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D.C. United

Eastern Conference Game

Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 8, 2004; 11:00 AM

In a clinching tiebreaker on Saturday, D.C. United celebrated its victory over New England to qualify for the MLS Cup for the first time in five years. In a penalty kick shootout, midfielder Brian Carroll landed the last score for United. However it was goalie Nick Rimando who sent and sustained the team's 4-3 victory after shutting out the efforts of New England's Dempsey.

Post staff writer Steven Goff was online Monday, Nov. 8, at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the game and D.C. United's chances for the MLS cup.


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Steven Goff: Greetings, everyone! Thanks for checking in on my chat. Hope y'all made it out to RFK on Saturday nite, or at least saw the game on TV. It was truly one of MLS's finest moments.

Okay, let's get started...

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Haymarket, Va.: Hey Steve:

Brian Carroll has been superb for United this year. I think his influence on a game is tremendously underappreciated by many. What does Nowak think about him, and is there any chance that he's on Bruce Arena's radar for the holding midfielder position on the USMNT?

Joe Doc

Steven Goff: Nowak loves him, and rightfully so. He has been one of United's unsung heroes this year. Is he ready for the national team? Hmmm....maybe after another full MLS season he should get a look.

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College Park, Md.: Is Freddie that bad in the midfield? He seemed incapable of either denying his man the ball or closing anyone down once they had it. It looked like the first half of the season when he floated around looking like he was a clueless 15 year old rookie. Even with the ball he must have lost it 75% of the time. Don't get me wrong he is as exciting as anyone in MLS attacking with the ball, but how can Nowak play him in the midfield protecting a lead?

Also with Dema back for the finals I think Stewart should come off the bench. One could argue he is the worst of the six regular midfielders, but beyond that he seems the most capable of changing a game off the bench. Any chance that the semi-finals captain won't start the finals?

Steven Goff: Saturday was not one of Freddy's best performances. He looked a little lost out there and his touch was off. That being said, however, he struck a heckuva penalty kick during the tiebreaker. I imagine we'll see him as a second-half sub again this Sunday.

Dema is back, which probably means Gros returning to the bench. Stewart made several superb crosses on Saturday, including the one to Gomez for the third goal. Can't imagine he wouldn't start again...

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Washington, D.C.: I went to my first United game on Saturday and was blown away by how much fun it was and how energetic the crowd was. It made me wonder - what is the turnout for United games vs. other MLS teams? And are they as into the games as the United fans are?

Steven Goff: No atmosphere in MLS can match RFK. Part of it has to do with the size of other stadiums in the league, but a lot of it has to do with the sophistication of the fans. You would be amazed how dull it is in most other MLS venues.

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New Market, Md.: Our goal producing strikers are superb. How can we tighten the defense to win the MLS cup?

We believe in DCU and are getting ready to celebrate next Sunday!

Steven Goff: Nelsen, Nelsen, Nelsen!

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Unmarked Noonan: Any comments from DC about how they managed to leave Pat Noonan completely unmarked on a corner kick, which, not surprisingly, he finished off for the tying goal?

Steven Goff: That was awful, wasn't it? No one marking the co-leading scorer in the league in the closing minutes of a tight match. Meantime, three players were on the goal line. Ugh...

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Arlington, Va.: Where is the local hotspot to watch the game on Sunday?

Steven Goff: I imagine Summers in Arlington will draw a big crowd, as usual.
But several other area establishments, such as Lucky Bar in DC, show futbol regularly.

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Arlington, Va.: I guess most of us are pretty disappointed that baseball is going to destroy the atmosphere and field at RFK as it relates to DC United. Do you know what plans are being made to try and preserve as much of what we have as possible? Any news on the plans the a new stadium? All we hear about is the city-funded baseball deal, but what about the more or less privately funded SSS?

Steven Goff: DCU and AEG are quietly going about their business of building a complex near the Anacostia metro. No news to report at the moment, and while this baseball fiasco continues, I can't imagine the soccer stadium will receive much attention from the city for a while.

