United Moves Into 2nd Place

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 11, 2005

FRISCO, Tex., Sept. 10 -- D.C. United took immense pleasure from its 2-1 victory over FC Dallas on Saturday night for many reasons. There was Facundo Erpen's first MLS goal, Santino Quaranta's late strike, Nick Rimando's spellbinding saves and, astonishingly, Rimando's assist.

It ended United's late-summer slump, moved the club into second place in the Eastern Conference with five games remaining and pushed it a step closer to a postseason berth.

But perhaps United's greatest satisfaction was the fact that the victory came at the expense of Dallas, a club it has tangled with on several heated occasions in recent years.

"I don't like it here," rambunctious midfielder Dema Kovalenko said. "I hate this team, man. They always try to start things with me. Three points, thanks for coming, we'll see them next year."

The testy match was marred by six yellow cards, but referee Mark Geiger could easily have assessed a few more following a couple scuffles and confrontations. When the game ended, Dallas's coaches and players appeared to try confronting Kovalenko before others stepped in to calm things down.

"They've got a history, mostly because of one player," Dallas Coach Colin Clarke said. Asked to describe the postgame exchange, he said: "Someone was talking crap. A player, I can't remember."

With the loss before 15,263 spectators, Dallas (10-9-6) saw its club-record winless streak stretch to 10 games and its record at Pizza Hut Park fall to 0-3-2 since moving from the Cotton Bowl last month.

Erpen, the newly acquired Argentine defender, put United (13-9-5) ahead in the 15th minute with a one-timer from 12 yards off Christian Gomez's corner kick. However, Dallas controlled the first 25 minutes of the second half and repeatedly tested Rimando. Quaranta, who returned from U.S. national team duty this week, then stretched the lead in the 72nd minute, easily depositing Jamil Walker's touch pass following Rimando's long ball.

Dallas's Ramon Nuñez struck from 25 yards in the 87th minute -- "it shouldn't have been a goal," Rimando conceded -- but United maintained its composure until the end.

"It was a great effort by our guys," Coach Peter Nowak said. "We did a pretty good job to hold the ball [late in the game]. We made some mistakes in the last couple games, losing the games because of that."

United had entered the match having lost three of its previous four in league play and four of five overall. The always unpredictable Nowak stirred up his starting lineup again with several notable decisions. The most surprising omission was rookie defender Bobby Boswell, who had played every minute of every match (except for the one against Chicago last month when he was serving a one-game suspension).

Erpen, who had been playing right back, slid into his natural position in central defense.

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