United Blanked by Wizards
Nowak Calls 1-0 Loss 'Worst Performance Since I Got Here'
By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 11, 2004; Page E04
KANSAS CITY, Mo., July 10 -- No one was expecting D.C. United to replicate last week's six-goal uprising Saturday night against the second-stingiest club in MLS, but no one anticipated United reverting to its early-season scoring funk, either.
In a disappointing reversal, United created few opportunities and didn't do much with the ones that arose. The result was a lackluster 1-0 loss to Kansas City before 26,223 at Arrowhead Stadium, the second-biggest crowd in Wizards history.
"I think it was our worst performance since I got here," D.C. Coach Peter Nowak said. "There's no excuse. Our passing, our crossing, there's not too much to say. There was a lot of heart out there, but the mentality, we can't just show up and think we are going to win. We forget to see what brought us to this place, all the little things."
United (5-6-5) had its four-game unbeaten streak halted and fell out of first place in the tightly packed Eastern Conference. It began a stretch of five games in 15 days that continues Wednesday with an exhibition against English club Nottingham Forest at RFK Stadium.
The Wizards (8-4-4) registered their sixth shutout and extended their unbeaten run to seven games (5-0-2) by beating United at Arrowhead for the fourth straight time.
United teenager Freddy Adu was presented with his first starting assignment in five weeks (and sixth start overall) after Dema Kovalenko woke up with a stomach ailment Saturday morning. Kovalenko sat on the end of the bench, bundled up on the warm evening.
After the game, the temperamental Kovalenko inexplicably stormed out of the locker room after the team meeting, hitting a child with the swinging door. The boy was startled but unhurt. Kovalenko wasn't available to comment, and Nowak said he thought the Ukrainian midfielder was upset about not being able to play and the manner in which United lost.
With Kovalenko out, Adu, who had played only 68 combined minutes in the previous four matches, joined red-hot scorer Alecko Eskandarian on the front line -- the first time the past two No. 1 overall draft picks in MLS had started together.
The move pushed all-star forward Jaime Moreno into a deeper playmaking role.
But with Adu thrust into the lineup, Nowak had a major predicament in the second half: no forwards to add a late-game spark, an element the club desperately needed. All that remained on the bench were the ailing Kovalenko, three defensive-oriented players and a reserve goalkeeper.
United was without midfielder Bobby Convey, who had joined the U.S. national team in Chicago for Sunday's friendly vs. Poland. Rookie Josh Gros filled Convey's slot for his eighth start. The Wizards were also without a pair of U.S. players: forward Josh Wolff (five goals, five assists) and midfielder Kerry Zavagnin.
Kansas City went ahead in the 17th minute after a critical mistake by United midfielder Brian Carroll, who had the ball stripped by Davy Arnaud 40 yards from the D.C. goal. Arnaud charged into the box and got off a low shot just before Ryan Nelsen arrived. The ball beat diving goalkeeper Troy Perkins and was stuffed in at the back post by Matt Taylor, Wolff's replacement, for his third goal of the season.
"I had made up my mind where I wanted to play it," Carroll said. "I turned to look, Arnaud was there and he forced me to take a bad touch."
United's first serious threat didn't come until the 25th minute, when Wizards goalkeeper Tony Meola dived to his right to slap away Gros's 15-yard bid.
Otherwise, Kansas City dictated play and uncovered an alarming amount of space in United's end. D.C. was fortunate the Wizards weren't able to link one final pass around the penalty area. The lead could have doubled late in the half, but Chris Klein didn't make solid contact on a clear one-timer in the box, allowing Perkins to routinely fall on it.
Adu made a sparkling pass to set up Earnie Stewart nine minutes into the second half, but Stewart's first touch betrayed him and the opportunity evaporated. Only a diving save by Perkins in the closing minutes prevented a more decisive defeat.
"We had a horrible first half, and we gave them a goal," defender Mike Petke said. "We picked it up in the second half, but Kansas City is a rock at home."
• METROSTARS 2, EARTHQUAKES 0: Last-place San Jose lost its third straight, giving up second-half goals to John Wolyniec and Amado Guevara in East Rutherford, N.J.
• BURN 0, CREW 0: Jon Busch made five saves to help visiting Columbus tie Dallas. The teams also played to a scoreless draw May 1 in Columbus.
• GALAXY 2, RAPIDS 0: Ned Grabavoy and Carlos Ruiz scored as host Los Angeles won its third straight and ended Colorado's unbeaten streak at five games.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company