Galaxy 4, United 2
It was that special moment D.C. United and MLS had been waiting so patiently for, a breathtaking goal by Freddy Adu that would show skeptics why the league had gone to such extraordinary lengths to sign -- and wildly promote -- the 14-year-old forward.
Midway through the second half of an otherwise embarrassing 4-2 loss to three-goal scorer Alejandro Moreno and the Los Angeles Galaxy last night at RFK Stadium, Adu sailed along the right side, veered inward and touched his way past three defenders inside the penalty area. With time and space to line up a shot, he lashed a left-footed 15-yarder out of goalkeeper Kevin Hartman's reach and into the upper left corner, sending the 13,043 spectators into delirium.
It wasn't the first goal of Adu's young career, but on an artistic scale, it easily surpassed his six-yard putaway at the Meadowlands last month.
"That's my strength -- going at people, taking the ball to them, and I got the ball in the perfect position," Adu said. "I saw the floodgates just open, I saw the chance to take the ball and get a good shot on goal, and I took advantage of it."
Adu's goal, however, couldn't overshadow United's -- and goalkeeper Nick Rimando's -- awful end to the first half. Rimando yielded four goals in a nine-minute span and was clearly at fault on the first two successful attempts by the Galaxy (4-1-3).
Moreno, a 24-year-old Venezuelan starting in place of injured star Carlos Ruiz, scored all of his goals in eight minutes (all assisted by midfielder Andreas Herzog) to record the second-fastest hat trick in MLS history. Moreno then assisted on the fourth goal, a diving header by rookie Joseph Ngwenya.
Ronald Cerritos connected for United (2-3-3) just before halftime and Adu scored in the 67th minute, seven minutes after replacing Cerritos.
"It was the most bizarre and probably the worst 10 minutes of soccer I've been involved in," veteran defender Mike Petke said. "We were shellshocked, we were embarrassed -- I know I was embarrassed."
Rimando had the worst night of all. On the first goal, he failed to punch away Herzog's corner kick, allowing Moreno to push a shot off the right post. On the second, after Petke failed to shut down the quickly advancing Moreno, Rimando let a low, angled shot slide between his legs.
"That span, whatever it was, they went at us and it seemed like if they would have hit a goal kick it probably would've gone in," said Rimando, who struggled in the first two games of the season but seemed to have regained his form in recent weeks.
Late in the half, Rimando received a sarcastic cheer from the disgruntled crowd after gathering a harmless long ball.
Afterward Coach Peter Nowak was down on Rimando but also on the entire squad for allowing the Galaxy too much space to attack.
"Those last 10 minutes were a consequence of how we played," he said. "We need to fix it and we need to fix it very fast."
Despite the lopsided score at halftime, United actually controlled the first 30 minutes with its short-passing possession game. But without warning, the match took a dramatic turn.
After Rimando's mistakes allowed the Galaxy to take a 2-0 lead, Moreno scored a remarkable goal. Herzog wandered uninhibited into United's end and delivered a bending ball into the penalty area. On the run, Moreno executed a leaping flick with his right foot, redirecting it behind him and into the far corner for his fifth goal of the season.
A minute later, former United player Chris Albright crossed to Moreno near the left post for a diving header that streaked across the six-yard box to Ngwenya, who put it away with a diving header of his own at the other post.
United regrouped in time to cut the deficit to three by halftime when Cerritos stung a left-footed, 18-yarder just out of Hartman's reach and off the inside of the left post for his second goal of the year. It gave shellshocked United a sliver of hope heading into the second half.
United applied plenty of pressure, but after Dema Kovalenko's apparent goal was disallowed by an offside call and Adu's memorable shot cut it to 4-2, D.C. ran out of energy.
United Notes: Earnie Stewart and Bobby Convey were named to the 18-man U.S. national team roster for the June 2 friendly against Honduras in Foxboro, Mass. . . . D.C. will play at Colorado on Saturday night, its third game in eight days.