United Can't Finish What It Creates

The Revolution's Taylor Twellman, right, would put in his own rebound off a terrific build-up by Pat Noonan in the 59th minute to provide the difference Saturday as New England gets by D.C. United, 1-0. (Chitose Suzuki - AP)
By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 15, 2005

FOXBORO, Mass., May 14 -- For D.C. United Coach Peter Nowak, the most maddening element of his club's 1-0 loss to the unbeaten New England Revolution on Saturday afternoon wasn't necessarily the sequence that led to Taylor Twellman's goal in the 59th minute.

Nowak instead was shaking his head over United's fickle attack, which once again failed to take advantage of early opportunities and then faded away in an unanimated second half before 13,662 at Gillette Stadium.

"We're supposed to be better in the final third" of the field, Nowak said. "There were moments when we ran into each other's way. . . . We're supposed to keep the ball moving and it wasn't there. The chances will come when you really want to make and create the chances. It wasn't our best day offensively."

There were a couple of excruciatingly close chances that fell out of United's control -- Mike Petke's shot cleared off the goal line by Revolution rookie Michael Parkhurst and Christian Gomez's free kick redirected off the post by New England's Shalrie Joseph -- but the other prospects were either off target or swatted away by goalkeeper Matt Reis. United's first-half dominance was reflected by a 7-1 advantage on corner kicks.

"To play defensively as well as we did, it's disappointing not to get some kind of reward," D.C. midfielder Ben Olsen said. "Sometimes the offense just doesn't click."

The scoreless effort continued a disturbing trend for United: three goals on April 23, none the following weekend, three last week, none Saturday. This quiet performance left the defending champions with a 2-3-2 record and only eight points in the Eastern Conference standings -- 11 behind the front-running Revolution (6-0-1), which hasn't allowed a goal in four home matches.

With United's attack going nowhere, Nowak removed teenager Freddy Adu in the 72nd minute and turned to Gomez to run the show. Adu displayed a nice touch on the ball, setting up Petke's bid in the eighth minute, but didn't have nearly as much impact as he did during a 3-1 victory over Columbus last week.

Explaining his decision to substitute for Adu, Nowak said, "If you play 70 minutes, I don't think the last 20 minutes will change anything."

The match got off to a brisk start and seemed headed for another wild, high-scoring affair between these offense-oriented teams. United's Alecko Eskandarian missed a one-timer from eight yards (extending his scoreless streak to six games), Twellman hit the right post and Reis pushed Clyde Simms's 30-yard drive over the crossbar.

But the game began to settle down, and unlike the past two meetings when a combined 13 goals were scored, neither team was able to counterattack effectively.

A goal finally arrived 14 minutes into the second half. Pat Noonan collected the ball along the right side, cut inside past backtracking Jaime Moreno and then twisted Petke around in the box before pushing a pass to Twellman. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando made a diving save on Twellman's seven-yard shot, but the former University of Maryland star pounced on the rebound for his fourth goal of the year.

"Jaime did a good thing -- he put pressure on him -- but when [Noonan] was coming at me, the ball kind of hit off something when I swiped at it and it got through," Petke said. "Nicky made a great save, but they're opportunists and they jumped on that opportunity."

United Notes: Adu will begin shuttling between United and the U.S. under-20 national team Sunday, when he flies to Minnesota for an international exhibition Wednesday. He will return to Washington on Thursday and be available for Saturday's match against Kansas City. . . . Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch, the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX, kicked out the first ball. . . . In the reserve league game, United blew a late two-goal lead and lost, 4-3. Jason Thompson, Nana Kuffour and Jamil Walker scored for D.C. (2-1).

© 2005 The Washington Post Company