United Starts Fast, But Again Ends Tied

Josh Gros
Josh Gros, center, is congratulated by teammates Christian Gomez, left, and Jamie Moreno after scoring United's only goal. (Charles Krupa - AP)
By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 14, 2006

FOXBOROUGH, Mass., Sept. 13 -- Considering what had unfolded in the second half Wednesday night at nearly deserted Gillette Stadium, D.C. United seemed rather unbothered by its 1-1 tie with the New England Revolution.

Sure, the club surrendered a halftime lead, nearly yielded another goal, did not generate much of an attack or play with an abundance of energy until the final few minutes -- all of which left it with a 1-2-5 record in the last eight games heading into the final month of the season.

But United was also quick to point out the impact a badly tattered field had on its possession game, a crowd generously announced as 6,285 that made it feel like a preseason exhibition and a physical second-half tone that disrupted its rhythm and turned the match in New England's favor.

United (14-3-10) played very well in the first half, taking the lead on Josh Gros's 25th-minute goal, but U.S. World Cup midfielder Clint Dempsey tied it for the Revolution (8-8-11) early in the second half after D.C. failed to clear a free kick.

"There was a lot of good stuff out there," Coach Peter Nowak said of his club's first-half execution. "We fall asleep again for one time and then we pay for it."

United has not played consistent soccer over the course of a match for several weeks, and this effort was no different. Just when the club appeared to be in control and poised to win its second straight on the road, it broke down defensively and was never able to respond offensively.

"We did exactly what we wanted to do -- come in, get a lead and just hold on to that," Gros said. "We played a lot better in the first half than the second. We really controlled possession and in the second half I think that flipped."

Gros gave United the lead with his first goal since May 31, an easy putaway after goalkeeper Matt Reis had stopped Freddy Adu's 16-yard shot but let the ball bounce free.

United's Troy Perkins preserved the lead in the 28th minute with a sensational save, soaring to his right to thwart Joe Franchino's blistering free kick toward the far corner.

New England was beginning to find its stride and pressure United's defense, but Perkins calmly pulled down crosses and the back line did not allow the inventive Dempsey to find open space.

Everything seemed to be working for United, even in the first few minutes of the second half when D.C. absorbed the Revolution's harmless forays and patiently probed for a devastating second goal.

But New England tied it in the 56th minute after United failed to clear Andy Dorman's free kick. Franchino headed the ball sharply to the six-yard box, Taylor Twellman redirected it across to Dempsey, and with a short volley, the match was even.

Dempsey almost returned the favor three minutes later, but after he got around Perkins and crossed from the end line, Twellman narrowly missed the corner.

"That's a tough field to play on," Perkins said of a surface shredded by the Patriots' season opener Sunday. "The ball is bouncing everywhere, it's not really a smooth surface -- that really goes against what we want to do."

New England, in total control, continued to press for the go-ahead goal. Having watched his club's attack evaporate, Nowak countered with speedy winger Stephen deRoux and rookie Rod Dyachenko for Matias Donnet and the hurting Jaime Moreno.

The moves yielded more energy, a few pushes into the New England penalty area, but no goals, leaving United to ponder a missed opportunity and yet another tie.

"To come away with a tie isn't the worst result," Gros said, "but obviously we're not completely happy with it."

United Notes: United midfielder Ben Olsen received a yellow card in the 62nd minute, pushing him over the MLS limit and earning him a suspension for Sunday's match at Chicago. . . . With the tie, United can finish no worse than second in the Eastern Conference. . . . Forward Alecko Eskandarian, who did not travel because of a tendon injury in his knee, is questionable for Sunday.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company