United 6, MetroStars 2
As the missed scoring opportunities began to pile up this season, D.C. United began scouring the globe for attacking help. Candidates have been filtering into Washington on a regular basis, promising to inject a finishing touch to a club that hasn't been able to shoot straight.
But following United's record-tying 6-2 victory over the New York/New Jersey MetroStars yesterday, one has to wonder if that search should be called off.
United (5-5-5) tied an eight-year-old club mark for goals in a regular season game and moved into first place in the MLS's mediocre Eastern Conference with a rousing performance against the MetroStars (5-6-4) before 16,177 at RFK Stadium. Alecko Eskandarian scored two goals, giving him five in the last three games, and Jaime Moreno contributed a goal and two assists as United stretched its unbeaten streak to four matches (2-0-2).
"Number six, it's a nice number," Coach Peter Nowak said with a hint of a smile.
United has scored 10 times in the past three matches after producing just 12 in the first dozen outings.
"Everybody's been saying all year that it's just going to happen one day," defender Mike Petke said. "We just exploded and it was great. That's what we needed."
Despite the uprising, Nowak said the team would continue to look for roster help, albeit perhaps without the urgency of recent weeks. "We still want to make this team better," he said. But "even if we bring [in] somebody, it's going to be hard to get into the first team."
Things were going so well yesterday, United had little use for 15-year-old Freddy Adu, who didn't enter until the 82nd minute for his briefest appearance of the season. Five seconds after play restarted, Adu was slapped with a yellow card for a tackle from behind.
"It was a great win. I had nothing to do with it," Adu said among laughter, "but it was a great win."
Adu had complained last week about his recent lack of playing time, but yesterday, with the way Moreno and Eskandarian performed, he had no case.
The match actually started poorly for United. In the 18th minute, Honduran playmaker Amado Guevara delicately lifted the ball over United's defense to Eddie Gaven, who was kept onside by a pair of defenders. Gaven, 17, calmly one-timed the bouncing ball over advancing goalkeeper Troy Perkins for his fourth goal of the year.
United struck back in the 30th minute off a dead-ball situation. Bobby Convey served a free kick from the right side into the box, where Ryan Nelsen nodded a seven-yarder into the lower left corner for his first goal of the season.
United continued to attack with confidence, but it was the team's perseverance -- and the MetroStars' bumbling play -- that put D.C. ahead in the 37th minute. MetroStars goalkeeper Jonny Walker casually fiddled with the ball on his feet after collecting a back pass. Moreno applied pressure, and as Walker tried to cut the ball back, the Bolivian forward poked it away and then beat the goalie to the free ball as it rolled toward the goal line for the easiest put-away of his long MLS career.
Four minutes later, the ball was in the net again, but this time it was done with a lot more grace and execution. Dema Kovalenko fed the ball to Moreno, who charged at the defense before slipping the ball back to Kovalenko overlapping on the right. The cross was perfect, and Eskandarian met it eight yards away at the near post for a one-timer smash past Walker. The lead stretched to 4-1 12 minutes into the second half, as Kovalenko lifted the ball to the barely onside Earnie Stewart, who slotted a nine-yard shot between Walker's legs.
The MetroStars answered in the 63rd minute when reserve Fabian Taylor finished Gaven's spectacular run, but United was back at it six minutes later when Moreno's pinpoint cross found Eskandarian for a simple finish. And to cap the spectacular afternoon, Ben Olsen blasted a 21-yard free kick under the defensive wall and past Walker on the final sequence of the match.
"Since Day One, we've been dangerous and have had a lot of chances," said Eskandarian. "It was just a matter of putting them away, and today that's what we did."
United Notes: Nowak will coach the East all-stars July 31 at RFK because United is in first place at this weekend's deadline. . . . In a pregame ceremony, Stewart donated a U.S. national team jersey to the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame after making his 100th international appearance last month. . . . The last time United scored six goals was during a 6-1 win over Dallas in July 1996, MLS's inaugural season.