All-Star Gomez Sparks United's Graceful Win
Saturday, July 16, 2005
D.C. United has been labeled a blue-collar club and, for the most part, its success the last two years has been a product of its passion and perseverance. But then there are those occasions when United's creativity and flair surface, triggering memories of the elegant D.C. clubs that won three titles in MLS's first four seasons.
Last night, in urgent need of a victory before embarking on a troublesome midseason stretch, United moved the ball with grace and precision, scoring three attractive goals to defeat the San Jose Earthquakes, 3-0, before an RFK Stadium crowd of 13,978 that included two of the team's new investors, Willi Lauterbach and Timothy Kissler.
Argentine playmaker Christian Gomez, who was named to the all-star team Thursday, scored twice and Bolivian forward Jaime Moreno, back from an ankle injury that sidelined him last weekend, contributed a spectacular goal and an assist as United (7-6-4) stopped San Jose's unbeaten run at seven games.
It wasn't just Gomez's goals that prompted a standing ovation upon his departure in the 73rd minute. It was his precise one-touch passing, his threatening nature in the penalty area and his leadership in United's rejuvenated midfield.
"He was incredible," defender Brandon Prideaux said. "He was all over the place and when he got the ball, I don't think he made a bad pass all day. He was just fantastic."
Gomez sent United ahead in the 25th minute with a 24-yard strike. Moreno stretched the lead five minutes into the second half with a tremendous volley, and Gomez applied the finishing touches by accepting Moreno's pass and converting easily in the 70th minute.
Gomez and Moreno each have eight goals this season, tying them with Colorado's Jeff Cunningham and New England's Pat Noonan for the league lead.
Gomez "is a very special player," Coach Peter Nowak said. "Everyone trusts him with the ball and he can make something special happen for us."
With Moreno back in the lineup, United was dramatically better than last Saturday, when it fell at home to Kansas City, 1-0. Moreno, Gomez and Freddy Adu worked well together, and Brian Carroll provided the defensive midfield support after making a costly mistake that led to Kansas City's late goal.
On a damp, murky evening, this match got off to a predictably sluggish start but picked up steam as the half progressed. The Earthquakes (7-4-7) gave Gomez too much time and space above the penalty area and, before they could react, he collected Carroll's pass and tagged a right-footed shot just inside the left post.
"When you win, it's easy to describe the way you play, but I think it was a whole team effort," Gomez said. "I thought everyone clicked, and that was the difference in the game."
Soon after halftime, United took control. Josh Gros turned nicely on the left and crossed from the end line. Unmarked in the box, Moreno waited on the dipping ball, settled it with his hip and let it fall to his cocked left foot for a 16-yard volley that zipped past goalkeeper Pat Onstad and into the left side of the net.
United sealed the match in the 70th minute on Gomez's second strike. San Jose lost possession in its end, allowing Moreno to make a charge. Adu curled to the left, drawing a defender with him and opening space for Moreno to slot a pass to the charging Gomez down the middle of the box. After one touch, the Argentine calmly beat Onstad to the left corner.
Two minutes later, with the game in hand, Nowak removed Gomez. Adu started the on-field ovation, which soon spread to the appreciative crowd. The three-goal lead allowed Madison High and American University graduate Shawn Kuykendall to make his MLS debut and for Englishman Steve Guppy (Achilles' injuries) to make his first appearance since April.