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In a Thriller, United Prevails

United was an overwhelming favorite to win last night. After all, D.C. had won seven of its previous eight games, had not lost at RFK in nearly six months and had gone 2-0-2 against New England in the season series.

But the Revolution, a first-round upset winner over top-seeded Columbus in the first round, caused fits all evening for United, which was playing without suspended starters Ryan Nelsen and Dema Kovalenko. Ezra Hendrickson struggled with Twellman and Noonan in Nelsen's central defense slot, particularly in the first half, but defensive adjustments to limit New England's space kept the game close.

Nick Rimando gets tangled up with Revolution's Jay Heaps as Rimando blocks a shot. United won 4-3 on penalty kicks, following a 3-3 tie. (Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)

_____From The Post_____
United prevails in a penalty kick shootout to top the Revolution and advance to MLS Cup.
William Gildea: The entire United exhibit was on display at RFK.
Live Online: The Post's Steven Goff will be online Monday, Nov. 8, at 11 a.m., to discuss United.
_____United Basics_____
United Section
_____Revolution Basics_____
Revolution page
_____Wizards Basics_____
Wizards page

United's attack provided three spectacular goals, but didn't dominate possession of the ball like it normally does.

Things started well enough when Revolution defender Jay Heaps misplayed the ball 40 yards from the goal, allowing Eskandarian to take possession and roar toward the penalty area. When he reached the top of the box, he stung a rising shot that found a sliver of space between soaring goalkeeper Matt Reis.

But United's evening would soon become a struggle. Marshall Leonard crossed into the box for Twellman, who timed his run behind Hendrickson and volleyed an eight-yard shot past Rimando.

United reclaimed the lead in the 21st minute. New England's players began to pull out of the penalty area after a corner kick. At the top of the box, Earnie Stewart spotted Moreno, who curled an angled shot just inside the left post as Reis watched helplessly along the goal line.

The Revolution kept coming, though, and just before the half, got even when Carroll was called for a handball. Ralston was fortunate to convert the penalty kick as the ball struck the right post and then deflected off the prone Rimando.

United grabbed the lead midway through the second half when Stewart crossed from the right flank. Running and turning at the same time, Gomez headed the ball back across the six-yard box and past Reis.

Once again, however, New England answered. Ralston sent a corner kick to the far side, where the unmarked Noonan, MLS's co-leading scorer, rose above Rimando and nodded the ball into the near corner.

The Revolution carried momentum into overtime and created several opportunities, but United didn't crack.

"This game had everything," Petke said. "It was just incredible to be a part of it."

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