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RFK MEMORIAL STADIUM
7:30 pm ET (CSN-DC; Altitude)
Back in second place in the Eastern Conference, D.C. United return to league responsibilities for the weekend in the midst of a grueling stretch of intercontinental play. At midweek United drew in the first leg of their Copa Sudamericana round-of-16 series; they head to Chile for the return match next week. The Colorado Rapids come to the nation's capital having seen their five-match unbeaten run ended last weekend, but could still see their place in the MLS Cup Playoffs move within a victory of clinching if they defeat United and Real Salt Lake loses to FC Dallas.
REFEREE: Hilario Grajeda. SAR (bench): George Gansner; JAR (opposite): C.J. Morgante; 4th: Ben Jones
MLS Career: 6 games; FC/gm: 35.5; Y/gm: 3.0; R: 2; pens: 2
Games involving United: first game
Games involving FC Dallas: P1 W1 L0 T0; FC/gm: 26.0; Y/gm: 3.0; R: 0; pens: 0
INJURY REPORT: D.C. UNITED - OUT: FW Alecko Eskandarian (concussion); DF David Stokes (ankle surgery); DF Kenny Arena (first metatarsal) ... COLORADO RAPIDS - OUT: MF Matt Crawford (R hip strain); DOUBTFUL: MF Leo Cullen (L knee sprain); PROBABLE: GK Joe Cannon (L abdominal strain); DF Dan Gargan (R hamstring strain)
SUSPENDED: COL: Nat Borchers (through Sept. 18)
WARNINGS: DC: Christian Gomez (20 CP); Facundo Erpen (10 CP in 2 gms) ... COL: Alain Nkong (8 add'l CP), Hunter Freeman (19 CP)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
The teams are meeting for the second time this season in league play, their only meeting set for East Capitol Street, just two weeks after they met for the first time this year when the Rapids won 2-0 in Denver.
ALL-TIME (23 meetings): United 11 wins (2 shootout), 41 goals ... Rapids 7 wins (1 shootout), 30 goals ... 5 draws
AT RFK STADIUM: (11 meetings): United 6 wins (1 shootout), 22 goals ... Rapids 2 wins (1 shootout), 11 goals ... 3 draws
The Colorado Rapids extended their unbeaten streak to five matches, posting a shutout for the third time in four games with a 1-0 victory against United on Sept. 3 as they 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.
Here's Clavijo's team (4-3-1-2): Joe Cannon - Hunter Freeman, Nat Borchers, Mike Petke, Ritchie Kotschau - Terry Cooke, Kyle Beckerman, Eric Denton - Luchi Gonzalez (David Ben Dayan 61) - Dan Gargan (Fabrice Noel 75), Jean-Philippe Peguero
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
A year ago, the teams evenly split their season series, each winning one of their three encounters with the third a draw.
The Rapids won the lone match in Denver, a 2-1 victory on May 22 (Roberts 13, Peguero 51 - Gros 48). The teams then played to a scoreless draw in their first meeting at RFK Stadium on June 12, United claiming a 3-1 victory on East Capitol Street on Aug. 11 (Adu 35, Stewart 40, og 64 - Spencer 73)
The Rapids victory in the first meeting a year ago was their first in five games in the series, since the first meeting in the 2002 campaign.
The two teams of course met in MLS Cup 1997, a 2-1 victory for United before a sellout crowd of 57,431 at a rain-soaked RFK Stadium.
Coaches record: Peter Nowak vs. DC: P4 W1 L2 D1 ... Fernando Clavijo v DC: P9 W5 L4 T0
D.C. United moved back into second place in the Eastern Conference while FC Dallas saw their winless streak reach 10 games - two shy of the MLS record - and remained winless after five games in their home as they fell to third in the West.
Defender Facundo Erpen scored his MLS goal - in his first game at the center of the United back three - giving D.C. a 15th-minute lead with a wild left-footed side-volley from a corner kick.
United then doubled their lead in the 72nd minute, Nick Rimando spying Jamil Walker on the left flank behind the FCD defense and hitting him with a long clearance. Walker then drove a low center into the goalmouth where Santino Quaranta turned it home.
Ramon Nuñez pulled a goal back for the Hoops three minutes from the end when he hit a looping, dipping shot from long distance after a long run up the center of the park that sailed over the outstretched hand of Rimando.
