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PIZZA HUT PARK
7:30 pm CT (FSC; CSN-DC)
A pair of teams who have seen their seasons begin to go the other way in recent weeks come together when D.C. United makes its first trip to face FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park. FCD has struggled more mightily, now without a league win in more than two months, yet still in second place in the Western Conference, doggedly holding on to home-field advantage for the MLS Cup Playoffs. A scant three weeks ago United were riding a four-game winning streak and had the top spot in the East in their sights, but are now back in fourth after three losses in their last four contests.
REFEREE: Mark Geiger. SAR (bench): Thomas Supple; JAR (opposite): C.J. Morgante; 4th: Hilario Grajeda
MLS Career: 10 games; FC/gm: 30.6; Y/gm: 3.1; R: 1; pens: 7
Games involving FC Dallas: P1 W1 L0 T0; FC/gm: 34.0; Y/gm: 3.0; R: 0; pens: 0
Games involving United: P2 W1 L1 T0; FC/gm: 38.0; Y/gm: 3.0; R: 0; pens: 5
INJURY REPORT: FC DALLAS - OUT: MF Richard Mulrooney (R knee surgery); GK Jeff Cassar (R shoulder separation) ... D.C. UNITED - OUT: FW Alecko Eskandarian (concussion); DF David Stokes (ankle surgery); DF Kenny Arena (first metatarsal)
SUSPENDED: DAL: Simo Valakari (21 CP; through Sept. 10) ... DC: Jaime Moreno (through Sept. 10); Ben Olsen (21 CP; through Sept. 10)
WARNINGS: DAL: Ronnie O'Brien (16 CP)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
This is the second of the two scheduled league meetings this season between the teams, the only one to be played in Dallas and the first match ever between the two teams at Pizza Hut Park.
ALL-TIME (25 meetings): FC Dallas 14 wins (4 shootout), 47 goals ... United 9 wins (0 shootout), 47 goals ... 2 draws
AT DALLAS: (14 meetings): FC Dallas 10 wins (2 shootout), 30 goals ... United 3 wins (0 shootout), 17 goals ... 1 draw
On May 28, FC Dallas got a pair of goals - both from Carlos Ruiz - in quick succession after the break to knock off D.C. United 2-0 at RFK Stadium.
The first goal from the Guatemalan international was top-class and an early candidate for Goal of the Year honors. Roberto Mina sent in a chip from the right that Ruiz hit with a full overhead kick, driving the ball inside Nick Rimando's left-hand post (49).
Ruiz then doubled the advantage seven minutes later when he converted his own penalty after he was bundled over from behind in the heart of the box.
Here's Peter Nowak's team (3-4-1-2): Nick Rimando - Bryan Namoff, Bobby Boswell, Brandon Prideaux - Freddy Adu, Ben Olsen (Santino Quaranta 81), Brian Carroll, Dema Kovalenko - Christian Gomez - Alecko Eskandarian, Jaime Moreno
Here's Colin Clarke's team (4-1-4-1): Scott Garlick - Bobby Rhine, Clarence Goodson, Steve Jolley, Chris Gbandi - Simo Valakari - Arturo Alvarez (David Wagenfuhr 73), Ronnie O'Brien, Aaron Pitchkolan, Roberto Mina (Drew Moor 64) - Carlos Ruiz (Abe Thompson 83).
A year ago, the teams split their season series, each winning one with one draw in the three meetings. They played to a 1-1 draw on June 26 at the Cotton Bowl on a day when Jason Kreis became the league's all-time leading goalscorer (Kreis 37 - Eskandarian 58), then Dallas hammered an injury-ravaged United 5-1 on July 24 at home (Jolley 10; Johnson 31, 73; Davis 45, 63 - own goal 34).
United won the lone match at RFK Stadium, claiming a 3-0 victory on Sept. 11 (Eskandarian 45, 82; Adu 84).
The teams have split the season series in each of the last two years, each winning once with one draw in their three meetings.
In the three years before, the then-Burn had a five-match winning streak that saw United go more than two years without a point in the series, dating from a 3-0 Dallas win on July 8, 2000 to a 4-3 Burn triumph on Sept. 19, 2002.
Coaches record: Colin Clarke vs. DC: P4 W2 L1 D1 ... Peter Nowak v DAL: P4 W1 L2 T1
The Earthquakes extended their streak to seven league matches without a loss while piling on the frustration for FC Dallas, who have now gone nine league games without a victory, all since the start of July.
The Quakes put the game away with two goals in a four-minute span just after the start of the second half. In the 50th minute, Mark Chung latched onto a loose ball on the left and whipped in a pinpoint cross that found an unmarked Ronald Cerritos behind an FCD defense that hadn't completely pulled out, and he easily headed home.
Then Chung slipped the ball to Alejandro Moreno on the edge of the penalty area, and after skipping along the top of the box he drove a low, skimming shot inside Scott Garlick's left-hand post to seal the contest (53).
FC Dallas boss Colin Clarke made three changes to the team that twice came back from deficits before settling for a 2-2 draw with Chivas USA the week before in Frisco. Steve Jolley came back into central defense for the suspended Clarence Goodson, while David Wagenfuhr came in for the suspended Chris Gbandi at left back and Roberto Mina replaced Carlos Ruiz in attack, who was away on international duty in World Cup qualifying for Guatemala.
Here's Clarke's team (4-1-3-2): Scott Garlick - Bobby Rhine, Steve Jolley, Greg Vanney, David Wagenfuhr - Simo Valakari (Oscar Pareja 77) - Ronnie O'Brien, Carey Talley (Mark Wilson 54), Ramon Nuñez - Roberto Mina (Arturo Alvarez 63), Eddie Johnson
"(The first goal) changes the game doesn't it, coming out like that in the second half. I thought that the first half was pretty even, they had the one chance where (Ricardo) Clark got through, and we had two or three opportunities that were close," Clarke said. "We just need one of them to go to give you a lift and a boost, but that just didn't happen tonight."
