Behind the badge: Aloha Cup victory
HONOLULU - Christian Gomez converted a 32nd minute penalty kick and a short-handed D.C. United held off the L.A. Galaxy 1-0 before 14,578 at Aloha Stadium to claim the inaugural Aloha Soccer Cup. Troy Perkins made a host of saves after coming on following the 22nd minute ejection of Nick Rimando. The game was the first professional soccer match played in Honolulu since Team Hawaii competed in the now defunct NASL in 1977.
"I congratulated my team tonight," said United head coach Peter Nowak. "They deserve a big compliment. The whole team, from those that started the game to the ones that came off of the bench, showed a lot of effort and deserve this trophy. This was a great performance under difficult circumstances."
Following a hotly contested scrimmage between the teams on Thursday, Alecko Eskandarian set the tone early on with a late challenge on Galaxy defender Ugo Ihemelo. Nineteen minutes in, tempers flared after Paulo Nagamura's two-footed tackle of Ben Olsen. Following a brief skirmish, Nagamura and Olsen saw yellow. Minutes later, Rimando was shown red by Kevin Stott for a hand ball just outside of the penalty area.
The defending MLS Cup Champions immediately regrouped and the 10-man-side looked to capitalize when possible. A United counter soon paved the way for victory. Gomez stole the ball 40-yards from goal. Taking a few strides forward, the attacking midfielder slotted the ball to Jaime Moreno. Having broken behind the Galaxy defense, Moreno dribbled past Kevin Hartman before being taken down by the keeper in the 18-yard box. Gomez would then convert the spot kick.
From that point on, Perkins stole the show. The second-year keeper made a point blank save on Ruiz to keep the Galaxy scoreless heading into the half. He was quick off his line in the 49th minute to rob Paul Broome. Perkins then made a diving save to keep Joseph Ngwenya off of the score sheet. Ned Grabavoy didn't stand a chance in the 59th minute and Perkins shut the door on the Galaxy when he smothered a Ruiz blast in the 82nd minute.
Otherwise, United's organized effort frustrated Los Angeles all over the field. The club hawked the ball throughout the defensive third and quick counter-attacks nearly extended the lead on a couple of occasions. Moreno found himself on the end of an Eskandarian restart in the 55th minute, only to be denied by Hartman on the goal line. Moreno and Freddy Adu later found space in the Galaxy defensive third, but were unable to finish their chances.
D.C. United return home Sunday boasting a 6-1 mark this preseason. They next face Harbour View FC in Champions Cup play on March 9.
"What a great week this has been," commented United President and CEO Kevin Payne. "The Hawaiian Soccer Federation has put on a wonderful event. We received first class treatment throughout every function we were involved in this week. We at United are extremely grateful for their efforts and look forward to a return trip to Hawaii in the future."