'It Wasn't Pretty,' but United Notches First Win of Season

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 7, 2007

At a little after 4 o'clock yesterday, early in the second half of D.C. United's fifth match of a disconcerting MLS season, Christian Gomez volleyed a 12-yard shot into the left corner to provide a lead -- not just any lead, but United's first against league competition since the playoff opener last October.

Jaime Moreno added another goal on a sassy penalty kick, and United withstood Chivas USA's late push to secure its first victory of the season, 2-1, before 14,267 at breezy RFK Stadium.

"We're taking baby steps," Coach Tom Soehn said. "Was it perfect? No, but we're going to build upon it."

Playing its third game in nine days, United (1-3-1) put aside a bland first half to end a seven-game regular season winless streak, dating from last season. Gomez, the 2006 league MVP who has labored this spring, scored in the 48th minute for his second goal of the year and Moreno added his second in four days before Maykel Galindo struck on a superb individual effort in the 73rd for Chivas USA (2-3-0).

Troy Perkins made a sprawling save on Francisco Mendoza's six-yard header in the 89th minute, ending United's slowest start since 2003, when it began with an 0-3-4 mark, and improving D.C.'s all-time record against Chivas to 5-0.

It was not an artistic success, by any means, but after being embarrassed by Kansas City in its home opener last month and failing to take advantage of a New England ejection here Thursday before settling for a tie, United was not complaining.

"I don't think it was a great game by historical standards here at D.C. United, but it's a win and we're in no spot right now to get upset about ugly wins," midfielder Ben Olsen said. "We needed a win, we needed three points and we got it. It wasn't pretty. I'm not even going to watch this game" on tape.

For the second consecutive game, Soehn altered his starting lineup by leaving out another high-profile player. On Thursday it was Moreno and midfielder Brian Carroll, and yesterday it was Brazilian forward Luciano Emilio, who had struggled a bit the last two games after playing so well in the preseason Champions' Cup.

Moreno returned to the lineup and was joined by rookie Guy-Roland Kpene, who had made a favorable impression in his debut as a reserve Thursday. In the first half, Kpene held the ball and turned effectively, making something out of nothing on a couple occasions.

"He shows a real maturity for a young kid," Soehn said. "Luciano just played two 90-minute games, so you factor everything, but more than anything, Guy deserved a shot."

After intermission, Kpene's slight touch of Olsen's cross lifted the ball to Gomez for a one-timer and a 1-0 advantage. It gave United its first lead after 408 minutes of play this season.

"That first goal really helped us set the tone for the game," Gomez said through an interpreter. "We had many more chances against New England, but we weren't able to finish them. Today we didn't have as many chances, but the ones we had, we were able to put in the back of the net."

After Perkins stopped Ante Razov's long free kick, midfielder Kasali Yinka Casal, who had entered at halftime, drew a penalty kick after getting kicked in the mid-section by Lawson Vaughn while pushing into the box. Instead of firing into a corner, like he did Thursday night, Moreno chipped the ball gently into the middle of the net as goalkeeper Brad Guzan dived to his left.

Olsen called the shot "spicy -- extra picante on that one. . . . He's got five or six little tricks. He always does them in practice. It's one of those things where people always say, 'Do it in a game!' "

The lead was hardly safe, though. Perkins got his fingers on Razov's blast that hit the crossbar in the 70th minute, but Galindo beat Josh Gros on the right side and slammed in a rising six-yard shot three minutes later to halve D.C.'s lead. Perkins then prevented Mendoza's header to all but clinch it.

"This is something I have been searching for -- doing what I am here to do," Perkins said. "I haven't been doing that. This felt good."

Said defender Bobby Boswell: "When they got that goal, I'm sure a lot of people thought, 'Oh, here they go,' and now it's one of those things where we have shown we can get the win and finish the game off."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company