Wizards 1, United 0
Anyone who suggests that Freddy Adu doesn't possess the skills to play in MLS didn't see the little stroll the 16-year-old embarked upon 15 minutes into D.C. United's 1-0 loss to Kansas City last night at RFK Stadium. Or the nicely weighted passes he dropped onto the feet of his teammates. Or his dashing runs at the heart of the Wizards' defense.
But for all the excitement Adu created in the absence of the team's stars, he couldn't take advantage of his early scoring opportunity -- a miss that came back to haunt United in the 77th minute when Sasha Victorine converted one of Kansas City's few chances of the evening before a disappointed crowd of 18,379.
"I have to finish that," Adu said. "I saw my chance."
The Wizards (6-4-7, 25 points) won in Washington for the first time since 1996, ending an 11-game funk, and stepped ahead of United (6-6-4, 22) to take third place in MLS's Eastern Conference.
United, averaging a league-best 2.29 goals per game at home, was shorthanded at the forward position. Jaime Moreno was scratched because of an ankle injury. Alecko Eskandarian was still feeling the effects of a concussion. Santino Quaranta was in Seattle with the U.S. national team. Nana Kuffour was still finding his way after two starts last week.
So Coach Peter Nowak turned to Adu, who, in his sixth start of the year, responded with a dynamic first-half exhibition.
After three inventive touches in the early moments, he brought the crowd to its feet with a spectacular run on the left side. First, he deftly eluded Shavar Thomas, leaving the Kansas City defender sliding on the turf. He picked up speed and went at veteran Nick Garcia before cutting to his right to free himself for a clear shot. All that stood between him and his second goal of the year was goalkeeper Bo Oshoniyi, but that's where Adu showed his inexperience, sending a low bid directly at the veteran goalie.
The coaches "told me, 'when you get the ball on the side, just attack them,' because that's my game," he said. "I was fortunate enough to beat the first guy and I was thinking about shooting the ball before [Garcia] got there, but he closed in fast so I tried cutting it in and I think the touch was just a hair too short. It wasn't ahead of me enough, so I tried to bring my right foot around and I just hit it straight at the goalkeeper."
United had other opportunities before the half, but its inability to score allowed the match to shift in the plodding Wizards' favor. D.C. lost its vibrancy in the second half, Adu became less of a factor and when Kansas City saw its chance to strike, Victorine broke the tie.
"I told them in the first half we had enough chances to score a goal and the game's going to be different," Nowak said. "We didn't do it and we made a fundamental mistake. . . . The effort at the start of the second half wasn't there. It took us 20 minutes to find our pace again."
Nowak's disappointment also could be traced to reserve forward Jamil Walker's meager contribution and to defender John Wilson's subpar performance. He didn't receive the usual influential play from playmaker Christian Gomez. But the sequence that cost United the match came with about 13 minutes remaining when midfielder Brian Carroll gave up the ball in D.C.'s end, which allowed Victorine to go on his solo run and rip a 22-yard shot past goalkeeper Nick Rimando for his fourth goal of the year.
To that point, Rimando's only stressful moment had come during first-half injury time, when he leaped to his left to block Jack Jewsbury's clear bid.
Oshoniyi was busier than Rimando, backpedaling in the 63rd minute to tip Dema Kovalenko's deflected cross that seemed destined for the back corner. After Victorine's goal, Gomez's shot through traffic struck the left post and Bobby Boswell's rebound was cleared off the goal line.
"I took a touch to play it to one of my teammates and it wasn't good enough, and it got taken," Carroll said of his mistake. "We had our chances to score and we didn't do it. I thought I played a pretty good game and then had one bad touch and it leads to a loss."