By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 10, 2006
SEATTLE, Aug. 9 -- It was the stuff of European excellence: superb one-touch passing in tight space and a dynamic strike from the top of the penalty area, a raucous celebration on the field and in the jam-packed stands.
It was not a goal by Real Madrid, the world superpower that had traveled across nine time zones to entertain a sellout crowd of 66,830 at Qwest Field in Seattle on Wednesday night.
The passing combination was a product of D.C. United, the humble MLS front-runner and secondary attraction. It was started by Freddy Adu, went through Josh Gros, then to Christian Gomez and Jaime Moreno before Alecko Eskandarian smashed it into the lower right corner to tie the friendly in the 25th minute.
Technically, the 1-1 tie meant nothing for either club. Emotionally, it meant everything for United, which outpaced Real for many stretches and evened the game in breathtaking style just three minutes after falling behind on a goal by Antonio Cassano.
When the teams trotted onto the temporary grass field an hour before kickoff, the swooning over David Beckham, and to some extent Adu, began in earnest. A "Beckham for President" banner was unfurled and a swarm of teenage girls held up placards spelling out the English midfielder's name.
One agitator expressed his disgust with the Galacticos; he stood about 10 rows back on the east sideline and whipped the flag of FC Barcelona, Real Madrid's longtime rival.
United received a warm ovation, but nothing compared to Real's reception. New coach Fabio Capello kept recently acquired Italian defender Fabio Cannavaro, as well as emerging Brazilian star Robinho, on the bench at the start.
Conversely, D.C. Coach Peter Nowak didn't mess with the lineup, calling on his fine-tuned regulars for the highest-profile match in the club's 11-year history.
Goalkeeper Troy Perkins was tested right away, needing to punch out Beckham's free-kick cross deep in the box in the opening minute. United responded two minutes later as Moreno missed the short side from eight yards.
United displayed superior fitness and organization -- not a surprise considering D.C. is in midseason form while Real is still more than two weeks from its season opener.
Having played several European teams over the years, United did not appear the slightest bit intimidated by its glamorous opponents and moved the ball confidently and crisply.
Real, however, opened the scoring in the 22nd minute when Roberto Carlos launched Cassano down the left side. Cassano cut the ball back on defender Bryan Namoff and ripped a 17-yarder just out of Perkins's long reach and off the inside of the left post.
United needed three minutes to answer with a spectacular equalizer. Adu crossed from the right. Gros collected it at the far post and touched it back to Gomez, who slotted a pass into the box for Moreno. One gentle touch later, and Eskandarian was blasting a one-timer past Spanish World Cup goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
Eskandarian thought he would get an opportunity to give United the lead just before halftime, when D.C. was awarded a free kick about 25 yards out. Eskandarian seemed poised to take it, but instead Adu stepped up and hit it into the defensive wall.
As the halftime whistle sounded, an agitated Eskandarian had to be consoled by the coaching staff.
Capello made several changes at the start of the second half, including the addition of Cannavaro and Robinho and the departure of Beckham, and as expected, Nowak stuck with his starters.
This half lacked the vibrancy of the opening period until the 64th minute, when Perkins made a sensational diving save on Roberto Carlos's blistering free kick from 18 yards, Emerson's angled attempt off the rebound hit the crossbar and Raul's point-blank bid was cleared off the goal line by the lunging Ben Olsen.
Five minutes later, Cicinho shanked a cross at the back post as Perkins scrambled to protect the corner.
Nowak made his first moves in the 76th minute, turning to the speedy Jamil Walker to spell Eskandarian and Clyde Simms to replace the winded Olsen. Later, seldom-used rookie midfielder Rod Dyachenko took Gomez's spot.
Javier Balboa, one of Real's nine substitutes, rocketed a 10-yard volley wide right in the 85th and Cicinho's long blast nicked the far post during injury time -- the last serious bids on a highly entertaining evening.
United Notes: Tom Soehn, Nowak's top assistant for three seasons, has emerged as one of the leading candidates to coach Toronto FC, an MLS expansion team that will begin play next year, sources around the league who are familiar with the search said.
Soehn recently traveled to Canada to interview for the job and, according to those sources, has joined former New York Red Bulls coach Mo Johnston at the top of the club's list. Toronto, which will become MLS's 13th team, is in the process of interviewing other candidates and is aiming to make a decision by the end of the current season. Ron Waxman, Soehn's New York-based agent, declined to comment. . . .
The attendance was the largest in stadium history, surpassing the 66,722 that witnessed Manchester United play Celtic three years ago. . . . United will have the weekend off before returning to league play Wednesday against the New York Red Bulls at Giants Stadium.Quaranta Scores in Win
A day after being traded by D.C. United, Santino Quaranta scored his first goal of the season as the Los Angeles Galaxy defeated the Dynamo, 1-0, in Houston.
Quaranta was traded for a draft pick on Tuesday. Last night, he took a rebound and kicked it in from 12 yards in the 69th minute.
· WIZARDS 0, REVOLUTION 0: Host New England earned its fourth straight draw. It was the first time Kansas City had been shut out in 21 matches.
· REAL SALT LAKE 4, RAPIDS 1: In Denver, Jeff Cunningham scored two goals and had an assist as Real Salt Lake beat Colorado.