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At Arrowhead, Defensive United Earns a Point

But Winless Streak Hits Six After Draw: D.C. United 0, Wizards 0

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 1, 2005; Page E07

KANSAS CITY, Mo., April 30 -- It wasn't just the lack of scoring that made Saturday's 0-0 tie between D.C. United and the Kansas City Wizards so painful to watch.

It was the absence of scoring chances, the dearth of dramatic saves, the casual effort of the home team and the sleepy afternoon crowd at Arrowhead Stadium, which was announced as 12,008 but was probably closer to half that figure.

In an unappetizing game between Kansas City and D.C. United, Wizards midfielder Chris Klein, right, stays in front of United's Josh Gros. (Orlin Wagner -- AP)

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All in all, 90 minutes of uninspired soccer that MLS surely would've rather kept hidden from a nationwide television audience.

"Defensively we were very good -- the boys did well," United Coach Peter Nowak said, attempting to accentuate the positive. "But against Kansas City, you will have two, three, four chances and you have to put them in."

Christian Gomez had two opportunities in the first half, squandering one and having the other stopped by goalkeeper Bo Oshoniyi. In injury time, late substitute Freddy Adu was thwarted by Oshoniyi, and after collecting the rebound, the teenager fell in the box in an attempt to draw a penalty kick. Referee Brian Hall did blow his whistle, but it was to issue Adu a deserved yellow card for diving.

That was about as exciting as it got in a disappointing rematch of last year's stirring MLS Cup, which United won by a 3-2 score for its fourth championship.

As a result of Saturday's drab affair, the winless streak for United (1-2-2) reached four games in league play and six games overall. The Wizards (1-1-2) managed only one corner kick and one serious threat to score -- an angled bid by defender Alex Zontinca that skipped narrowly wide of the far post in the 16th minute.

United's much-maligned defense, which yielded four goals to New England last week and has frequently appeared disorganized, kept its shape and didn't make many mistakes. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando was called upon to make one routine save and wasn't bothered by many dangerous crosses.

"We've taken a lot of crap," defender Mike Petke said. "People don't care that we have a rookie [Bobby Boswell] anchoring the middle. We've had different guys shuffle in there and nothing's been steady. Today was important for us to come out and play well. I don't want people praising us now because who knows what's going to happen, but it was a good thing for us to build on."

Commenting on United's winless streak, Petke added: "It's the fifth game of the season, and the panic button is definitely not being pushed. It was a good team effort. It would've been nice to get three points, but we'll take one."

Because of injuries, Nowak had to shuffle his lineup. Inserting Santino Quaranta for Alecko Eskandarian (thigh contusion) and Brandon Prideaux for David Stokes (concussion) were easy decisions, but the move to replace Steve Guppy (Achilles' tendon, hamstring) on the left wing was more difficult.

Nowak could have slid Adu into that role, but the smallish teenager would have been no match for Chris Klein, the Wizards' strong right-side midfielder. So Josh Gros moved from the right to the left, Ben Olsen pushed up to the right from his defensive midfield slot and rookie Clyde Simms paired with Brian Carroll behind playmaker Gomez.

The game's first corner kick didn't come until the 28th minute, around the time United began to establish control. Gomez should've provided the lead shortly thereafter, but his clear bid from short distance, set up perfectly by Gros, was cleared off the goal line by defender Jimmy Conrad and then deflected aside by Oshoniyi. A moment later, Gomez's header toward the upper left corner was snared by the leaping goalie.

Nowak didn't turn to Adu until the 77th minute and, other than free kicks and corner kicks, he wasn't involved until his scoring chance from 12 yards.

"My first intention was just to shoot it on goal -- force the goalkeeper to make the save," Adu said. "That's what I did and he made a good save, but I didn't catch the whole thing. I would've liked to have hit it harder."

United Notes: Forward Jason Thompson made his first appearance of the year, replacing Quaranta in the 89th minute. . . . United is 0-4-1 in its last five visits to Arrowhead.

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