post, who met the cross with a diving header. Obelar was able to make a fantastic save, pushing what looked to be a certain goal out for a corner kick. And from there on out, the game would lean in favor or Marathón.
Where Marathón were conceding ground beforehand, they began to apply pressure all over the field, and broke up United's play on controlling the ball, and slowing the tempo of the game. Marathón continued to play long balls up top for Martinez and Palacios, and it seemed only a matter of time before they found a break through.
Sabillón, one of Marathón's most dangerous players throughout the match, weaved his way into the box in the 70th minute. He spent a bit too much time trying to trick past the United defenders, and in the end, his shot from inside the box was too weak, and wide of Wicks' post. Sabillón had another chance just minutes later, but his shot from outside the box was at Wicks. But the tide had turned, and United were unable to get their wits back before the damage could be done.
Eventually, the winning goal came in the 83rd minute. A long ball was played up towards the box, and Mitchell Brown won the header, knocking the ball onto the path of Palacios. Palacios was able to hold off Janicki, before bundling a shot past Wicks, that just barely crossed the line, despite the efforts of Clyde Simms. 2-1 to Marathón, and at this late stage, United looked to be done in.
In the 88th minute, that loss was confirmed. Janicki conceded a penalty with a foul in the box, giving Marathón a chance to seal their victory. Defender Mario Berrios took the honors, but his shot was saved by Wicks. However, the referee ordered another attempt, after ruling that Simms stepped into the box too soon. With the second attempt, Berrios went the same way, but Wicks was unable to make the stop again, and Marathón had a 3-1 lead.
United were unable to sustain any sort of comeback, and after three minutes of stoppage time, their loss was confirmed, as Marathón went top of the group with their win at home.
Steven Streff, Goal.com
For more on Major League Soccer, visit Goal.com's MLS page!