Gomez Scores Twice Before Leaving in Win

By John Galinsky
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, September 4, 2006

CARSON, Calif., Sept. 3 -- For the first half of the season, Christian Gomez was arguably the dominant player in Major League Soccer -- and D.C. United was inarguably the best team.

After a lethargic August created doubts about both, Sunday's match with Chivas USA marked a heartening return to form. With Gomez supplying a pair of first-half goals -- and just missing twice more in the second -- United snapped its five-match MLS winless streak with a 2-1 victory in front of 14,588 at the Home Depot Center.

"He's a very important piece of our team. He's having a great season. That's the reason he's being considered for league MVP," United Coach Peter Nowak said. "Today he scored our two beautiful goals."

United (14-3-8) ended its slump a week after its worst outing -- an embarrassing 5-2 loss at home to the Los Angeles Galaxy. Gomez, bothered by a strained knee ligament, did not start that game and had scored one goal since mid-July.

But the Argentine midfielder looked fit Sunday and wasted no time in giving United a boost.

He scored off a free kick in the third minute. He also slotted home the winner with a splendid run down the right side immediately after Chivas tied things on a penalty kick in the 32nd minute. He threatened several more times in the second half before leaving with cramps in the 69th minute.

"Christian is a dangerous player. You can see today what he means to our team," said forward Jaime Moreno, who left in the 56th minute after aggravating a right knee injury. Nowak said both were removed for precautionary reasons and Moreno is expected to play in United's home match Saturday against Real Salt Lake. Gomez is ineligible for that game because of a yellow card suspension.

Sunday's victory wasn't critical for United, which built an enormous lead in the Eastern Division with a 13-1-5 start and clinched a playoff berth with six weeks left in the regular season.

But Moreno said a good showing was important given the team's two losses and three ties in its previous five MLS matches.

"We've struggled for a little while, especially last game, and we got back to work," Moreno said. "I think every team goes through that during a season and we're lucky it happened before the playoffs. We needed to get ourselves going again."

Against Chivas (8-7-10), which had not lost at home since April 15, United attacked from the outset. With some nifty footwork, midfielder Freddy Adu maintained possession despite a triple-team and drew a foul just to the left of the penalty box. Gomez curled the ensuing free kick inside the upper left corner of the goal.

"Huge goal," midfielder Brian Carroll said. "We feed off anything Christian does offensively, and defensively having the early lead helped us stay more disciplined."


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