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Arlington, Va.: Your LA vs. KC prediction was right on the money. Any prediction for Sunday's match?

Steven Goff: 2-1, dc

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Westport, Conn.: DC United seemed to really improve after Christian Gomez joined the team. What void did he fill and how much credit should be given to him?

Steven Goff: Finally, DC has a true playmaker. His subtle contributions are a big part of United's turnaround -- and his goal-scoring has been a surprise.

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Arlington, Va.: I couldn't disagree more with the previous poster on Ernie Stewart. Ernie is in the zone!

I was thinking the other night that this is what I had hoped we would see from him when he signed a couple of years ago. Better late than never, I guess.

Steven Goff: Agreed

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Baltimore, Md.: Steven-

Rumor has it that members of the City Council and others with an interest in a Soccer Stadium were in attendance on Saturday. Did you have a chance to measure their impression of the display on the field and in the stands? I think it was about the best advertisement for the league since the '97 final.

Steven Goff: I'm sure they were very impressed, but financing details and public support will decide whether it actually happens.

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Anonymous: There were so many yellow cards in Saturday night's game--will any United players have to sit out in the next round?

Steven Goff: Nope. Only Adu was in danger of suspension, and he didn't get a yellow. (It's a very complicated system)

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Darnestown, Md.: Steven,

First, thanks for your (and William Gildea's) continued coverage of DC United. It is encouraging to see United get relatively steady press, especially since soccer is undeniably a second-tier sport in DC.

Which leads me to my question: Assuming the stadium squabbles don't muck up the planned return to DC for major league baseball, will the Post continue to find room for soccer stories after baseball returns? I realize it's probably out of your control, but I think it's a shame that almost nobody in DC can name the most recent local team to win a major sports championship (Freedom, 2003) or that DC United has won the Eastern Conference championship 5 out of the last 9 years.

Steven Goff: We base our coverage on the public's interest, so baseball in DC probably won't have a major effect on United's space in the paper. As long as the continue to draw good crowds and perform well, they will be covered.

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Arlington, Va.: I was out of the D.C. area on Saturday and was unable to watch the game on TV because none of the 3 bars we went to had Fox Sports World. Do you know if MLS is making any strides in getting these games seen? It sounds like Saturday's game was a classic, but if you can't watch it on TV, what's the point?

Steven Goff: TV is a big problem for the league, especially in the playoffs. I don't know this for a fact, but I believe if United had really wanted the game televised on a standard outlet, it could've done it. Fans in New England were able to watch the game on NESN, I believe.

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Arlington, Va.: Any idea how badly Moreno might be hurt? It seemed like either a hamstring or groin injury the way he pulled up in OT, and his PK was probably the weakest of all on Saturday night. Without Jaime at 100% things could be difficult.

Steven Goff: Just leg cramps, but I will get an update at practice tomorrow.

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Arlington, Va.: Thanks for the great job covering United this season. Has there been any talk of which players D.C. will leave unprotected for the upcoming expansion draft?

Steven Goff: Good question! DCU will definitely lose a few players in the expansion draft. My guess is that guys like Brandon Prideaux and Eliseo Quintanilla would be attractive to the new teams. Also, I can't imagine DCU would protect both goalies, so there's certainly a danger they could lose one. We'll see...

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Washington, D.C.: Why doesn't the Washington Post online have a DC United Section like the rest of the DC Sports teams?

How come DC United making the final game doesn't make the front page but the Redskins winning their third game does?

washingtonpost.com: We do have a section on the site devoted to D.C. United coverage.

Steven Goff: Um, it was on the front page in Sunday's paper -- upper left corner.

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Germantown, Md.: It was a great match, and I think DC could have finished it off was it nor for a less than inspired defense. Ezra Hendrickson is a guy who consistently puts in a tremendous effort, and plays hard the entire game. But, quite frankly, he's slow and he's clumsy. In the Revolutions' first goal, he was positioned between the player making the pass and the player who scored the goal, and yet he couldn't intercept the pass. That's just poor playing. Should we expect a better defense on Sunday against KC?

