Scoreless in the City

Lisi, Olsen
The MetroStars' Mark Lisi, top, gets a leg up on United's Ben Olsen. "It wasn't a good day for finishing," Olsen said. (By Bill Kostroun -- Associated Press)

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By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 13, 2005

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., June 12 -- Before any future D.C. United road matches, stadium workers should be instructed not to bother assembling one of the nets. United clearly has no use for them.

Free kicks, volleys, diving headers, breakaways . . . it doesn't seem to matter these days. Nothing is going in.

United's astonishing scoreless streak away from home reached 464 minutes Sunday evening when D.C. played another 0-0 tie, this one with the overmatched New York/New Jersey MetroStars in front of 15,125 at Giants Stadium.

"We all have to go to church and pray," Coach Peter Nowak said. "Soccer works in funny ways, but sooner or later, the goals will come."

Not Sunday. Despite a 28-8 advantage in shots, United couldn't find a way to beat inexperienced goalie Zach Wells, whose 14 saves were one short of the MLS record set by Tony Meola eight years ago in a game between these same teams. Wells made several outstanding stops, but on too many occasions, United couldn't shoot straight.

The last time United scored on the road was April 2 in the season opener against Chivas USA in Carson, Calif. Since then, the club's away adventures have comprised three scoreless ties and a pair of 1-0 losses.

Overall, United (3-4-4) has been shut out in three consecutive matches and in five of its last seven, leaving it tied for last place in the Eastern Conference with the Columbus Crew. The timing couldn't be worse, as United prepares to host the top teams in the division, New England and Chicago, this week.

"I can't really explain it," said forward Alecko Eskandarian, the team leader in goals last year who has yet to score this season. "We work on finishing every day in practice, we've got some great goal scorers on this team, we're working hard. Once they start going in, teams are going to be in trouble because we're going to be scoring four, five goals a game."

Eskandarian didn't enter until the start of the second half, but had a profound impact. In the 48th minute, he poked an eight-yarder past Wells that skidded fractionally wide of the far post. Five minutes later, Wells pushed his blast over the crossbar and in the 75th, the young keeper made an excellent lunging save on his running rocket from the left side.

Eskandarian wasn't the only faulty finisher. Santino Quaranta couldn't convert two good early chances before leaving at halftime, Christian Gomez's diving header was covered by Wells and, with a clear net, Jaime Moreno's chip floated over the bar.

"It wasn't a good day for finishing," midfielder Ben Olsen said. "That's the first game in MLS for me where we just completely dominated a team. It was a great performance -- except the stuff that counts."

United's attack was lively, imaginative and fast-paced, opening space in the final third of the field and forcing the MetroStars (4-3-5) to chase the ball all evening. But when D.C. put itself into scoring position, it all came crashing down. "I was on my toes the whole game," Wells said.

On the bright side for United, Nick Rimando made two good saves to record his fourth shutout, and a composed defense yielded few other dangerous opportunities.

"We've just got to be patient," midfielder Dema Kovalenko said. "When it's going to come, it's going to come. We totally, totally outplayed this team. It should've been 5-0. It's just disappointing we didn't win."

United Notes: Recently acquired defender John Wilson made his first start, replacing injured Bryan Namoff, and played very well at left back. Namoff (hip flexor) is questionable for Wednesday's home game against Chicago. . . .

Nowak, technical director Dave Kasper and possibly team president Kevin Payne will travel to Argentina in two weeks to pursue a player, Kasper said. They have one player in mind -- believed to be a young defender -- but they plan to attend several games and scout other players.


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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