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Eastern Conference Championship

United, Crew looking to end slide

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RFK MEMORIAL STADIUM

WASHINGTON, D.C.

7:30 pm ET (CSN-DC; ONN)

The Eastern Conference rivals meet for the second time in three weeks with each anxious to rediscover their winning ways. D.C. United hasn't won since their season-opening triumph against Chivas USA - a stretch of six games in all competitions - though they stopped a two-game losing skid with a draw last weekend in the rematch of MLS Cup 2004. The Columbus Crew enter the match having lost their last two games and wondering where the offense has gone, having been shutout in each of their three losses on the campaign.

REFEREE: Kevin Stott. SAR (bench): Nate Clement; JAR (opposite): Steven Taylor; 4th: Marcel Yonan

MLS Career: 110 games; FC/gm: 26.8; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 29; pens: 19

Games involving United: P27 W15 L9 T3; FC/gm: 26.7; Y/gm: 3.3; R: 9; pens: 4

Games involving Crew: P13 W10 L1 T2; FC/gm: 25.8; Y/gm: 3.0; R: 3; pens: 2
INJURY REPORT: D.C. UNITED - OUT: MF Dema Kovalenko (Jones fracture); MF Steve Guppy (Achilles tendonitis), MF Nick Van Sicklen (quadriceps strain) ... COLUMBUS CREW - OUT: MF Devin Barclay (R shoulder separation); MF Duncan Oughton (R knee); MD Ross Paule (post-concussion syndrome); MF David Testo (L ankle sprain); DF Robin Fraser (L ankle sprain); PROBABLE: DF Stephen Herdsman (groin strain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: none
YELLOW PERIL: none

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (33 meetings): United 15 wins (5 shootout), 49 goals ... Crew 13 wins (0 shootout), 52 goals ... 5 draws
AT RFK STADIUM (16 meetings): United 11 wins (3 shootout), 32 goals ... Crew 3 wins (0 shootout), 21 goals ... 2 draws

• The bitter Eastern Conference rivals meet for the second time in four encounters this season. They'll meet for the second and final time at the Ohio State Fairgrounds on July 2. They'll then meet in the season finale for both teams, Oct. 15 on East Capitol Street.
LAST MEETING

• Edson Buddle scored his league-leading third goal of the season, then goalkeeper Jon Busch made sure it stood up to a late United onslaught as the Crew claimed a 1-0 victory at Crew Stadium on April 15. Buddle scored in the 26th minute after Simon Elliott drove in a free kick from the left corner where Buddle was able to hold off a host of United defenders before turning and slipping it home.

• But Busch made a number of world-class saves to preserve a second clean sheet at home for the Crew, one on Santino Quaranta in the first half and one on a Jaime Moreno header in the second that seemed certain to sneak inside the post - sandwiched around a remarkable save on teammate Ante Razov when he was trying to head clear on a free kick.

• Here's Greg Andrulis's team (3-4-1-2): Jon Busch - Ryan Kelly, Robin Fraser, Chad Marshall - Frankie Hejduk, Simon Elliott, Danny Szetela (Chris Wingert 83), David Testo (Domenic Mediate 54) - Kyle Martino (Manny Lagos 85) - Ante Razov, Edson Buddle

• Here's Peter Nowak's team (3-4-1-2): Troy Perkins - David Stokes, Bobby Boswell, Mike Petke - Joshua Gros, Brian Carroll (Christian Gomez 70), Clyde Simms, Steve Guppy (Alecko Eskandarian 60) - Freddy Adu - Santino Quaranta, Jamil Walker (Jaime Moreno 46)
HISTORY

• A year ago, the teams split their four-game season series. They played to a 1-1 draw on May 8 at RFK Stadium (Kovalenko 4 - Paule 90 pen), then United claimed a 3-1 home victory on June 19 (Moreno 6, Eskandarian 33, 45 - Lagos 90+)

• The teams then played to a 2-2 in the first of their Columbus matches on Aug. 21 (Oughton 42, Paule 54 - Eskandarian 35, Moreno 76 pen), before the Crew took a 1-0 victory on Sept. 25 at Crew Stadium (Sanneh 10).

• After losing seven consecutive league meetings through the 1999 season, the Crew have had the upper hand lately, winning nine of the last 17 regular season encounters (with five draws). The Crew had won the previous two season series before last year.

• Coaches record: Peter Nowak v CLB: P5 W1 L2 T2 ... Greg Andrulis vs. DC: P15 W8 L3 D4

D.C. UNITED

D.C. United saw their league winless string extended to four matches though they came away with a point from the rematch of MLS Cup 2004, playing to a scoreless draw with the New England Revolution. United are in a three-way tie at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with five points from five matches, equal with the MetroStars and Kansas City Wizards - the group now eight points adrift of the New England Revolution.

LAST MATCH

• The Wizards and United both righted some recent defensive woes as the teams played to a scoreless draw in the MLS Cup Final rematch.

• United entered the match having not won in their last five games in all competitions while the Wizards came in having leaked seven goals in their three games on the campaign, but both defenses held in a highly tactical stalemate. Chances were few and far between on the day, but the best of them belonged to the visitors, who tested Kansas City goalkeeper Bo Oshoniyi on a number of occasions.

