United 2, Dallas 1
-- D.C. United took immense pleasure from its 2-1 victory over FC Dallas on Saturday night for many reasons. There was Facundo Erpen's first MLS goal, Santino Quaranta's late strike, Nick Rimando's spellbinding saves and, astonishingly, Rimando's assist.
It ended United's late-summer slump, moved the club into second place in the Eastern Conference with five games remaining and pushed it a step closer to a postseason berth.
But perhaps United's greatest satisfaction was the fact that the victory came at the expense of Dallas, a club it has tangled with on several heated occasions in recent years.
"I don't like it here," rambunctious midfielder Dema Kovalenko said. "I hate this team, man. They always try to start things with me. Three points, thanks for coming, we'll see them next year."
The testy match was marred by six yellow cards, but referee Mark Geiger could easily have assessed a few more following a couple scuffles and confrontations. When the game ended, Dallas's coaches and players appeared to try confronting Kovalenko before others stepped in to calm things down.
"They've got a history, mostly because of one player," Dallas Coach Colin Clarke said. Asked to describe the postgame exchange, he said: "Someone was talking crap. A player, I can't remember."
With the loss before 15,263 spectators, Dallas (10-9-6) saw its club-record winless streak stretch to 10 games and its record at Pizza Hut Park fall to 0-3-2 since moving from the Cotton Bowl last month.
Erpen, the newly acquired Argentine defender, put United (13-9-5) ahead in the 15th minute with a one-timer from 12 yards off Christian Gomez's corner kick. However, Dallas controlled the first 25 minutes of the second half and repeatedly tested Rimando. Quaranta, who returned from U.S. national team duty this week, then stretched the lead in the 72nd minute, easily depositing Jamil Walker's touch pass following Rimando's long ball.
Dallas's Ramon Nunez struck from 25 yards in the 87th minute -- "it shouldn't have been a goal," Rimando conceded -- but United maintained its composure until the end.
"It was a great effort by our guys," Coach Peter Nowak said. "We did a pretty good job to hold the ball [late in the game]. We made some mistakes in the last couple games, losing the games because of that."
United had entered the match having lost three of its previous four in league play and four of five overall. The always unpredictable Nowak stirred up his starting lineup again with several notable decisions. The most surprising omission was rookie defender Bobby Boswell, who had played every minute of every match (except for the one against Chicago last month when he was serving a one-game suspension).
Erpen, who had been playing right back, slid into his natural position in central defense.
"We have the confidence in Bobby and he is having a great season," Nowak said. "Facundo deserves it right now and he was ready to be put into these games. Competition is good."
Clarke was also full of surprises as the dangerous striking tandem of Eddie Johnson and Carlos Ruiz was left on the sideline until 17 minutes into the second half.
The match got off to a nasty start -- carry-over from the teams' fierce U.S. Open Cup match a few weeks ago and a product of both sides' poor display of late. Dallas was slapped with two quick yellow cards as United's often volatile temperament was tested.
When the teams got around to playing, United was far superior. After a couple early threats, Gomez delivered a corner kick into the middle of the penalty area, where Erpen struck a flying volley into the right side of the net for his first goal since arriving a month ago.
However, the start of the second half belonged to Dallas. United's Brian Carroll cleared Nunez's shot off the goal line in the 53rd minute and Rimando made a soaring tip save on Clarence Goodson's header.
Against the run of play, Quaranta eased the pressure with his fifth goal of the year. Walker raced down Rimando's enterprising kick, beat Bobby Rhine and poked the ball past advancing goalie Scott Garlick to the unmarked Quaranta.
"We were really pumped up to play this game, guys were battling and I think we really outworked them," defender Brandon Prideaux said. "It was emotional out there."
United Notes: Argentine midfielder Leandro Becerra, 21, ended his tryout without being offered a contract. However, the club might invite him back next preseason. Former University of Maryland midfielder Ian Rodway, who had been training with United, will not be signed either, and there's a possibility D.C. will leave one roster slot empty when the signing and trade deadline arrives Thursday. The club currently has two openings.