United 1, Wizards 0
Another one of those quirky nights was unfolding for D.C. United. Once again, the ball wasn't going into the net, and this time the problem was one of its own players getting in the way of a sure-fire goal.
But with the struggling club stumbling toward another disappointing result, Jaime Moreno made a dashing run through the heart of Kansas City's defense and ended United's month of missed opportunities. His strike in the 75th minute lifted United to a 1-0 victory over the Wizards last night before 16,147 at RFK Stadium, ending a five-game winless streak.
"We deserved to win because the last couple games we were unfortunate and -- finally, finally -- we got the three points" for the victory, said Moreno, who hadn't scored since the season opener against San Jose six weeks ago, which was also the last time United (2-2-3) had won.
Moreno collected the ball near the center circle and embarked on a 30-yard stroll. With Kansas City's defenders retreating, Moreno crossed into the penalty area and slotted a 17-yard shot past goalkeeper Tony Meola and into the lower right corner.
"He's a very special player," United Coach Peter Nowak said, "and it was a very special play."
Wizards Coach Bob Gansler said his team had keyed on Moreno, but the Bolivian forward still made the difference.
"He's a marvelous player, always has been, and he's a valuable guy," he said. "For sure, Jaime puts a stamp on the game and the goal was an exclamation point."
United's defense did the rest, yielding few opportunities to the Wizards (2-2-2), who haven't won at RFK (other than in the MLS championship game here in 2000 against Chicago) since 1996.
But the victory came at a painful price. Already without midfielder Bobby Convey indefinitely because of a hamstring injury, United lost midfielder Ben Olsen midway through the first half with a strained right quadriceps and all-star defender Ryan Nelsen late in the game with a groin injury. Their status for Wednesday's home match against Los Angeles is uncertain.
The badly needed win took away some of the sting for United, which has had a devilish time scoring this spring. Its problems reached an almost comical low in the eighth minute last night when Earnie Stewart drilled Moreno's cross from six yards toward the net.
Meola wasn't going to stop it. Kansas City's defenders were in no position to deflect it.
Standing on the goal line behind Meola in the run of play, however, was United's Ronald Cerritos. Consistent with the team's early misfortunes, the ball struck Cerritos in the back of the head and caromed out of play.
"I could only laugh," Stewart said afterward.
Added Cerritos: "I didn't see the ball. It was just so unlucky, but those things have been happening to us."
United's short possession game was clicking most of the match, but it couldn't do much with its opportunities. Meantime, the Wizards struggled to build a consistent attack and tested United goalkeeper Nick Rimando on only two occasions: Jack Jewsbury's angled bid that Rimando blocked at the left post in the 12th minute and Diego Gutierrez's long attempt that struck the left post in the 57th. It was Rimando's first shutout of the year.
"It was a great performance by the whole team," Nowak said. "They covered for each other. . . . We deserved to win today."
After scoring just seven goals on a countless number of opportunities the first six weeks, Nowak adjusted his starting lineup again. Back on the bench was 14-year-old forward Freddy Adu, who had made a marginal impact in starts against San Jose and Columbus. His replacement was Cerritos, a Salvadoran veteran who had played only 74 minutes in three reserve appearances.
Adu eventually came on midway through the second half, replacing Cerritos, and handled himself well. Nowak said he will continue to evaluate his forwards on a weekly basis and make changes when necessary.
"This team is coming together," he said. "We're making good progress."
Notes: The Wizards remain without two-time league MVP Preki, who fractured his left leg and dislocated his ankle during the preseason. Preki, a playmaking midfielder-forward who will turn 41 next month, has begun light training and is expected to return by late June.