Richard Eaton's disputed goal with 10 seconds left gave the Washington Stars a 2-1 victory over the Washington Diplomats last night before 2,616 spectators at W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax.
Eaton, a midfielder with a powerful foot, received a 50-yard pass from Bruce Murray on the right wing, dribbled into the penalty box and unleashed a 16-yard shot past goalie Warren Westcoat just inside the left post.
As Eaton collected the ball 40 yards from the goal, referee Paul Tamberino waved off the linesman's offsides call and let play continue, infuriating the Diplomats, who charged both officials and had to be restrained.
"We score a goal and they call offsides for some reason and then they don't call this," Diplomats Coach Stojan Nikolic said. "This is ridiculous."
The Diplomats (5-10) have lost five in a row and eight of their last nine under Nikolic, who replaced John Ellinger in May. The Stars (6-10) won for the third time in their last four matches, delighting their biggest crowd of the season.
Trailing 1-0, Eaton took Doug Davies' pass and whistled an 18-yarder from the top of the box into the left side of the net in the 81st minute.
"I had three of four shots before I finally hit the target," Eaton said. "I hit them pretty good."
The Diplomats, who blew a two-goal lead in the second half and lost at Maryland Friday night, took the lead in the 67th minute on Luis Zapata's fifth goal of the season. Zapata collected Mirko Castillo's pass and sent a low, 15-yard shot into the lower left corner.
The Diplomats thought they had gone ahead late in the first half, but defender Steve Kokulis's goal was disallowed by an offside call.
Before Zapata's goal, Eaton had a sizzling 18-yarder punched away by Westcoat in the 55th minute. After the goal, Stars goalie Neil Cowley kept his team close with a reflex save on Drago's wicked, 18-yarder in the 76th minute.
The only sign of life in the first half was Kokulis's apparent goal off a free kick from near the corner, and a 16-yard shot in the 43rd minute by Andy Hoffman that was tipped away by Westcoat.