The six D.C. United field players who started today's Major League Soccer All-Star Game together were unable to produce for the Eastern Conference what Preki Radosavljevic alone did for the Western Conference.
The Kansas City Wizards midfielder scored twice, assisted on Cobi Jones's goal in the first half and was named most valuable player in a 6-4 victory at Qualcomm Stadium before 23,277, the lowest turnout in the game's four-year history.
"Preki obviously showed he can still play," United Coach Thomas Rongen, who coached the Eastern Conference, said of the 36-year-old.
It appeared the United contingent would show a dominance commensurate with its numbers when Roy Lassiter scored 30 seconds into the game.
But the United players were held without a goal for the remainder of the game, although forward Jaime Moreno had a second-half assist on Tampa Bay Mutiny midfielder Carlos Valderrama's 73rd-minute goal, which cut the Western Conference's lead to 4-3.
United goalkeeper Tom Presthus allowed four goals as the West took a 4-1 halftime lead. The East tied the score with three second-half goals, but Mauricio Wright scored the go-ahead goal in the 84th minute and San Jose Clash teammate Ronald Cerritos added an insurance goal in the 89th minute against Walter Zenga, Presthus's second-half replacement.
Fans voted six United players into the starting lineup--Presthus, defenders Eddie Pope and Jeff Agoos, midfielders Marco Etcheverry and Ben Olsen and Lassiter, a forward. Rongen added United midfielder Richie Williams to the starting lineup after Tab Ramos of the New York/New Jersey MetroStars withdrew because of a leg injury.
Olsen took three first-half shots, one on goal, with his 40th-minute shot rolling wide of the unguarded net. Williams's 34th-minute shot was deflected by goalkeeper Zach Thornton.
Six United starters were replaced at the start of the second half because the league's limit of four substitutions per game was waived. The international rule barring substituted players from reentering also was waived. Each team made nine substitutions at the start of the second half.
Etcheverry, who left United last month to play for Bolivia's national team in Copa America and will not return until early August after the Confederations Cup is concluded, remained in the game. United defender Carlos Llamosa played the entire second half, while defender Diego Sonora was the only member of either roster not to play, sidelined by a groin muscle injury.
"We were very honored to have so many players chosen for this event," Rongen said. "We're very happy Eddie Pope was able to come back and play a half after his [recent knee] injury and Marco was able to play a full game."
A force outside the league's control likely resulted in fewer people watching the game. Instead of airing on ABC, the game was shifted to ESPN2 because of ABC News coverage of the search for John F. Kennedy Jr.'s missing plane. ESPN was not available because it was showing the British Open, also moved from ABC because of the search coverage.
Commissioner Doug Logan said he briefly considered not playing the game after hearing this morning that Kennedy's plane was missing.
"An all-star game is a party and it's very difficult to throw a party under these circumstances," Logan said.
Radosavljevic got his first goal in the 13th minute, taking Roman Kosecki's pass and chipping a shot over an onrushing Presthus. Kosecki scored in the 32nd minute off assists from Peter Nowak and Alexi Lalas. Radosavljevic set up Jones's 36th-minute goal from just outside the penalty area, then scored again two minutes later from 10 yards after receiving Kosecki's cross on the left side.
CAPTION: All-Star MVP Preki Radosavljevic, who had two goals and an assist, tries getting John Harkes off back.