CONCACAF Champions League debutantes Montego Bay United served notice of serious commitment to the competition when it hired veteran MLS coach Tim Hankinson. On Tuesday in Jamaica it was clear Hankinson had made a difference as D.C. United was forced to rally to salvage a 3-3 tie in its final game of group play.
Even though United had already clinched first place in Group H, the Black and Red had hoped for a win to secure a better seed for the knockout stage of the CCL. Teams in the quarterfinals are seeded No. 1 – 8 based on points, with goal differential as the first tiebreaker. In last season’s tournament United earned the top seed, but lost in the quarterfinals to Alajuelense.
Still it is significant that United was able to snare at least a point to finish group play with three wins and one draw. After 49 minutes it was looking like United would suffer a defeat as Montego Bay built a 3-0 lead. In the meeting between the teams at R.F.K. Stadium United finished with a 3-0 win, but early in that match Montego Bay showed flashes of its building confidence with several quality chances.
To rescue its trip to the Jamaican resort, Jairo Arrieta opened United’s scoring in the 59th minute. Arrieta then assisted on Kofi Opare’s goal in the 78th minute with the rescue mission complete when Michael Farfan scored deep in stoppage time on an assist from Perry Kitchen.
1. Opportunity lost: United still won Group H, but needed a better response to improve its chances of a better seeding for next spring’s quarterfinals. Seedlings will be announced when all teams finish group play. On Tuesday Montego Bay started the match with more energy and commitment. Even though slow starts have plagued United in MLS play, it is hard to draw a connection because the lineups have been drastically different. Regardless, while United has proven to be resilient, it will need to be strong from start of matches when the completion level and stakes rise in the knockout round of the CCL.
2. Give an A to the B unit. To navigate through the group stage, United mostly used reserves. Conor Doyle, Kofi Opare and Miguel Aguilar led the team with two goals apiece. Michael Farfan led the team in group play with three assists. The tournament has also proven to be a valuable window for rookie Luke Mishu to impress. Mishu can play on the flank in midfield or on defense and is another example of United’s success finding players from the college ranks.