United Is Badly Off Mark

D.C. United's Freddy Adu is pulled from behind by Ronnie O'Brien. FC Dallas got two second-half goals from forward Carlos Ruiz, one on a bicycle kick.
D.C. United's Freddy Adu is pulled from behind by Ronnie O'Brien. FC Dallas got two second-half goals from forward Carlos Ruiz, one on a bicycle kick. (By Nick Wass -- Associated Press)
By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 29, 2005

Carlos Ruiz is perhaps the most reviled player in MLS because of his propensity to flop all over the turf at the slightest touch and exaggerate injury to make his point to the referee. But for all his ridiculous theatrics, the Guatemalan forward is undoubtedly one of the most lethal scorers to pass through the young league.

Last night, with FC Dallas locked in a dreary match against listless D.C. United, Ruiz woke up his teammates and the fading RFK Stadium crowd of 16,624 with a spectacular bicycle kick, leading the Western Conference leaders to a 2-0 victory.

"You have seconds when things are going on -- stop the ball or turn around -- so I think, 'Why not?' " Ruiz, 25, said of the bicycle kick from 12 yards that streaked into the right corner as United goalkeeper Nick Rimando watched helplessly.

Ruiz also scored the second goal, but this one came in conventional fashion -- a 56th-minute penalty kick -- as Dallas (6-1-3) extended its unbeaten streak to five games.

A week after scoring three goals against Kansas City, United (3-4-2) was punchless for almost the entire evening. The addition of teenager Freddy Adu to the starting lineup didn't help as United's midfield struggled to create opportunities. United did apply pressure in the final 20 minutes, but by then it was too late against mistake-free Dallas.

"We played too slow and too predictable," Coach Peter Nowak said. "It was easy [for Dallas] to cover all these angles and all these zones. . . . On the MLS level, you cannot play this kind of soccer."

Both teams were missing key players to U.S. national team duty, most notably Dallas forward Eddie Johnson, but that couldn't explain one of the most uneventful halves of the season. The only highlight was in the 26th minute when Dallas equipment manager Marcus Owens was ejected for complaining about Clarence Goodson's yellow card directly in front of the team bench.

Neither team was able to establish a rhythm, and promising opportunities were quickly swallowed up by quick-responding defenses.

Adu, in his final appearance before joining the U.S. under-20 national team to play in the world youth championship in the Netherlands next month, wasn't integrated into the attack and had few touches on the ball. He was more active in the second half, but didn't make a lasting impact.

"Obviously, we could've played much better, especially myself," Adu said. "They did what they had to do."

The tone of the game turned dramatically after halftime, thanks to the always entertaining Ruiz.

In the 49th minute, Roberto Mina chipped the ball across the penalty area toward Ruiz hovering unmarked on the left side. With his back to the net, Ruiz gracefully fell back and swung his right leg in one fluid motion, solidly striking the ball into the lower right corner from 12 yards. While many United supporters showed their appreciation for the remarkable shot, Ruiz charged toward the grandstands and celebrated with a couple of Guatemalan fans.

"First-class goal," Rimando said. "He had tons of space and he actually could've brought it down and had a good look at goal. Ruiz takes those chances and he finishes them."

Dallas kept coming. Mina sent in Ruiz for a clear run and, after lifting the ball over the advancing Rimando, Ruiz was knocked down from behind by United's Bryan Namoff. Ruiz beat Rimando to the lower right corner on the penalty kick for his seventh goal of the year and 57th in three-plus seasons in MLS.

United finally began to stir after the 70th minute. Jaime Moreno's volley stung the left post and all other desperate bids were badly off target.

"Too predictable," Nowak said of his team's slow-developing attack. "When we have a chance to go forward, we take five, six, seven, eight touches. You have to play with one, two touches. I always emphasiz e it before the game. We have to play faster and today we did a pretty bad job with that."

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