Behind the badge: Rock the (online) vote

On Election Day 2004, there are many serious questions to be considered as you head to the polls. But for a true fan of the Black-and-Red, one issue remains up for heavy debate: Alecko or Freddy? In addition to the announcements for Rookie of the Year - for which Freddy Adu is a nominee - the semi-finalists for Sierra Mist Goal of the Year were announced on Monday.

Among the 10 best tallies of the 2004 campaign was Adu's second career strike, a rocket into the top corner at the far post after he collected an Earnie Stewart pass, flat-footed three Galaxy defenders to find open space just above the penalty spot. Also among the nominees was Eskandarian's give-and-go corner kick rocket, taking advantage of a slight deflection to sneak past Chicago Fire goalkeeper Henry Ring.

The goals, along with eight others, were chosen by fans among the weekly winners and a select few additional choices. Polls opened on Monday and will remain open through the end of the day Tuesday. The top five goals after this second round of voting will advance to the finals and be named on Wednesday. Make sure you let your voice be heard. You can watch all 10 candidates at www.MLSnet.com, and cast your vote for the best strike of the year.

Playoff wrap-up

And then there were four. For fans of the beautiful game, this weekend was a veritable feast of exciting soccer. There was great offense - nine goals in four matches, including two strikes in the waning moments of second-half stoppage time - and great defense - three shutouts, all with spectacular saves, and two penalty-kick saves - to suit anyone's fancy.

  • Columbus vs. New England - New England came into the match up one goal on aggregate, but looked certain to give up that lead in the 24th minute, as 'keeper Matt Reis took down Kyle Martino as he was streaking towards goal, drawing a penalty kick. But Reis was equal to the challenge, as he leapt to his left to smother Ross Paule's bid, breaking a string of 20 straight converted penalties for the Crew.

    Reis would again come up big for the Revs, as he was called upon to face another spot-kick in the 72nd minute, this time from former D.C. United player Tony Sanneh. Reis was again right on the money, this time diving to his right to collect a weak effort from Sanneh.

    Taylor Twellman would give the Revolution a 2-0 lead on aggregate as he found himself on the end of an Andy Dorman pass in the 81st minute, a goal that would become crucial in stoppage time, as half-time substitute Edson Buddle tallied for the Crew. But the second leg scoreline would remain 1-1, giving the Revolution a 2-1 aggregate win.

  • D.C. United vs. MetroStars - In a reversal of last year's playoff action, United were on the good end of a pair of 2-0 scorelines in 2004, capping off a road win over the rival MetroStars with a matching win on East Capitol Street. With the MetroStars throwing everything at the impenetrable United defense, led by the tenacious play of Ryan Nelsen and the superb reflex shot-stopping of Nick Rimando, one rookie found another as Josh Gros sent Freddy Adu through on a counterattack, with Adu finding a wide-open Jaime Moreno to tally United's third goal in the series.

    Bryan Namoff would collect his first MLS goal in emphatic fashion, as he streaked through a crowd of players to clean up the mess left after Dema Kovalenko's free-kick - hit from just outside the area - ricocheted first off the crossbar, into a diving Jonny Walker and finally off the post before falling tantalizingly in the six-yard box.

    United, the hottest team in Major League Soccer at the moment, will face the Revolution in the Eastern Conference Final on Saturday night at 7 p.m. ET. Great tickets still remain for this match. For more information, visit dcunited.com or call 202-587-5466, 5467 or 5431.

  • Kansas City vs. San Jose - San Jose held the upper hand entering the second leg, having captured a 2-0 win in Spartan Stadium, but Arrowhead would prove to again be a great host for the Wizards.

    Kansas City 'keeper Bo Oshoniyi was a last-minute insertion for Tony Meola - who is still nursing an injury to his Achilles tendon - but was more than up to the challenge. The Wizards found a goal midway through the first half from Jamaican international Khari Stephenson, who was making his first professional start. Brian Ching gave the Wizards a glimmer of hope in the 48th minute as he attempted to clear a ball sent in by Alex Zotinca, but managed only to put it in his own net.

    The men in blue would leave it until late, but Saint Louis University product Jack Jewsbury punched the Wizards' ticket into the Conference Final with a cracker of a shot in the second minute of stoppage time. The youngster spun and first-timed a shot that blistered off the inside of the near post and tickled the back of the net. The Earthquakes pushed forward looking to draw level on aggregate and force overtime, but were unable to manage.

  • Los Angeles vs. Colorado - The Galaxy looked to give themselves a chance for homefield advantage in MLS Cup 2004, but the goalkeeping of Joe Cannon stood menacingly in the way.

    From the get-go, Los Angeles came out attacking, looking to break down the Colorado defense. They would find the net in the 30th minute, as Carlos Ruiz tapped in a flick-on header from Chris Albright to level the series at one.
    Tyrone Marshall would give the Galaxy faithful reason to cheer in the third minute of stoppage time, as he found himself in the right place at the right time to stab home a loose ball after Colorado failed to clear a free kick. The Rapids tried valiantly to level the series, but great goalkeeping from Kevin Hartman turned away every bid.

    The Galaxy will travel to Kansas City for the Western Conference Final on Friday with an 8:30 p.m. ET kickoff. Los Angeles will be looking to reverse their postseason fortunes at Arrowhead, as they are winless in three straight visits, including a double defeat in 2000, as the Wizards beat the Galaxy in regulation to knot the series before winning the 30-minute "mini-game" to earn a berth in MLS Cup 2000.

    Reach out and touch someone

    In advance of the Conference Final matches this weekend, players from all four teams are entertaining the fans with online chats. On Tuesday Josh Wolff of the Wizards and Chris Albright of the Galaxy opened up the lines with fans, answering questions ranging from the importance of rivalries to whether or not they voted.

    D.C. United's Jaime Moreno and New England's Matt Reis will be online Wednesday, with Moreno leading off the festivities at 2 p.m. ET. Tune in to the chat at www.MLSnet.com tomorrow, or if you're stuck at work, you can check the archives later on. If you'd like to ask Jaime a question, you can e-mail sweeper@mlsnet.com or send an AOL instant message to MLSNetChat.

    John Roushkolb is a contributor to DCUnited.com.


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