D.C. United's uninspired performance Saturday night at RFK Stadium was just good enough to beat Major League Soccer's weakest team and stretch its winning streak to a club-record 10 games. But the coaches and players are mindful that a repeat of their sloppy, 2-1 shootout victory over the New York/New Jersey MetroStars could cost them dearly when the competition intensifies over the next two weeks.
After facing Western Conference leader Los Angeles this weekend at the Rose Bowl, United (22-7) will join the top clubs from North America in the CONCACAF Champions Cup next week in Las Vegas. Defensive mistakes such as those made Saturday aren't likely to be left unfinished against more polished attacks.
"We gave up a lot of stupid chances," goalkeeper Tom Presthus said. "We were pretty careless with the ball and I think it showed [in] the chances we gave up."
Presthus rescued United with several outstanding saves and escaped further trouble when the MetroStars (6-23) failed to capitalize on other D.C. misdeeds. In addition, United's inability to convert frequent opportunities left the game up for grabs in the second half. On several occasions, the MetroStars' striking tandem of Colombian Henry Zambrano and Ecuadoran Eduardo Hurtado made long runs and threatened United's uneasy defense.
"If we're looking at our first [CONCACAF] opponent [Olimpia of Honduras], they play with somebody high and a player underneath, similar to Hurtado and Zambrano, which created some problems for us," United Coach Thomas Rongen said. "We got stretched at times. . . . The teams that we've looked at in CONCACAF present similar problems."
CLASH 6, FUSION 1: Ronald Cerritos scored twice and Eddie Lewis had a goal and three assists as San Jose (16-12) damaged the playoff hopes of visiting Miami (11-18).