Jaime Moreno certainly made an impression today at month-old Crew Stadium. In fact, the D.C. United forward practically seared two diagonal paths into the fresh sod on his way to a pair of impressive goals in D.C. United's 2-1 victory.
Moreno struck in the 34th and 66th minutes to lead United (10-3, 26 points) to its seventh consecutive win, stretching its Eastern Conference lead to 11 points over the Crew (7-4) in front of 17,386. And United did it without five starters -- four were with the U.S. national team for their game against Argentina in Washington and defender Eddie Pope sat out with an injury.
"Gutsy performance, that's all I can say," United Coach Thomas Rongen said. "We came in knowing it would be a tough game for us and a very important game for Columbus."
Pope had returned from a six-week layoff after breaking a bone in his right foot to play 45 minutes Thursday against Miami. But he reinjured the foot Friday in training and will be reexamined this week. Neither Pope nor Rongen characterized the injury as serious.
Besides Pope, United defenders Jeff Agoos and Carlos Llamosa (as well as defensive midfielder Richie Williams and forward Roy Lassiter) were in Washington, and Rongen started Diego Sonora, Carey Talley and Brian Kamler in back. They performed well, allowing few scoring chances until late, when United was a man down after midfielder Jason Moore picked up his second yellow card in the 61st minute.
"I think [the defenders] continued what they've been doing the last couple games," United goalkeeper Tom Presthus said. "It's been fantastic. They're allowing no more than four or five shots a game, and that makes my job a lot easier."
Moreno made things easier on the defenders late in the first half with his first goal, taking a short pass from Marco Etcheverry and tearing through the middle of the Columbus defense. First he blew by defender Matt Chulis (Virginia), then hopped over midfielder Robert Warzycha and finished with a 15-yard shot that found the lower right corner of the goal.
Etcheverry, fresh after sitting out Thursday's game with a suspension for accumulated yellow cards, set up Moreno's next goal as well. He took the ball on United's side of the field and sent a long ball in front of Moreno, who was being chased by Warzycha and Michael Clark. Moreno collected the ball on the right side and sprinted into the box, shooting the ball past goalkeeper Mark Dougherty and into the net past the far post.
"That was a nice ball from Marco, and I just ran as hard as I could," Moreno said. "That was a nice goal."
Moreno has five goals this season; Etcheverry has 11 assists.
Midfielder Antonio Otero called the goals "classic Moreno," and they were, with the Bolivian forward challenging and beating defenders head-on. It may be one of the last times Moreno does it for United, though. He and Etcheverry could miss up to six weeks with the Bolivian national team at Copa America in Paraguay. At least today, Moreno was rewarded for his recent run of good play.
"I've said from Day One that his stats don't reflect what he's done for this team," Rongen said. "Jaime has just had an incredible season. . . . Today was vintage Moreno. We expect Jaime to continue [playing] this way."
Before Moreno opened the scoring, Columbus had spent most of the half clattering down the right flank and battering United players. The Crew's best offensive chances came from the territory Agoos usually patrols, the most dangerous a 30th-minute cross from midfielder Billy Thompson that United's Ben Olsen had to head over the end line.
The Crew committed 10 of the game's first 11 fouls and 12 for the half (United had five fouls in the first half). United evened the foul count in the second half -- including a yellow card to Moreno for elbowing Chulis -- and Columbus made things more interesting in the 69th minute, when substitute Jeff Cunningham collected a rebound and scored from in close. United had lost Moore eight minutes earlier.
Crew Coach Tom Fitzgerald said he felt the 65th-minute yellow card to Moreno should have been a red. "I thought we created a lot of chances, but as usual, we didn't get the goals," he said. "The bottom line is we shouldn't have had to make an equalizer, because [Moreno] shouldn't have been in the game" after the foul.
United Note: Forward David Hayes, United's third-round draft choice earlier this year, made his MLS debut, coming in for Moreno in the 80th minute. Hayes went to Thomas Stone High and scored 104 goals in two seasons at Charles County Community College.
Summary on Page D9