United 1, Galaxy 1

D.C. United executed a supreme defensive effort against MLS's most dangerous team last night, but a second-half slip-up amid controversy allowed the Los Angeles Galaxy to escape with a 1-1 tie before 17,671 at RFK Stadium.

Team captain Ryan Nelsen provided United (5-6-6) with the lead late in the first half, but MLS top scorer Carlos Ruiz's penalty kick leveled it for the West-leading Galaxy (9-5-5) in the 66th minute of the ill-tempered match.

Meantime, details are emerging about Bobby Convey's potential move to England. According to sources close to United, First Division club Reading has joined Tottenham Hotspur of the Premier League in pursuit of the 21-year-old midfielder and now appears to be the front-runner.

Tottenham nearly acquired Convey last year, but the deal fell through when his work permit was rejected by the British government. MLS's asking price is believed to be about the same as last year, an estimated $1.2 million. The league, which owns all player contracts, is also in the process of selling Chicago midfielder DaMarcus Beasley, 22, to Dutch team PSV Eindhoven for approximately $2.5 million.

United officials declined to comment on Convey's situation.

Convey wouldn't discuss specifics, but did say: "We'll see what happens in the next few weeks before the transfer window closes [in Europe]. It's been my dream since I was a little kid playing soccer to go over there. If I can do it, that would be great, but right now I'm just waiting and being patient and working to get back on the field" after suffering a thigh injury last week.

United was also without starting midfielders Ben Olsen (quadriceps) and Earnie Stewart (groin) last night, but the team's defensive unit silenced the Galaxy, which leads the league in goals per game.

Los Angeles "didn't have anything," United Coach Peter Nowak said, "except this one little accident."

On one of its few threats of the evening, the Galaxy got the ball behind goalkeeper Troy Perkins on the left side. A shot by Ruiz, MLS's leading scorer, struck D.C. defender Brandon Prideaux's hand near the net, probably preventing a goal, but referee Kevin Stott allowed play to continue because the Galaxy kept possession. After Los Angeles' Arturo Torres smashed it into the net, Stott whistled play dead and awarded the penalty kick.

United players argued that the linesman had raised his flag to indicate an offside call but that Stott ignored it.

In addition, "If we had cleared the ball off the line [before Torres knocked it in], would he have called the penalty?" Nelsen said. "I don't think he would have."

Nowak wouldn't comment on the controversial sequence, but asked rhetorically how many penalty kicks his team had been awarded this year. (United has taken none but has had four called against it.)

United had gone ahead 10 seconds into first-half injury time. Dema Kovalenko swung the ball deep into the box from the left. Jaime Moreno and defender Ricky Lewis leaped together and made contact, allowing it to fall to Nelsen for a left-footed volley in front of advancing goalie Kevin Hartman for his second goal of the year. But the Galaxy tied it on Ruiz's penalty kick, his 10th goal of the season.

Teenager Freddy Adu entered for Prideaux in the 71st minute, and United came tantalizingly close to scoring in the late stages with three crosses through the six-yard box and four corner kicks. But United had to settle for a tie, leaving it in second place in the tightly packed Eastern Conference, two points behind the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (6-6-5).

"There was a lot of heart out there," Nowak said. "The boys showed that they want to be in first place and, sooner or later, they will be."

United Notes: Defender Bryan Namoff suffered a fractured alveolar -- the bone above his top front teeth -- after getting elbowed by Jovan Kirovski late in the game. Kirovski was not issued a card. Namoff is not expected to miss much time. . . .

United was assessed five yellow cards, the Galaxy one. Because of an accumulation of cards, Kovalenko and forward Alecko Eskandarian must serve one-game suspensions. . . .

Convey said his injury, suffered while playing for the U.S. national team, is improving and that he's hoping to play next weekend at Dallas.

MLS leading scorer Carlos Ruiz, left, battles United's Bryan Namoff for ball. Ruiz tied game on penalty kick in second half.D.C.'s Freddy Adu, bottom, and Ryan Nelsen watch as L.A.'s Hong Myung-Bo goes up for header. Adu helped team mount late attack, but no score resulted.