E. RUTHERFORD, N.J.
7:30 pm ET (MSG; CSN-DC)
While the Atlantic Cup - awarded to the winner of the season series between the arch-rivals - is still on the line, each club comes into the first of two meetings over the season's final three weeks with more on their mind. The MetroStars clinched a playoff place a week ago, but need to take at least a point to have any chance of still claiming the top seed in the Eastern Conference throughout the playoffs. D.C. United can secure passage to the MLS Cup Playoffs with at least a point at The Meadowlands, but even with a victory, they still will need help from the Dallas Burn up the road in New England.
REFEREE: Kevin Stott. SAR (bench): Greg Barkey; JAR (opposite): Emiliano Monje; 4th: Erich Simmons
MLS Career: 107 games; FC/gm: 26.6; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 29; pens: 19
Games involving MetroStars: P24 W7 L15 T2; FC/gm: 26.6; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 10; pens: 5
Games involving United: P25 W13 L9 T3; FC/gm: 26.2; Y/gm: 3.2; R: 9; pens: 4
INJURY REPORT: METROSTARS - OUT: MD Michael Bradley (R foot stress fracture); MD Mark Lisi (R ankle sprain); DF Tenywa Bonseu (L Achilles tendon tear); DOUBTFUL: MD Joselito Vaca (R knee MCL sprain) ... D.C. UNITED - OUT: FW Thiago Martins (L knee surgery)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: DC: Alecko Eskandarian (through Oct. 2); Ryan Nelsen (through Oct. 2)
YELLOW PERIL: MET: Amado Guevara (18 CP); Jeff Parke (19 CP); Cornell Glen (17 CP); Chris Leitch (18 CP) ... DC: Josh Gros (18 CP); Mike Petke (18 CP); Ben Olsen (additional 11 CP); Earnie Stewart (additional 11 CP)
The I-95 arch-rivals meet for the third of four scheduled meetings this season in the Atlantic Cup, playing again in two weeks time in Washington in the season finale on Oct. 17. They've each won once at home this season, in starkly different circumstances.
On July 3 at RFK Stadium, D.C. United equaled the club record for goals in a game in a 6-2 drubbing, hitting for six goals in a league game for the first time since the inaugural season, when they put six past Dallas (July 7, 1996).
Eddie Gaven actually gave Metro the lead (18) when he beat the United offside trap and chipped D.C. 'keeper Troy Perkins with aplomb. But then Ryan Nelsen headed home a freekick (30) to pull United level, then Jaime Moreno got a most unexpected go-ahead goal, stripping Metro 'keeper Jonny Walker in the area before tapping into an empty net.
Alecko Eskandarian then continued his run of form with his first of two goals on the day, hammering home a Dema Kovalenko cross from close range to finish off a wonderful movement to give United a two-goal halftime lead. After the break, Earnie Stewart then unlocked the Metro offside trap before driving a shot home between Walker's legs (57).
Fabian Taylor slipped a shot home from inside the six after Eddie Gaven had done all the hard work battling through the United defense (63), but Eskandarian's second restored the three-goal margin (69), again driving into the goalmouth to convert for his fifth goal in three games. Then in stoppage time, Ben Olsen hammered a free kick through the MetroStars wall to close out the scoring.
Here's Peter Nowak's team (3-4-1-2): Troy Perkins - Bryan Namoff, Ryan Nelsen, Mike Petke (Ezra Hendrickson 57) - Earnie Stewart (Joshua Gros 65), Brian Carroll, Ben Olsen, Dema Kovalenko - Bobby Convey (Freddy Adu 82) - Alecko Eskandarian, Jaime Moreno
Here's Bob Bradley's team (4-3-1-2): Jonny Walker - Tim Regan (Pablo Brenes 46), Jeff Parke, Eddie Pope, Chris Leitch - Joselito Vaca (John Wolyniec 68), Ricardo Clark, Amado Guevara - Eddie Gaven - Sergio Galvan Rey (Fabian Taylor 60), Mike Magee
A second-half blitz gave the MetroStars a 3-2 victory at home on April 17. Ben Olsen gave United the lead after 26 minutes when he converted a low cross from Dema Kovalenko from the right flank.
But Fabian Taylor, who came on as a halftime substitute, took just five minutes to pull his club level, finishing on the second chance after rising up unmarked to meet a Mark Lisi cross. John Wolyniec then gave the Metros the lead seven minutes later with an acrobatic diving header in the six-yard box, before Taylor hit for his second, slipping a shot underneath Warren from inside the area to finish the 13-minute blitz.
Freddy Adu pulled United back within one when he became the youngest player ever to score in an MLS game when he got in front of a Metros defender to stab home a rolling cross from close range (75).
The teams have won the Atlantic Cup once each since its inception before the 2002 season. United won that first year, the MetroStars claiming the trophy last season. Goal difference is the first tie-breaker, followed by away goals; if still tied, the MetroStars (as holders) will retain the cup.
A year ago, the MetroStars won twice, once home and once away - also winning once on a golden goal - in their four league encounters. United won one, with the final match a draw.
