A Bitter Loss for Nowak, United

Ivan Guerrero, Matias Donnet, Jim Curtin
United midfielder Matias donnet is swarmed by members of the Chicago Fire. (Jonathan Daniel - Getty Images)
By Jack McCarthy
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, September 7, 2006

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill., Sept. 6 -- There's already been plenty of history written by D.C. United and the Chicago Fire through their nine-year soccer rivalry.

But there's rarely been more controversy like that which occurred late in Wednesday's first meeting between the teams in the U.S. Open Cup.

Host Chicago claimed a 3-0 semifinal victory, but all United coach Peter Nowak could talk about was the goal that wasn't -- a rebound shot down the line by midfielder Matias Donnet that would have created a 1-1 tie late in the second half.

"The officials today won the game for the Fire," Nowak said. "Instead of 1-1, we had 2-0 and the game changed considerably after that."

Chicago's victory, before 5,153 fans, was its seventh in its last eight matches. The Fire will host either the defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy or the Houston Dynamo in the Sept. 27 U.S. Open title game.

United fielded most of its regular starting lineup, with midfielder Brandon Prideaux making his first start since early May. Prideaux had his team's first and only shot of the opening half, which sailed to the left of Fire goalkeeper Matt Pickens in the fifth minute.

Chicago broke the scoreless tie in the 58th minute when midfielder Justin Mapp slid through a pair of defenders and sent a weak but on-target shot past goalkeeper Troy Perkins.

In the 73rd minute, midfielder Christian Gomez lined a free kick into Pickens's arms. The ball slipped out of the goalie's hands and Donnet collected it 12 feet away, firing a shot into the net. The goal was disallowed, however, and Nowak said officials didn't provide a clear explanation.

Seconds later, the Fire made it 2-0 when forward Calen Carr took a feed from forward Nate Jaqua and sent a shot past Perkins while in a nearly prone position.

A brief brawl erupted following the goal, leading to the red card ejections of United's Facundo Erpen and Chicago's Chris Armas.

Carr closed the scoring when he tallied on a 20-yard shot in the 91st minute.

The U.S. Open Cup, a single-elimination tournament open to U.S. pro and amateur teams affiliated with the U.S. Soccer Federation, has been held annually since 1914. United won the Cup in 1996, its inaugural season, and finished second in 1997. Chicago has three titles to its credit, the last in 2003.

MLS teams have won the Cup every year but one since the league's 1996 debut.

Wilson Done

D.C. United's injury concerns intensified yesterday when the club announced that reserve defender-midfielder John Wilson will miss the remainder of the MLS season after undergoing surgery on his patellar knee tendon.

Reserve midfielder Domenic Mediate was ruled out for the year recently after breaking his leg. Team captain Jaime Moreno did not play in last night's U.S. Open Cup semifinal at Chicago because of knee tendinitis, and several other players have been hampered by minor injuries in recent weeks.

Wilson, a left back and left wing in his second season with United, played in 11 regular season matches and made two starts. The knee ailment had sidelined him since his July 29 appearance against Real Salt Lake. The rehabilitation process will take four to six months, the club said.

"Though we're disappointed that John will be lost for the season, he has been a steady performer throughout his tenure in D.C.," United technical director Dave Kasper said. "We look forward to him being back to full health and being able to contribute again."

-- Steven Goff

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