First, DC United advanced past Firpo to reach the CONCACAF Champions League group stage. The game was 1-1 after 90 minutes plus full time, with DC emerging victorious 5-4 on penalties. It was clear that DC was the more talented team, and they rightfully deserved to win.
I would like to note a controversial moment, namely Firpo's goal in the 39th minute, which was a pentalty kick. Leandro Franco took Cristiano Ronaldo's patented stop-start run-up to new extremes. You know Ronaldo's style well - he starts his run, but in an awkward looking and ultimately unsuccessful attempt at fooling the keeper into guessing one way early he takes a jerking stutter that kills his momentum. Usually this doesn't matter because Ronaldo can still finish with pretty much unsavable placement anyway; however, he famously missed in the Champions League final in 2008 and it looked like his usual accuracy was thrown off by his annoying, stuttering run up (though I give him credit for a strong game overall and a wonderful headed goal for Man U during normal time).
Here's Ronaldo's penalty, at 0:49 of the clip.
Looking back now I see that he completely stopped, which is technically illegal. Last night Franco actually planted to kick at the ball and then stopped right at the ball, much closer than what Ronaldo does. Because he looked like he was in mid-kicking motion, DC goalie Josh Wicks guessed to his right, opening the goal for Franco. Once Franco stopped and waited a second, Wicks also stopped and looked at the ref to make a call. The ref did nothing and Franco scored easily. Here's Franco's penalty kick at 0:33 of the clip.
What do you think? Was Franco's kick illegal, should it have not counted? What about Ronaldo's? Despite being one of the best free kick takers on the planet, I was never comfortable that Ronaldo would score his penalties, despite his high success rate in them, because the stutter run up seemed a disaster waiting to happen, and fortunately for Man U the wet grass and John Terry's footing saved them in 2008. I think it's a pretty stupid way to take penalties. And Franco's goal should have been disallowed.
Anyway, DC joins Houston and Columbus as MLS teams in the group stages. Toronto was eliminated by USL team Puerto Rico and the Red Bulls take a 2-2 away leg tie into tonights match in New Jersey. Let's hope W Connection from Trinadad can hit some away goals today.