D.C. Gains Tie, First Point

Joshua Gros
D.C. United mid Joshua Gros goes high to get the header over New England forward Pat Noonan. (Jonathan Newton - The Post)
By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 4, 2007

D.C. United benched its most accomplished player and a veteran midfielder. It changed playing formation and had a man advantage for more than 30 minutes. It had two glorious scoring chances in the closing minute.

Yet after its most spirited effort of a troubling spring, after falling behind for the fourth consecutive time and responding four minutes later to pull even, United still found itself without a victory.

Jaime Moreno, who came off the bench for just the 10th time in 12 years in MLS, converted a penalty kick in the 50th minute to offset Andy Dorman's goal 28 seconds into the second half, and United had to settle for a 1-1 tie with the New England Revolution last night before 12,908 at RFK Stadium.

The result interrupted a record-setting, six-game regular season losing streak dating from last year and prevented United (0-3-1) from equaling the worst start in club history.

"It's a confidence booster for us," goalkeeper Troy Perkins said. "We came out with a lot of intensity and tried to put a full match together. I think we are still lacking in that ability, but we came out with a lot more fire in our bellies, and that's a step in the right direction."

The comeback was tempered by a second-half groin injury to Brazilian midfielder Fred, who will be reevaluated today but might miss two to three weeks, team officials said.

After confronting stiff resistance from the defensive-minded Revolution (2-1-2) following the ejection of Shalrie Joseph, United nearly went ahead during added time, but Ben Olsen's header hit the crossbar and Luciano Emilio's bid was swatted away by soaring goalkeeper Matt Reis.

"The performance was better, the effort was better, the feeling was better, and even when we gave the goal up, guys weren't getting down like they have in the past," defender Bobby Boswell said.

Coach Tom Soehn shook up the starting lineup by benching Moreno and Brian Carroll, and shifting to a four-man backline instead of using the fragile three-man set United has played most of the last few years.

It was a strange sight seeing Moreno, one of the league's greatest players, on the end of the bench watching his replacement, Nicholas Addlery, who had played Division II college ball, whose professional experience had taken him to obscure leagues in Trinidad and Tobago and Vietnam, and who found himself unemployed this spring when the second division Virginia Beach Mariners folded.

Asked about the Moreno decision, Soehn said: "He's part of a team and everybody has to carry their weight. Sometimes veterans are better suited to come in late in a game when guys are tired and now they're set up to be successful. . . . I thought he responded well."

The even-keeled Moreno was not visibly upset about the move afterward, although when asked for his reaction amid a semicircle of reporters at his locker, he said, "I can't say that on TV."

He added, "It's just a positive thing that right now there is nobody important; the importance is D.C. United, and that is what we work for."

After questioning his team's intensity in the 1-0 loss to Columbus last weekend, Soehn saw a more passionate bunch last night. The play was better as well. United attacked crisply through midfield, tying together passes without nearly as many giveaways. In the final third of the field, though, United was unable to link that last pass and unlock the New England defense.

Moreno entered for Addlery at the break and although he had a prompt impact, it wasn't as quick as Dorman's. Joseph sent a pass through to Taylor Twellman, whose angled shot was blocked by Perkins. The rebound fell to Dorman for the easy finish and his third goal of the year.

United responded four minutes later when James Riley bumped down Moreno as they chased a long ball into the box, prompting referee Terry Vaughn to award a penalty kick. The Revolution protested, but Riley probably should have avoided contact altogether because the charging Reis seemed to have the angle covered. Moreno deposited the kick for his first goal of the year and 106th of his career.

New England then lost Joseph to the red card for a challenge on Olsen. A yellow was well deserved, but the ejection seemed harsh. Despite the advantage, though, United could not break its winless streak.

"At this point, it's about building this team, and today was a big step toward that," Olsen said. "Team defense was better, the passion was there and the offense started clicking."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company