United's Rally Falls Short

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 24, 2005

Seven goals, three penalty kicks, a ghastly collision, a suspended coach watching from afar, five yellow cards and, very nearly, one of the most remarkable comebacks in MLS history.

Ah, just another encounter between D.C. United and the New England Revolution.

In the first meeting since their dramatic Eastern Conference final here last fall, United and the Revolution put on another stirring presentation at soggy RFK Stadium last night. New England took a three-goal lead after just 31 minutes, United responded with two goals, New England got another, but so did United.

Finally, after D.C.'s desperate attempts for a late equalizer failed, the Revolution sneaked away with a chaotic 4-3 victory before 13,691 screeching spectators.

Asked if he thought his team was going to complete the comeback, midfielder Ben Olsen said: "When we play New England, anything is possible. I felt we were going to do it. I felt we were going to get something out of the game. It would've been a pretty big moral victory. After saying that, we still have to go back and look at this tape and see what's going on."

After opening the season with a road victory over Chivas USA, United has gone 0-2-1 in league play and 0-3-2 overall. Its home unbeaten streak against league opponents was halted at 13, dating from May 2004, and in the process, the club lost another defender to injury. David Stokes was sent to the hospital for tests at halftime after suffering a mild concussion and a strained neck -- the result of a spectacular collision with goalkeeper Nick Rimando in the first half.

Stokes remained in the game for another 15 minutes, but then had to be removed. United's beleaguered defense already was without Bryan Namoff (broken rib) and Brandon Prideaux (pulled hamstring).

New England (2-0-1) took a 3-0 lead on goals by Taylor Twellman, Shalrie Joseph and Marshall Leonard, but Jaime Moreno converted the first of his two penalty kicks just before intermission and Stokes's replacement, Santino Quaranta, struck early in the second half. Clint Dempsey made it 4-2 in the 77th minute, but Moreno set up the frantic finish with his second goal five minutes later.

"We never felt like we were out of it. I surely didn't, and I felt if we tied it up, we were going to win the game," said United assistant coach Tom Soehn, who filled in for Peter Nowak (one-game suspension). "It's disappointing."

United started well enough, creating early opportunities. But the Revolution went ahead in the 26th minute when Dempsey crossed to Twellman, who smacked an eight-yard shot into the lower left corner. A minute later, referee Mark Geiger awarded New England a penalty kick, whistling defender Bobby Boswell for pushing a Revolution player from behind. Joseph easily converted for a 2-0 lead.

Just after Stokes left, New England's James Riley breezed into United's end before sliding a pass to Leonard for a left-side finish past Rimando.

"A 15-minute span there where we got whacked again," Olsen said. "A bit of a meltdown for 15 minutes and the rest of it was pretty good. Mistakes and getting caught forward -- that's been one of our demons this year. I'm to blame probably for a lot of that. I'm going forward and leaving the middle open."

Despite the problems, United roared back. Geiger ruled that Riley pushed Quaranta on a shot attempt in the box, and Moreno slammed the penalty kick into the upper left corner, ending a remarkable first half and giving United a sliver of hope.

With the rain intensifying, United attacked relentlessly. Quaranta made up for a missed tap-in a few minutes earlier by pumping in Steve Guppy's cross for his first league goal since the 2003 season opener. Dempsey's diving header made it 4-2, but Leonard was called for a handball in the box, allowing Moreno to convert another penalty kick.

"It makes you feel better," Revolution Coach Steve Nicol said, remembering the penalty kick loss following a 3-3 tie here in the conference final in November. But "it would've been nice to win 4-3 last year."

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