Steven Goff: Nelsen, Nelsen, Nelsen!

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Silver Spring, Md.: I think Nowak and Moreno should have Coach of the Year and Comeback of the Year locked up. Any Jaime's chances for Player of the Year are looking pretty good too. Do you agree?

Steven Goff: Andrulis or Gansler will probably win coach of the year since it's based on regular season performance. Moreno should win comeback player of the year, although Ronnie O'Brien has a good shot.

As for MVP, Moreno deserves it but Cannon might win it. Guevara should finish third. We'll find out on Thursday.

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RFK Fans: That was the most energized crowd I've seen at RFK for an MLS match. What did you think?

Steven Goff: Great atmosphere, reminiscent of the 1996-99 seasons.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Do you have any word on the impact of the yellow cards that Bryan Namoff and Eskandarian received? Also, any news on why Namoff left? Injury?

Steven Goff: Namoff was hurting, but not believed to be anything serious. I'll check his status tomorrow at practice.

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Manassas, Va.: Mr. Goff,

What a fantastic match! I am truly amazed at how well this team has played the past few weeks. I think it is a testament to his vision and determination. If he had listened to some people, I think it is safe to say the season would have been over a long time ago. Is he coach of the year?

And, did Carroll deserve a penalty for that hand ball? I was sitting in line with the flight of the ball and the touch was completely inadvertent.

Steven Goff: Inadvertant but it definitely hit his hand just inside the box and could've affected a NE scoring chance. Tough call, but I think the referee made the right decision.

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Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.: I happened to be at Saturday night's game. What was with the referees not calling so many apparent fouls on the part of the Revolution players? Any thoughts on that? I suppose this seems less pressing since D.C. won, but it was maddening to watch what seemed like questionable and/or preferential refereeing.

Steven Goff: United was called for 25 fouls, NE 18. Each team received three yellow cards.

Both teams had legitimate complaints throughout the game, but overall, it seemed fairly even.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Steven, I really appreciate the work you do for DC United at the Post. My question is, at what point (if at all) do you believe the American sports market will migrate from the NHL to MLS, a league that promotes the traditional sport of many of America's emerging populations?

Steven Goff: What's the NHL? :-)

I don't know if fans will switch sports, but the NHL's disappearance (hopefully forever in Washington) has certainly opened up some space in the paper and on television for soccer.

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Davis, Calif.: From my vantage point on my couch, the atmosphere at RFK was absolutely electric; even better for the deciding matches against the Crew in the late 90s.

So to what extent does the increased interest in United (from Freddy Adu to a being successful and fun team to watch) translate into real progress for a stadium they can call their own?

Steven Goff: Winning a championship would increase the team's visibility among the general public and, perhaps, within the city government.

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Pittsburgh, Pa.: Steven, right of the bat great-unbiased coverage of DCU, the fans will always appreciate it. My question is any inside scoops on the DCU Stadium, any info on what's being worked on?

Steven Goff: Sorry, got nothing for ya.
Hopefully we'll know more during the offseason.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Steven, thanks for covering United so well again this year...My question is:
Bobby Convey got a lot of attention when he played with United--deservedly or not--but did anyone notice how much of an upgrade Josh Gros was at that midfield spot was for this team after Convey left? It seems to me that our left flank play--offensively and defensively--improved dramatically with the insertion of Gros for Convey..Your thoughts?

Steven Goff: Gros has been a pleasant surprise and has significantly boosted United's play on the flanks. Different type of player than Convey.

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Reston, Va.: Steve,

How does United look in terms of suspensions (if any), and any injuries of flu bugs to worry about?

Should we expect Gomez to be a 90 minute guy next season? I know he jumped in during mid-season, but he sure does seem to get 'gassed' much faster than anyone else.

