Jaime Moreno's late first-half penalty kick canceled out Mario Benitez's goal and helped D.C. United earn a 1-1 tie with El Salvador's L.A. Firpo on Tuesday night in the CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round first leg.
The second and final game of the total-goals series will be next Tuesday in El Salvador. The winner is slotted to play six games in the first-round group stage between Aug. 18 and Oct. 22.
If the second game finishes tied, the first tiebreaker is away goals. The second is 30 minutes of overtime.
Benitez put Firpo ahead in the 26th minute, stealing the ball from Greg Janicki in the United end and driving a shot inside the right post, past the dive of Milos Kocic.
Moreno tied it three minutes before halftime with a well-placed penalty after referee Paul Delgadillo ruled that Christian Sanchez's slide tackle brought down Rodney Wallace in the 18-yard box.
Both sides had chances to go ahead in a lively second half. United's Christian Gomez was denied from close range in the 90th minute by goalkeeper Juan Gomez. Five minutes earlier, D.C.'s Andrew Jacobson and Firpo's Herbert Barrera each sent good chances wide in an end-to-end sequence.
United was originally slated to play fall 2008 Salvadoran runners-up Chalatenango, but Firpo was offered Chalatenango's berth when the team failed to meet tournament requirements.
Firpo, who went 2-2-2 but failed to progress in the inaugural Champions Cup group stage last year, last won the Salvadoran league in the 2008 spring season. Firpo was the runner-up this spring.
D.C., 0-5-2 in this event, qualified by winning the 2008 U.S. Open Cup.