D.C. United midfielder Christian Gomez apologized yesterday for spitting on Chicago defender C.J. Brown during Sunday's 4-0 MLS playoff loss to the Fire at RFK Stadium.

"I want to apologize to my teammates, the fans, the club and Major League Soccer for my actions," the Argentine playmaker said in a written statement. "What I did was wrong and I am deeply sorry for what happened. It was a frustrating night and I let the emotions get the best of me. People who know me know that those are not characteristics of who I am as a person."

Ten minutes into the second half, with United trailing 3-0, Gomez unsuccessfully attempted to draw a penalty kick when he was tackled by Brown deep in the 18-yard box.

Brown began yelling at Gomez, whom he believed had exaggerated the contact. Gomez then spit on him, resulting in a red-card ejection.

During the regular season, Gomez was tied for second on the team in yellow cards with six but did not receive any red cards. He had only one yellow card in 13 appearances in 2004.

"I'm obviously disappointed in Christian in what he did," United President Kevin Payne said after the game. "There's no excuse for that. . . . I realize he was frustrated. The odds were against us at that point, but are we capable of scoring three goals in a half at home? Absolutely, but not down a man."

A red card carries a one-game suspension, which Gomez will serve in the 2006 season opener, but the penalty could be extended by MLS after the league's disciplinary committee reviews the incident. . . .

Dominic Kinnear, who guided San Jose to the league's best record during the regular season before a first-round playoff elimination, was voted MLS coach of the year. New England's Steve Nicol finished second and United's Peter Nowak third.

New England defender Michael Parkhurst was named rookie of the year, finishing ahead of Chicago forward Chris Rolfe and Kansas City forward Scott Sealy.

-- Steven Goff