Oh, and we miss you on Big Soccer...

Steven Goff: Gomez is in good shape, but an illness a week and a half ago set him back a bit.

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Fairfax, Va.: It's 6:42 Sunday night, and I still have goosebumps when I think about Saturday's win. The crowd was electric, one of the best I have ever seen, and I have had season tickets from day 1. United on to the Cup!

I hope non soccer guys like Marc Fisher finally get a clue.

And Steve, great job once again. Your coverage of United and MLS is unmatched.

Steven Goff: Thanks for your kind words!

Not sure you'll ever be able to convert the soccer bashers.

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Alexandria, Va.: Apart from Nielsen and Adu, is there any foreign interest in other D.C. United players? I imagine Esky must be getting some looks with his play this year.

Steven Goff: Certainly Adu and Nelsen. Esky will attract some attention, but I'm sure he'll be back in DC next season. Until he becomes a national team regular, it will be difficult for him to go overseas. Incidentally, if DCU had lost on Saturday, Esky probably would've been called in to the national team for the Nov. 17 qualifier vs. Jamaica. Rimando and Olsen were also under consideration.

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Arlington, Va.: It's been an amazing season thus far! So reminiscent of 1996 . . . a talented team just hitting its stride when it mattered most.

Anyway, who do you feel will be left unprotected for the expansion draft? Does D.C. leave, say, veteran Earnie Stewart and his price tag up for grabs?

And will Nelson be staying? With Petke and Ezra up there in years (no offense, guys), Nelson's presence on the backline will be essential to sustaining this team's momentum through next season.

Lastly, I'm still amazed with Freddy's development as a TEAM player, first and foremost. As a D.C. United and USA soccer fan, I can't help but be excited about the coming years!

Thanks!

Dan

Steven Goff: Stewart's contract is up after this season. So is Petke's and Nelsen's. I'm sure the league will try to re-sign Petke, but Nelsen could end up in Europe, where he probably belongs.

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Frederick, Md.: I hope that Nelly stays in DC, but if not who's in line to take over as captain? My vote is for Ben Olsen.

Steven Goff: Olsen would be a top candidate. Maybe Moreno.

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Crofton, Md.: How does the current baseball negotiations affect United's stadium chances?

Steven Goff: Can't imagine it's having a big impact, other than prolonging the process.

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Arlington, Va.: Steve,

Who do you see as likely candidates to be lost during the expansion draft? I can't see them holding on to all three of Petke, Prideaux and Hendrickson, maybe even losing two of them. I would think an experienced defender would be a big addition to an expansion team. Prediction for this weekend...?

Steven Goff: If Nelsen departs, United's top priority will be finding an experienced central defender, probably from overseas. They should have plenty of salary cap space to do it.

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Arlington, Va.: Well, that was quite a match. Any update on Moreno's injury status? Is there a risk that so much emotion was spent on the semifinal that the team won't be focused for the final?

Steven Goff: I'm sure United will be emotionally refreshed in time for Sunday's game. What they need now is some physical rest. I'll get the injury update on Tuesday.

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Arlington, Va.: Can MLS and MLB really share RFK next season? Looking at the ex-Expos proposed season schedule, there doesn't look like there are a lot of openings for United to play their home matches, and that is a real shame. Any word on how long it will actually take to convert the stands and playing surface at RFK from baseball configuration to soccer and then back? They have to share for 3 years, correct?

Steven Goff: The schedule shouldn't be a problem. United just needs an average of two weekends per month to host matches. The bigger problem is the field; I just don't see how it's going to work and keep everyone happy. Unfortunately, United doesn't have a lot of leverage or an obvious alternative. Navy is too far, FedEx too big, UMD doesn't seem interested, Baltimore too far...

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Reston, Va.: Steve - Great job on DC United this season. Keep up the good work. Is it true you also coach a youth team called D.C. United Juniors? Which league?

