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11/23 FINAL
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11/30 9:00pm
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Western Conference Championship
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Eastern Conference Championship

East notes: No place like home

D.C. United players clearly felt comfortable at home in Saturday's Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game, as Jaime Moreno, Dema Kovalenko, Freddy Adu and Alecko Eskandarian all played important roles in the East's 3-2 victory at RFK Stadium under the tutelage of their club coach Peter Nowak.

Eskandarian's composed finish to open a two-goal advantage late in the game highlighted his ability to finish in the clutch, while Freddy Adu danced on the ball and took on defenders in the way that has drawn him such worldwide attention. When he entered the game for the second half, Adu became the youngest MLS All-Star in the league's nine-year history.

"I felt like I had to do something to get the fans a little bit involved and going," said the 15-year-old phenomenon. "I got the ball and I started doing some tricks and all that stuff and everything turned out great. I had a lot of fun today."

TOGETHER AGAIN, NATURALLY: Kovalenko once again was intricately involved with Dallas Burn midfielder Ronnie O'Brien on the field. Last season, the Burn's Irish midfielder suffered a broken leg at RFK after a tackle with Kovalenko which put him out for nearly the remainder of the 2003 season.

In his first All-Star appearance, O'Brien was paired up with Kovalenko on the same flank in the first half, as Kovalenko worked the left for the East and O'Brien patrolled the right for the West.

"It's weird that we played against each other today," said Kovalenko. "I don't have any hard feelings and I hope he doesn't either. I'll apologize again for what happened, but it's soccer and it happens. It's been a year. I'm glad he's doing well, that's the most important thing."

Kovalenko drew the penalty kick in the first half after he was held back in a challenge from O'Brien in the box, which Guevara converted. Shortly after that, O'Brien had a clear scoring opportunity when he rounded Chicago goalkeeper Henry Ring, but Kovalenko cleared his shot off the line.

"When I went around the goalkeeper, I just hit it," said O'Brien. "I sort of knew where the goal was and hit it. I didn't see (Kovalenko) coming. I was talking to Henry Ring. I said, 'I thought it was going in.' He said, 'I thought it was going in as well.' It was unlucky."

YOUNG AND YOUNGER: Adu's U-17 U.S. national team compatriot Eddie Gaven (MetroStars) set a record of his own Saturday, becoming the youngest starter in MLS All-Star Game history at 17 years of age.

"The best part was probably just being out there," Gaven said. "Playing with and against the best players in the league was probably the coolest part."

FOR THE DEFENSE: Adu's trickery brought a spark to the game that didn't offer the usual offensive fireworks, and three men that traditionally anchor their respective backlines came together to shut down the best of the West.

Jim Curtin of the Chicago Fire and Robin Fraser and Frankie Hejduk (both Columbus Crew) all played the full 90 minutes. The workload was particularly intense for Curtin, who suits up for the Fire again Wednesday night in a U.S. Open Cup match against the Richmond Kickers.

"[The All-Star Game] was a little more competitive than I expected," said the Oreland, Pa. native. "Nobody was really letting anybody run free."

Curtin, who traveled to D.C. straight from Colorado after a Wednesday night match against the Rapids, will get little rest before Fire coach Dave Sarachan turns to the 25-year-old for security in the defense.

"I don't really get a rest. I'm heading home to Philadelphia tonight," added Curtin. "A big busload of 60 people came down to see me, so I'm going to ride back up there with them and then get back to work on Monday. It feels like it never stops."

Though it won't stop, Curtin will finally get a break next weekend, as Chicago doesn't resume league play until Aug. 11 when they host the San Jose Earthquakes in a rematch of the 2003 MLS Cup Final.

GUEVARA CONTINUES HOT STREAK: MetroStars midfielder Amado Guevara continued his roll on Saturday, named Most Valuable Player after hitting for two goals and adding an assist. Guevara came in as the leader on the Budweiser Scoring Chart with 25 points, and just as he's done on all five chances this season, he converted from the penalty spot for the East's second goal.

But Guevara was taking no individual credit for his award, saying the makeup of the East squad helped provide the award and the East victory in the Honduras international's first All-Star Game appearance.

"I want to thank the coach [Nowak], the coaching staff and all my teammates who were here this afternoon because they're really great friends, great people, great teammates, and above all great soccer players," Guevara said. "I hope that things continue this way, because this league is getting better and better."

Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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