FC Dallas saw their winless run now stretched to a club-record nine games, allowing two goals in a four-minute span early in the second half in a 2-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night at Pizza Hut Park. FC Dallas still remains in second place in the Western Conference, with 36 points from 24 matches, still a point ahead of third-place Los Angeles Galaxy but now 11 points behind leader San Jose Earthquakes.
FC Dallas were once again left searching for a first win in their new Pizza Hut Park home - in four games since the stadium opened for the Aug. 6 match v MetroStars, the Hoops have two losses and two draws. The San Jose match was the second of a five-game homestand; six of the final eight FCD games will be at home.
"If I'm sitting in the stands, I'm not a happy fan right now," said Bobby Rhine. "You don't see a lot of effort, not a lot of energy in the second half, it's disgraceful."
FC Dallas have now lost six games and drawn three in their winless league run; they have not scored more than two goals in any game, and haven't allowed less than two except once - in a 1-0 loss to the Columbus Crew.
"We need to stick together and hang tough. It's not a good situation that we're going through, but we're only going to come out of it together. We just have to keep believing that it's going to happen," Clarke said.
English midfielder Mark Wilson made his MLS debut after San Jose had a two-goal lead, very active and scrappy in midfield battling for loose balls.
"I think the problems are to be worked out themselves in the dressing room," said Wilson. "And we will do that. It's a great bunch of lads - plenty of ability in there, plenty of talent - we'll kick, scrap and fight our way out of this."
Clarke received a welcome addition when Eddie Johnson and Greg Vanney both joined the team the morning of the Earthquakes match. "(I didn't know until) this morning. We were happy to have him back; he gave us a boost and a lift. We worked on a few different things during the week but having him was only a positive," Clarke said.
Said Johnson: "Bruce (Arena) came up to me at breakfast today and told me that I wasn't going to be in the 18 (man roster) but that he wanted me for the Guatemala game. So I asked him if I could come back and play for my team and he said that wasn't a problem. So I got on a plane and got out here this afternoon."
The Rapids extended their unbeaten streak to five matches and won for the fourth consecutive match at home, holding off a 10-man D.C. United coming off their heavy midweek victory.
Terry Cooke gave the home side the lead on 22 minutes. Jean-Philippe Peguero ran onto a long ball played over the United defense in the area and pulled D.C. 'keeper Nick Rimando off his line before slotting a square pass to Cooke, who curled the ball home into the nearly unguarded goal.
United were left with 10 men for the final 26 minutes when Jaime Moreno was sent off with a straight red card after clipping the heels of Rapids fullback Hunter Freeman after the two were involved in a midfield tussle for the ball.
United boss Peter Nowak made one change to the team that defeated Real Salt Lake 5-1 at midweek. Dema Kovalenko returned from suspension, but he simply took over for the suspended Josh Gros on the flank of United's five-man midfield.
Here's Nowak's team (3-4-1-2): Nick Rimando - Facundo Erpen (Jamil Walker 66), Bobby Boswell, Brandon Prideaux - Dema Kovalenko, Brian Carroll, Ben Olsen (Matt Nickell 84), Bryan Namoff - Christian Gomez - Freddy Adu, Jaime Moreno
"I don't want to find any excuses but the performance in the first half was unacceptable and I let them know at halftime that we need to play better and I think the team picked up the tempo and the rhythm. In the first 10 minutes we had two chances to score but I'm not going to let my guys off the hook," Nowak said.
D.C. United lost for the third time in four games after a six-game unbeaten run (and four-game winning streak), falling by the only goal to the Colorado Rapids on Saturday evening in Denver. With the loss, United fell back into fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 41 points from 26 matches, now seven points adrift of leader New England Revolution but seven points ahead of fifth-place MetroStars in the race for the final postseason place in the division.
United has had a player sent off now in three of the last four league games - and four games in all, including the Open Cup quarterfinal loss to FC Dallas. In addition to the suspension for Jaime Moreno this weekend, United will also be without sparkplug midfielder Ben Olsen.
"The refereeing, right now, is getting out of hand. We have five games or four games and we have three red cards, it is unacceptable," Nowak said. "The handball in the 89th minute was pretty obvious, everyone is fighting for their lives, fighting for the playoffs and we cannot lose games because someone had a different view of the game"
"The players are pretty frustrated because I think they're confused about what is permissible and what's not," United President Kevin Payne said to The Washington Post. "Players like to have a sense of which referees are going to call the game in which ways. Too often in our league it's impossible to predict how the game is going to be called. We really don't have a sense of what's going on."
Each of the games where United has had a player sent off has been a loss, all following a four-game winning streak.
"Unfortunately a couple of calls didn't go our way and we lose again. They were doing the same thing we were doing but I guess they had the home field advantage," Adu said. "I don't know what else to say. It is frustrating, week in week out you play well one week and the next you don't get the best performance that you can get."
Defender David Stokes will be lost to the club for the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery for his ankle injury this week. He last played in a league match on July 9.
United will host the first leg of their inaugural Copa Sudamericana tie on Tues., Sept. 13 at RFK Stadium when they take on Universidad Catolica of Chile in the round-of-16, 5-2 winners on aggregate against Peruvian outfit Alianza Atletico. Catolica won the first leg 5-0, but fell 2-0 in Tuesday's return match. The return leg will be played in Santiago, Chile on Thurs., Sept. 22. Should United advance to the quarterfinal round of the tournament they would face either Fluminense (Brazil) or Banfield (Argentina).