Major League Soccer Commissioner Doug Logan said yesterday that game officials "probably" made a mistake by stopping the clock with six seconds left Saturday night at RFK Stadium, a decision that allowed the Los Angeles Galaxy to score on a free kick for a 2-1 victory over D.C. United.
"I think that everyone meant well," Logan said. "Probably some mistakes were made."
Meanwhile, a group headed by New York investor Scott Gordon has had serious discussions about purchasing United's operating rights, sources close to the negotiations said. "He's looking to invest and he seems to represent the interests of some well-financed people overseas," a source said.
United President and General Manager Kevin Payne, who is overseeing the sale of the club's operating rights for between $25 million and $30 million, declined to comment on Gordon, who sat with Payne at a recent United home match. But in general terms, Payne said that "several parties are doing some due diligence, and we hope they are in the final stages of that. It's a process that takes a certain amount of patience."
Other interested groups include Northern Virginia businessman Peter Halpin and Spanish tenor Placido Domingo, director of Washington Opera.
In last Saturday's controversial ending at RFK, United's Geoff Aunger fouled the Galaxy's Simon Elliott just outside the penalty area with 11 seconds remaining. Under normal circumstances, time probably would have expired before the Galaxy could have taken the shot.
But sideline official Kermit Quisenberry, who was assigned to manage the scoreboard clock, stopped it with six seconds left. With time to set up a shot, Mauricio Cienfuegos beat goalkeeper Tom Presthus to put the Galaxy ahead. Chinese referee Baojie Sun apparently did not signal to the sideline for the clock to stop, but because Sun was a guest as part of an exchange program, an extra MLS official was assigned to control the clock.
In every major league in the world, the time is kept by the referee, not on the scoreboard.
"Having the [sideline] official in there . . . creates the opportunity for some confusion," Logan said. "It is still not clear to us why or by whom that clock stoppage took place. If indeed there was an attempt by a D.C. player or his team to waste time, then it was appropriate. It's just not clear with all the information we have exactly what happened. . . . There was confusion and probably error when it came to stopping the clock."
Said Joe Machnik, an MLS vice president who oversees officiating: "There is no evidence that D.C. acted in any way to impede the quick taking of a free kick. . . . We'll learn from this experience."
Payne, who after the game approached the officials to ask why the clock was stopped, welcomed Logan's confession of a probable error. "But Doug is right--it happened and we move on," Payne said.
MLS Notes: The New England Revolution traded Dutch playmaker Edwin Gorter to the Miami Fusion for defender Mario Gori, who spent his first three seasons with United. . . . The San Jose Clash was assigned midfielder Mauricio Solis, a standout for Costa Rica's national team. . . . Former Peruvian superstar Teofilo "Nene" Cubillas will be honored during halftime of United's game against Kansas City Saturday at RFK. . . .
With two weeks left in all-star balloting, a United player leads at every position: forward Roy Lassiter, MLS's leading scorer; defender Eddie Pope, who has missed half the season with a foot injury; midfielder Marco Etcheverry, the league MVP last season; and Presthus. . . . United is third in the league in average attendance at 19,878; last season the club averaged 16,007.