Steven Goff: What a year for the Reston under-8 DCU Juniors! We wrapped up the regular season yesterday with an outstanding performance and, most importantly, postgame pizza.

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Germantown, MD: Steve, is there any chance that United can play at another stadium while the baseball fiasco plays out? University stadiums or the MD Soccerplex? Theres got to be something better than playing on sod which is layed on top of dirt.

Steven Goff: No ideal alternatives. I'm not optimistic about the next few seasons at RFK.

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Indianapolis, Ind.: Steven,

Thanks for the great coverage. The Post's United section is
one of the top bookmarks on my browser.

With all this talk about Nelsen probably leaving, any ideas on potential replacements? Stokes probably still needs some work before he can start, and as you said, it's likely DC may lose someone like Prideaux in the expansion draft. Any foreign prospects or exciting college players (like Chad Marshall)?

Steven Goff: If Nelsen leaves -- and there's no certainty of that since MLS has made him a big offer to stay -- United will search all over for a quality replacement. Stokes isn't ready for that role and, as we saw on Saturday, Hendrickson is better on the flanks than by himself in the middle.

The team apparently showed some interest during the season in Clarence Goodson of Dallas, a first-round pick from UMD, but Dallas has him in their long-term plans.

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Gaithesburg, MD: Jaime Moreno was awesome in the first half, but he is getting old now, and on the second half, his touch was not there, and had caused many turnover, including the one that indirectly caused a PK, if I were Peter Novak, I would protect the lead with a defense player sub in for Jaime, plus he missed a PK, a tell tale sign that he is not an endurance player. Also C. Gomez was subbed out instead of Moreno, if DC lost the PK shootout, there would be a lot of second guessing on the coach's decision? In a word, Peter has made the game a lot more interesting and hair-pulling for us.

Steven Goff: Gomez had run out of gas in the 69th minute and had to come out. Prideaux replaced Stewart for defensive reasons. Namoff had to come out in OT.

Moreno is so critical to this team because of his ability to hold the ball on the attack. When his leg cramps hit, there wasn't much he could do anymore and Nowak was out of subs.

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Laurel, Md.: Steve, does this bode well for TV ratings or is MLS still too far off national radar?

Steven Goff: MLS was scared to death of a KC-NE final, which would've attracted a microscopic TV audience. Freddy gives them some pizzazz, no doubt, but we'll see if that translates into higher numbers nationally.

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Rockville, MD: Crazy question?: We're going to be in Cancun (I know, poor us), during the Championships. Any idea if we'll be able to catch the game down there? We're HUGE fans!; Thanks!;

Steven Goff: I imagine most of the big hotels carry U.S. networks on their TV systems. Otherwise, find a sports bar that isn't showing Mexican league futbol.

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Capitol Hill: Are there any plans for a send off party. Is there a plan the cheer on the team as they head to LA?
Thanks,
ChrisP

Steven Goff: The team departs Wednesday, so I don't believe there is anything planned.

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Sterling, VA: A question about Chivas USA. It seems all I've heard is this team will get Latinos to play for them. Is this what you've heard? How can this be with MLS player allocations and any discrimanation laws?

Steven Goff: Not sure of the legal ramifications, but certainly Chivas wants a Mexican-oriented team. However, there's no way they can fill 24 roster spots with strictly Mexican players. The fact that they chose an English-speaking coach, Thomas Rongen, should tell you that they will have a few norteamericanos.

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Rosslyn, VA: Can I get tickets for sundays game? Will it be televised? Any idea which bar would be showing the game? Sommers in Courthouse?

Steven Goff: Tickets are available at www.mlsnet.com or through the dc united offices.
TV: Channel 7 in Washington at 3:30

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Arlington, Va.: Is the game being played at RFK and can I still get tix for sunday?

Steven Goff: Huh?? LA on Sunday.

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Steven Goff: That's all, folks. I'm outta here. Thanks for all your questions. Sorry I wasn't able to get to all of em. Feel free to contact me directly at goffs@washpost.com

Cheers!

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