No Reward for United's Excellence
Monday, November 6, 2006
There was harsh irony in D.C. United's 1-0 loss to the New England Revolution in the MLS Eastern Conference final yesterday at RFK Stadium: The club that sleep-walked the latter part of its season away played its finest match in months.
United was lively and inventive and displayed a renewed sense of urgency. It applied unrelenting pressure on a retreating opponent and, in an impassioned first half, snapped a wealth of several dangerous shots on target.
But with each save by goalkeeper Matt Reis and every bid that streaked fractionally wide of the net, United's hopes began to fade. When Ben Olsen's two desperate attempts failed during extra time, D.C. and its 19,552 supporters were left silent.
In the end, the difference was Taylor Twellman's outstanding goal in the fourth minute, which sent the Revolution to the MLS Cup for the second consecutive season and third time in five years. New England will face Houston, a 3-1 winner over Colorado yesterday in the Western Conference final, in Sunday's final at Pizza Hut Park in suburban Dallas.
"We all know that we played one of the best games in a very long time," United Coach Peter Nowak said. "The team should be really proud of how we play. It's just not meant to be -- so many chances, creative play, everything was in place, except the goal."
Other than Twellman's 15-yard shot, the Revolution did not have a shot on goal. United, meantime, generated eight quality opportunities before the break and finished with lopsided advantages in overall shots (18-6) and corner kicks (9-1).
"You always think it's coming, or at least you brainwash yourself to think that it's coming," midfielder Ben Olsen said. "To be on the losing end of a performance like that, it's tough to take because we did a great job and the guys should be proud of themselves."
What they were not proud of was Twellman's goal. Revolution right back Jay Heaps launched Pat Noonan down the right flank. Bobby Boswell, United's central defender, slid across to support teammate Facundo Erpen, but Noonan had enough time and space to serve a cross into the middle of the box.
Bryan Namoff could not stop it and Twellman, a former Maryland star who has evolved into one of MLS's most productive forwards, turned and cracked a one-timer beyond goalie Troy Perkins's reach and into the right side of the net.
"I slid over, I covered, but Pat took a touch," Boswell said. "I wanted to push him inside more than to the end line because I knew [Erpen] was coming back, and he just served it up."
Said Perkins of Twellman, "We just lost him."
United had plenty of time to recover and, over the final 86 minutes, did almost everything right.