Metro took a 1-0 victory at home on May 10 (Mathis 42), before capturing a wild 3-2 extra-time at RFK Stadium on July 5 when they were left a man down for more than an hour before Eddie Gaven scored a dramatic winner just before the final whistle (Etcheverry 10 pen, Kovalenko 43 - Moreno 20, Clark 26, Gaven 99).
United won 2-0 at Giants Stadium on Sept. 25 (Olsen 12, Cerritos 67) as the two teams began a stretch of three meetings in a week. The second, three days later at Giants Stadium, saw the MetroStars secure a late 1-1 draw (Magee 90 - Etcheverry 64 pen), then the teams met on Oct. 1 in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal, Metro winning 3-2 to secure a place in a first-ever final in club history.
The MetroStars have won the season series three of the past four years, since United won all four league meetings (one by shootout) during the 1999 campaign.
Jaime Moreno - who spent last year with the MetroStars - is United's all-time leader against Metro with 18 goals, 10 assists. Dema Kovalenko also has 4 goals, 6 assists v Metro - again just 1goal, 3 assists with United, while Ben Olsen has 5 goals, 3 assists - all with United. Alecko Eskandarian is the only other current multiple goalscorer v Metro (2 goals).
Only six current MetroStars have scored a goal against United - Fabian Taylor now with 3 and Eddie Gaven with 2, while four have one each (Mark Lisi, Ricardo Clark, John Wolyniec, Mike Magee). Lisi and Amado Guevara have 4 assists as well, and Joselito Vaca has three - though all of his were with Dallas Burn.
Coaches record: Bob Bradley v DC: P17 W8 L6 T3 ... Peter Nowak v MET: P1 W0 L1 T0
ALL-TIME (34 meetings): MetroStars 14 wins (1 shootout), 53 goals ... United 18 wins (1 shootout), 68 goals ... 2 draws
AT GIANTS STADIUM (17 meetings): MetroStars 8 wins (1 shootout), 26 goals ... United 8 wins (2 shootout), 33 goals ... 1 draw
The MetroStars defense stood firm, Jonny Walker called upon to make only a single save as John Wolyniec and Cornell Glen scored goals.
Wolyniec put the visitors ahead on the half-hour, Amado Guevara picking out Craig Ziadie on the right before he raced to the byeline, pulling back a sharp ball for Wolyniec to smash into the roof of the goal.
Glen then sealed matters two minutes into second-half stoppage time, wheeling away from a defender at the midfield stripe and racing in alone on goal, slotting home past Burn 'keeper Jeff Cassar from right on the edge of the area.
"Tonight was a good overall effort and win. I thought that the team responded very well this week from the loss in Columbus. They were determined to come here and get three points," said MetroStars head coach Bob Bradley.
Bradley made three changes to the team that lost 4-2 to the Columbus Crew the previous Saturday at Crew Stadium. Craig Ziadie made his first since July 17, coming in for the injured Tenywa Bonseu on the right side of defense, while Gilberto Flores made his first start since June 26, coming in along with Ricardo Clark into the center of midfield. Pablo Brenes was dropped as was Fabian Taylor, Mike Magee moving forward to partner John Wolyniec in attack.
Here's Bradley's team (4-4-2): Jonny Walker - Craig Ziadie, Jeff Parke, Eddie Pope, Chris Leitch - Eddie Gaven, Ricardo Clark, Gilberto Flores (Cornell Glen 46), Amado Guevara - Mike Magee (Pablo Brenes 89), John Wolyniec.
Bradley was pleased to have both Gilberto and Ziadie back in the lineup. Regarding the young Brazilian, he said: "It's nice to have Gilberto back on the field. He certainly gives us a little bit extra aggressiveness in the midfield, and I think that really helped us in the first half tonight. Hopefully we can continue to move him forward over this latter part of the season."
On the Jamaican international right back, he said: "Craig had a good start to the season and went down with an injury. During that time, we were really fortunate that Tenywa [Bonseu] stepped up. Now with Tenywa injured, I think that Craig is ready to finish the season on a strong note."
Cornell Glen's goal was named the Sierra Mist Goal of the Week in fan balloting on the league's official website, www.MLSnet.com.
The MetroStars clinched a place in the MLS Cup Playoffs for the second consecutive season, winning for the second time in three matches with a quality 2-0 victory away to the Dallas Burn at the Cotton Bowl. The Metros pulled into a six-point lead for second place in the Eastern Conference with 39 points from 27 matches, now trailing the Columbus Crew by four points.
Tony Sanneh scored his second goal since joining Columbus to give the home side victory against a 10-man United, the Crew stretching their unbeaten streak to 14 matches, one shy of the league record as they won their fourth consecutive match.
Sanneh's glancing header from a Simon Elliott free kick was the game's only goal, though Kyle Martino should have doubled the lead early in the second half when he hit the woodwork with the goal unguarded after rounding United 'keeper Nick Rimando.
United were reduced to 10 men just before the break when captain Ryan Nelsen was sent off for a second bookable offense in the half.
