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United Finds Good Connection in Win
United's victory before only 8,630 spectators was not secured until a tense three-plus minutes of extra time passed. Troy Perkins, the MLS goalie of the year, got his fingertips on Jeff Parke's header, a slight touch that changed the trajectory just enough to send the ball off the crossbar.
Later, Moreno was the recipient of Amado Guevara's brutal tackle at midfield. United Coach Peter Nowak directed angry words at the Honduran playmaker from the sideline and Olsen confronted him.
Guevara, who received a yellow card for the act, shot several tense glares at Nowak after the match resumed.
"This is playoff time," Nowak said. "Everyone knows there's a lot of emotions. No hard feelings."
Olsen, though, remained upset with the tackle and referee Michael Kennedy's response.
"It was a bad foul and they continue to let people do that in this league and without [major] punishment," he said.
United had few other disputes on this windy afternoon. Mired in a two-month slump, the club responded with a quick, smart performance and, other than Parke's late threat and two other serious bids, dictated the pace and made significantly fewer mistakes than in the late stages of the regular season.
As expected, the artificial turf hampered United's possession game, but beginning with Facundo Erpen's first-minute header that drew a leaping save from Conway, D.C. mounted a consistent attack.
"We chased the game in the last five, six, eight weeks, but today we were patient and kept playing," Nowak said. "We know the game will open for us and if we have a chance, we have the guys to score the goal."
Following Gomez's goal, Nowak fortified the back line by adding Brandon Prideaux at the expense of midfielder Freddy Adu. And unlike several recent games, United did not suffer any catastrophic breakdowns.
"The intensity was a lot better," Perkins said. "The communication was excellent and our determination not to get beat was there. That's something we haven't had in a long time and we finally showed up today."
Thanks in large part to Gomez and Moreno, who, after leaving the locker room, joined dozens of United supporters celebrating in the parking lot.
"It was a tight game, not much space to create, but we were able to play through the middle," Gomez said of the scoring sequence. "Fortunate for us, we were able to stretch them a little bit and I got open to score the goal."