United head coach Peter Nowak made three changes to the team that lost to the Colorado Rapids 1-0 in Denver the week before. John Wilson came into the back three for Bobby Boswell as Facundo Erpen moved to the center for the first time as a starter with United. Josh Gros returned from suspension but simply replaced the banned Ben Olsen as Bryan Namoff moved into a central midfield role, while Jamil Walker came in to partner Freddy Adu in attack in replacing the suspended Jaime Moreno.
Here's Nowak's team (3-4-1-2): Nick Rimando - Brandon Prideaux, Facundo Erpen, John Wilson - Joshua Gros, Bryan Namoff, Brian Carroll, Dema Kovalenko - Christian Gomez - Freddy Adu (Santino Quaranta 62), Jamil Walker (Clyde Simms 89).
"We did a great job defending the ball today. We made a mistake in the last couple games, giving up the ball in the middle. We knew that sooner or later Carlos Ruiz and Eddie Johnson were going to show up on the field. We knew that we had to make adjustments," Nowak said. "Except for the late goal, we put pressure on the ball and did a great job. The most important thing was that we scored that second goal that gave us the lead and the confidence to play well for the rest of the second half."
D.C. United returned to their winning ways and again took over second place in the Eastern Conference with a 2-1 victory against FC Dallas in their first-ever trip to Pizza Hut Park. United now have 44 points from 27 matches, two ahead of the third-place tie between the Kansas City Wizards and Chicago Fire, seven points behind division leader New England Revolution.
Signed a few weeks ago as the potential final piece to the puzzle to bring D.C. United back to the MLS Cup Final, Facundo Erpen made the most of his first start for the team in the center of defense.
"We know when we signed Facundo here he was going to be a great defender," said Nowak. "We had to play him in the first couple of weeks at a different position, as a sweeper. We had to insist on him communicating. That's why he played a couple of games as a marker. Right now, he goes back to his natural position. I think he did very well today in communicating with the guys in the front and the back."
Nick Rimando was one of the heroes as he came up big on several occasions. "Nick had a great game," said the coach. "You cannot win the game if the goalkeeper does not make those saves - this is important for his confidence."
Rimando also played a part in the vital second goal for United - though it didn't come without controversy. FC Dallas claimed center back Clarence Goodson was on the ground injured, and instead Rimando drove the ball upfield, finding Jamil Walker on the left flank. His low cross was turned into the goal by Santino Quaranta for United's second.
"I can't believe Bobby Rhine didn't see him [Jamil Walker] on the sideline and when the ref blew the whistle I just tried to hit a good enough ball to Jamil," Rimando said. "I thought he was going to go in but he gave a great touch and played the ball to Santino in the middle."
On Tuesday, United and Universidad Catolica ended the first leg of their round-of-16 series in the Nissan Copa Sudamericana all even, after the teams played to a 1-1 draw.
Catolica scored in first-half stoppage time, Eduardo Rubio getting onto the end of a long ball between a trio of United defenders and poking it over the advancing Rimando. But substitute Jamil Walker hit for the equalizer nine minutes from time, scrapping his way through a defender and knocking the ball home.
"The goal before halftime was very discouraging for everyone. We are supposed to have at this point [in the game] a couple of goals, but we are solid now at the international level - you have to play faster," Nowak said. Catolica did a great job going forward with one, two touches."
Here's Nowak's team: Nick Rimando, Bryan Namoff, Facundo Erpen, Brandon Prideaux (John Wilson 82), Joshua Gros (Freddy Adu 69), Brian Carroll, Christian Gomez, Ben Olsen (Jamil Walker 46), Dema Kovalenko, Jaime Moreno, Santino Quaranta.
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).
On Friday, the club announced the signing of Stephen deRoux to a developmental contract. A local product, from High Point H.S. in suburban Maryland, deRoux was discovered in an invitation-only amateur tryout. Defender David Stokes was placed on season-ending injury reserve.
The Galaxy moved ahead of FC Dallas into second place in the West with a dominant performance of their own against a 10-man Rapids team. Herculez Gomez scored a goal in each half as the Galaxy were two goals and a man up barely a quarter of the way through the match.
Gomez sent the Galaxy on their way, scoring after just seven minutes when he stole the ball back from Rapids defender Hunter Freeman - who had stripped Gomez in the Colorado box - and powered home a finish over 'keeper Joe Cannon.