United coach Peter Nowak kept the same starting lineup for the third consecutive match, a first for his professional coaching career.
Here's Nowak's team (3-4-1-2): Nick Rimando - Bryan Namoff, Ryan Nelsen, Mike Petke - Joshua Gros, Brian Carroll, Ben Olsen (Freddy Adu 72), Dema Kovalenko - Christian Gomez (Ezra Hendrickson 46) - Alecko Eskandarian, Jaime Moreno (Earnie Stewart 25)
"Even a man down, we can play pretty good soccer," Nowak said. "They didn't quit, but unfortunately we didn't convert our chances."
Nelsen was first booked in the 20th minute for dissent after referee Jair Marrufo ruled a foul by Bryan Namoff, then was sent off after a hard tackle on Edson Buddle right in front of the Crew bench. He will be suspended for the MetroStars match.
"I told him it was the most embarrassing call I've ever seen, and he gives me a yellow card without even flinching," said Nelsen. "A referee has got to have thick skin." Then after the second card, "I used some bad language, I told him what I thought of him because he was ruining the game," Nelsen said.
There could be some significant selection issues for Nowak this weekend. Moreno was forced off the field after just 25 minutes with a left hamstring strain, and he has not been able to participate in full training this week. As well, strike partner Eskandarian is suspended for the MetroStars match with caution point accumulation.
United have brought in A-League (and former Dallas Burn and Columbus Crew) striker Dante Washington on trial. Washington led the A-League with 17 goals and 40 points with Virginia Beach Mariners this season, having hit for 35 goals over the past two seasons. . "We've had him on our radar screen for a while and he's coming off two great years with the Mariners," said Dave Kasper, United's technical director. "He would provide great cover for us heading into the stretch."
On Wednesday, United posted an impressive 6-0 victory against Guatemalan club side Municipal at RFK Stadium. Santino Quaranta made a triumphant return to game action, scoring two goals, while Eliseo Quintanilla, David Stokes and Jason Thompson all hit before the break as United took a 4-0 lead. A late Christian Gomez penalty capped the scoring.
Here's Nowak's team: Troy Perkins, Ryan Nelsen (Ezra Hendrickson 46), Brandon Prideaux, David Stokes, Kevin Ara, Dema Kovalenko (Joshua Gros 46), Nana Kuffour (Brian Carroll 46), Eliseo Quintanilla (Freddy Adu 46), Tim Lawson (Christian Gomez 65), Santino Quaranta (Alecko Eskandarian 46), Jason Thompson (Earnie Stewart 65)
D.C. United saw their modest winning streak snapped at two games, falling 1-0 away to the Columbus Crew on Saturday evening. Despite the loss United remained in third place in the Eastern Conference and with the right sequence of events can claim a playoff berth this weekend, now on 33 points from 27 games, 10 points out of first and six points behind the MetroStars.
D.C. United can clinch a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs with a victory against the MetroStars AND a loss or tie by the New England Revolution; or a draw against the MetroStars and a Revolution loss.
The MetroStars secured a playoff place for the second consecutive season with their victory in Dallas last weekend.
Following are the tiebreaking procedures if teams are level in the standings:
a. Head-to-head competition against all other teams equal in points, based on highest points-per-game average.
b. Overall team goal differential.
c. Total goals scored.
d-f. Tiebreakers a-c are applied to each team's regular-season road games only.
g-i. Tiebreakers a-c are applied to each team's regular-season home games only.
j. Fewest disciplinary points
k. Coin flip
As of Sept. 25, here is how the MLS Cup playoffs would have looked:
SERIES A: (E1) Columbus vs. (E4) Chicago
SERIES B: (E2) MetroStars vs. (E3) D.C. United
SERIES C: (W1) Kansas City vs. (W4) San Jose
SERIES D: (W2) Los Angeles vs. (W3) Colorado
EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP: Winner of CLB/CHI vs. Winner of MET/DC
WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP: Winner of KC/SJ vs. Winner of COL/LA
MLS CUP 2004: Winners of Conference Championship Games
Series A - D played under home-and-home, total goals format ... If teams tied on aggregate, 30-minute, golden-goal overtime period follows, then followed by penalty kicks (if necessary) to determine Series winner ... Higher seed holds home-field advantage for Game 2 of Series ... Conference Championship Games and MLS Cup, if tied after 90 minutes, determined by 30-minute, golden-goal overtime ... If neither team scores during that time, the series will be decided via penalty kick shootout held according to FIFA regulations
Series A-D - Game One
Weekend of Friday, October 22 - Sunday, October 24 @ LOWER-SEED home site
Series A-D - Game Two (+ 30-minute golden-goal period, if tied on aggregate goals)
Weekend of Friday, October 29 - Friday, October 31 @ HIGHER-SEED home site
Eastern Conference Championship / Nov. 5 / 6 / 7
Western Conference Championship / Nov. 5 / 6 / 7
MLS Cup 2004 / Sun., Nov. 14 - ABC / 3:30 PM ET - The Home Depot Center, Carson, Calif.