D.C. United 1, Nottingham Forest 1
Washington has become a regular destination for English soccer clubs, serving as a welcome escape from the unforgiving rigors of traditional football on the other side of the Atlantic. Leeds was here in 1997, Newcastle in 2000, Tottenham Hotspur last spring and Blackburn Rovers last summer -- and each left with a favorable impression of their hosts, D.C. United, after getting no better than a tie.
Last night, it was Nottingham Forest's turn, and once again, in-season United showed well against its unseasoned guests, earning a 1-1 tie before 13,333 at RFK Stadium. Although it was an exhibition with nothing at stake, the teams played a penalty kick tiebreaker, won by United.
"It was a pretty good test for us -- something different," United Coach Peter Nowak said. "The experience is never enough for our guys, for the young kids."
United went ahead in the ninth minute on Ezra Hendrickson's first goal since joining the club a few weeks ago, but Forest leveled it in the 32nd on rising star Andy Reid's long strike.
Forest was created in 1865, 131 years before United. Once one of the most feared clubs in England -- and Europe, for that matter -- Forest is now in the First Division, one giant step below the glamorous Premier League. Less than a month before the 2004-05 season opener against Wigan Athletic, the club set up its U.S. camp in Richmond, which is home to the team's primary sponsor.
Forest will also face the minor league Richmond Kickers and Virginia Beach Mariners, as well as the University of Richmond.
"It was very competitive and we got plenty out of the game," Forest Coach Joe Kinnear said. "We knew it was going to be difficult. . . . It was a good workout; they pushed us all the way."
The timing of these friendlies isn't ideal for United, which has to squeeze them between weekend league matches. D.C. was coming off a 1-0 defeat at Kansas City and is preparing for Saturday's game against West-leading Los Angeles.
But the games do allow the coaching staff to provide playing time for seldom-used reserves, in this case defender David Stokes, goalkeeper Nick Rimando and midfielder Kevin Ara. An entirely different defensive backline from the Kansas City game got the call last night: Stokes, Hendrickson and Brandon Prideaux. Nowak made four substitutions at halftime; in an MLS game he's restricted to a total of three.
Midway through the second half, forward Santino Quaranta made his first appearance of the year following adductor surgery. Ghanaian midfielder Nana Kuffour, who finally received his international clearance to join the active roster this week, was hoping to make his debut, but an ankle injury prevented it.
Kinnear said he was most impressed with United rookie midfielder Josh Gros, but added that 15-year-old Freddy Adu "was in and out of the game, to be honest. . . . [But] he's only a baby."
United was on the prowl from the start, testing goalkeeper Paul Gerrard on Gros's 30-yard rocket in the ninth minute. On the ensuing corner kick delivered by Earnie Stewart, Gerrard couldn't stop Hendrickson's seven-yard header into the right side -- the lanky defender's first goal for United since his acquisition a few weeks ago.
Hendrickson nearly scored again in the 23rd minute, but his header was cleared off the goal line by defender Alan Rogers.
Forest, however, struck back brilliantly nine minutes later when Reid, an Irish midfielder who was being pursued by Tottenham for an estimated $10 million transfer, one-timed a 28-yarder past the diving Rimando and into the lower right corner.
United -- which finished with a 15-3 advantage in corner kicks -- should have recaptured the lead in the 35th minute, but Gerrard slapped away Adu's clear bid and Stewart sent the rebound over the crossbar. In the second half, Adu hit the left post and Forest's David Johnson rang the right post.
United Note: Hristo Stoitchkov, the former D.C. United forward now working for FC Barcelona, attended last night's game and sat in the director's box. He has agreed to play for the international squad against the 1994 U.S. World Cup veterans in the MLS All-Star Game preliminary match here July 31.
* REVOLUTION 3, FIRE 1: In Foxboro, Mass., Taylor Twellman scored two second-half goals as New England extended Chicago's winless streak to six matches (0-4-2).
* RAPIDS 0, GALAXY 0: In Denver, superb goalkeeping at both ends carried Colorado and Los Angeles to a scoreless tie.