Colorado center back Nat Borchers was booked twice in the opening 21 minutes - once for a foul on Gomez, once for a foul on Landon Donovan - and just after his 21st-minute expulsion Donovan doubled the Galaxy lead. Cobi Jones whipped in a cross from the right corner that Donovan finished with a glancing header at the near post (24).
Kyle Beckerman gave the Rapids life three minutes after the second-half restart, pounding a cleared cross home from well outside the area that beat Kevin Hartman, but Gomez restored the two-goal margin in the 66th minute when he was set free on a long breakaway and slipped the ball under Cannon after racing away from the Rapids rearguard.
Guillermo Ramirez finally scored his first MLS goal three minutes from time from the penalty spot - but it didn't come without drama. His spot kick went to Cannon's right and sent the 'keeper the wrong way. But it hit the post - yet deflected off Cannon's back and into the back of the net.
Rapids head coach Fernando Clavijo made one change to the team that knocked off D.C. United at home the weekend before. Dedi Ben Dayan came to an attacking role in place of Jean-Philippe Peguero.
Here's Clavijo's team (4-4-1-1): Joe Cannon - Hunter Freeman (Fabrice Noel 73), Nat Borchers, Mike Petke, Ritchie Kotschau - Terry Cooke, Kyle Beckerman, Dan Gargan, Eric Denton - David Ben Dayan (Pablo Mastroeni 30) - Luchi Gonzalez (Jeff Cunningham 46)
"We make some individual mistakes that cost us the game, but I'm looking forward to playing the Galaxy again, 11-v-11, without any red cards, with no penalties," Clavijo said. "We get the red card and that changes the game. It was crucial."
The Colorado Rapids saw their unbeaten run smashed at five matches, falling 4-1 to the Los Angeles Galaxy last Saturday night at The Home Depot Center. The Rapids are still in fourth place in the Western Conference with 31 points from 25 matches, their playoff ambitions still in good shape as they lead fifth-place Real Salt Lake by 12 points, now five points out of third place held by FC Dallas.
The four goals allowed by the Rapids was a season-high. "Those first two goals, I think we got to hold ourselves to a higher standard. I take all the blame for the first one. I probably should've just kicked it out. I just tried to take a touch and clear it and then it got caught underneath me," fullback Hunter Freeman said. "The second goal, there's one or two guys who were there. We had guys in position. I don't know if there was miscommunication or what. Having to play 70 minutes down a man, you're already chasing the game. It could have been worse."
Clavijo chose to start 11-goal man Jeff Cunningham and central midfielder Pablo Mastroeni on the bench. Both participated in the USA's World Cup qualifier Wednesday at Guatemala along with Donovan and Chris Albright, who both started for the Galaxy. Donovan went the full 90 minutes.
"Pablo hasn't played much for us. Injury is always an issue with him," Clavijo said, adding that Cunningham "hasn't been with the team for the last month, with all the MLS stuff in going to Spain (for the match against Real Madrid) and the World Cup qualifying."
With Colorado's 12-point cushion on Real Salt Lake for the conference's fourth, and final, playoff berth, the Galaxy match was about playoff positioning. The Rapids are eight points behind the Galaxy for third, though they have two matches in hand on L.A. and play Real Salt Lake three times and fellow MLS expansion side Chivas USA twice more among their final seven matches.
"It doesn't matter who we play," Clavijo said. "You have to play them all to get there. San Jose, when they play at Spartan Stadium, that's a completely different game so they may be a little more difficult."
During the week, the Rapids added to their stable of forwards when they acquired Jovan Kirovski from the Galaxy and brought Diego Serna back into the league. Kirovski was acquired for a first-round pick in the 2007 MLS SuperDraft, while Serna was last with Deportes Quindio in Colombia. Kirovski will be with the Rapids this weekend, while Serna will have to wait for his immigration paperwork to clear in order to be able to play.
"Anytime you have an opportunity to bring players of this caliber, you have to pull the trigger right away," Rapids coach Fernando Clavijo said.
Clavijo also expects midfielder Alain Nkong to be ready after having missed the past two games because of "personal and private" issues in Cameroon. "We have talked to him every day and he has played games, 90 minutes every weekend," Clavijo said to the Denver Post. "They are not professional games, but he is fit."
On Friday, the Rapids acquired the rights to Haitian international striker Alexandre Boucicaut from the Chicago Fire for a fourth-round pick in the 2006 MLS Supplemental Draft. To make room for Boucicaut, the club placed midfielder Marcus Sagastume on waivers.