• United head coach Peter Nowak made three changes to the team that suffered a 4-3 home loss to the New England Revolution the weekend before. Brandon Prideaux returned from injury to make his 2005 debut, in place of the injured David Stokes in the back, while Clyde Simms came into a reshuffled midfield. Santino Quaranta started up top in place of Alecko Eskandarian.

• "We presented ourselves in very good defensive shape today. We won the 50/50 balls all day. I'm not yet happy with our finishing, but we'll continue to work on that," Nowak said.

• Here's Nowak's team (3-4-1-2): Nick Rimando - Brandon Prideaux, Bobby Boswell, Mike Petke - Ben Olsen, Brian Carroll, Clyde Simms, Joshua Gros - Christian Gomez (Freddy Adu 77) - Santino Quaranta (Jason Thompson 89), Jaime Moreno (Jamil Walker 89).

• "We played better than Kansas City and I had two or three chances, but it was a good point," said Gomez. "We came to get three points, but it's hard to break them down when they have four in the back and they never move from there."
TEAM NEWS

• It was the first clean sheet for United since opening the campaign with a 2-0 victory against Chivas USA - and then allowed 12 goals in five games in all competitions before the scoreless draw in K.C. "We've taken a lot of crap," defender Mike Petke said to The Washington Post. "People don't care that we have a rookie [Bobby Boswell] anchoring the middle. We've had different guys shuffle in there and nothing's been steady. Today was important for us to come out and play well. I don't want people praising us now because who knows what's going to happen, but it was a good thing for us to build on."

• Alecko Eskandarian has been taking his share of public criticism for perceived missed chances. He didn't play against the Wizards - the first match he has not figured in this season. "It kind of (stinks), because I want to live up to the expectations and be playing at the top of my game, but regardless of what's going on, people are always going to be talking and I can't let that get to my head," he said to the Kansas City Star. "I've got to stay on the track I'm going and try and prove it each game."

• Freddy Adu was another late substitute, and nearly decided the match. He started only the away match against Columbus and has had late chances to snatch a result, but still has to open his United account this season. "It's been a pretty good couple weeks," Nowak said to The Washington Post. "We need to be patient. He's doing better, but defensively and the whole package that we want to create with him, it's not there. In time, in time. Is he supposed to be a starter? I don't think so."

• Adu will be available for Nowak for just the next two league matches, after which he will join the U.S. national team and the under-20 national team as he prepares for the FIFA World Youth Championship in Holland in June.

COLUMBUS CREW

The Columbus Crew lost for the second consecutive match and the first time at home this season, falling 2-0 to the Chicago Fire on Saturday at Crew Stadium. The Crew are still in third place in the Eastern Conference with six points from five matches, four behind the second-place Fire and seven out of first place behind leaders New England Revolution.

LAST MATCH

• Justin Mapp caused the home side fits as the visiting Fire remained in second place in the Eastern Conference. He gave Chicago the lead after just 14 minutes drifting across the top of the area from the right before unleashing a wicked low blast inside the left corner of Jon Busch's goal.

• Then in the second half a defensive miscue doubled the Fire lead. Pressure caused Columbus captain Robin Fraser to lose the ball in his own penalty area, and rookie Chris Rolfe quickly punished the error in pounding a shot past Busch for his second goal on the season (69).

• Crew boss Greg Andrulis made two changes to the team that lost 2-0 to the Colorado Rapids the previous weekend in Denver. Mark Schulte returned to the starting lineup in the back in place of Ryan Kelly, while Chris Wingert came into central midfield and Danny Szetela moved wide, with Mario Rodriguez suspended after his red card in Colorado.

• Here's Andrulis's team (3-4-1-2): Jon Busch - Mark Schulte (Cornell Glen 46), Robin Fraser, Chad Marshall - Danny Szetela (Marcus Storey 79), Simon Elliott, Chris Wingert, Frankie Hejduk - Kyle Martino (Jamal Sutton 86) - Edson Buddle, Ante Razov
TEAM NEWS

• With the Crew now having gone more than four hours since scoring a goal, Andrulis has not been pleased with the club's cohesiveness in attack. "Offensively, we're still not linking in, not taking advantage of the transition that happens in the midfield," he said. "The ball has got to get forward quicker. We're going square and back. We need to be going forward."

• Stephen Herdsman was expected to start at right back, but he was kept out of the team in a late decision. "He said he felt some tightness after practice Friday," Andrulis said. " We've got to be cautious at this point of the season. After everything he has gone through, it would be a shame to blow it now." Herdsman hasn't played for the club since last July 20, when he suffered a left quadriceps strain in a U.S. Open Cup match.

• Andrulis is expected to make a few changes in his team this week. Frankie Hejduk has trained at right back - where Ryan Kelly and Mark Schulte have shared the time this season. That will allow Guatemala international Mario Rodriguez to return to the right side of midfield. "Mario is an out and out attacking player who can still get it done defensively," Andrulis said. "Clearly he'll help. He's constantly trying to stretch the field."

• There could also be a place for Cornell Glen, who came in wide in the midfield at halftime against the Fire. "We felt that we needed to get some pace out there and try to get something going offensively. We thought it was a little stagnant again," said Andrulis. "We weren't getting the ball forward fast enough. Putting a guy like Cornell with that kind of pace out there in a wide position, we thought we had a good matchup.


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