What a way to end the season

There was much to celebrate for United on Sunday.

Photo Credit: 
Steve Grayson/MLS/WireImage.com

a 25-yard strike that skipped past Nick Rimando. The first 10 minutes K.C. looked alive, mixing long balls with some short passes. Defensively they clogged up the middle and D.C. was struggling.

But then something small happened that became quite large. Goalkeeper Bo Oshoniyi scuffed a goal kick. The ball went harmlessly out of bounds. Then he did it again. The United supporters directly behind his goal took this as a cue to increase their shouting and taunting of Bo. Nervousness seemed to creep into the Wizards game. D.C. United started to combine and the running off the ball improved.

And before you knew it, 1-1. A great pass by Brian Carroll and a wonderful finish by Alecko Eskandarian. But I need to ask a question: Who allowed the United fans to sit directly behind the goal and put the K.C. fans into the corner? In regards to fairness this was not fair. Either put both fan groups behind opposite goals, or sit them both in opposite corners. But, you cannot put one behind a goal and the other in the corner.

Then minutes later on a soft throw-in Jimmy Conrad gets the ball blocked -- and it looked a lot like a handball. The ball falls to Alecko Eskandarian and he makes it 2-1. Then Earnie Stewart bursts down the right side, drives in a cross, Zotinca beats his mark to the ball and beats his goalkeeper for an own goal.

D.C. turned 20 minutes of dominance into three goals. In a soccer game every team has their moments. The key is to score when you dominate and not get scored on when the opponent controls the game. The Wizards failed in this mission.

Coach Bob Gansler had Khari Stephenson change sides with Jack Jewsbury, tried to play forward quickly but all to no avail. United was passing well and when Jaime Moreno, Christian Gomez and Eskandarian started to run at defenders it caused the Wizards to become unbalanced. Momentum had swung their way. Diego Gutierrez could not find the ball and together with Kerry Zavagnin was too deep, one needed to step up. Neither Wolff nor Arnaud could find space in front of the back three of United. Stephenson got space on the left but did not make good use of it.

With halftime came the substitution of Igor Simutenkov for Stephenson. It seemed to pay dividends as the Wizards bombarded the goal after a corner and Dema Kovalenko saved a shot with his hand. Penalty kick, red card and game on -- scoreline 3-2.

Certainly, the all-out assault would come now. Arnaud worked hard, there were some crosses from the flanks but the assault never came. United retreated quickly, K.C. attacked slowly and therefore the defending third was always packed. Stewart, Moreno and later Freddy Adu with support from Olsen would dribble with the ball, kill time and give their defense a needed breather. At the same time coming close to launching successful counters.

On came Matt Taylor and later Diego Walsh for the Wizards. Taylor looked uncomfortable on the left, but Walsh provided a nice spark. Simutenkov seemed almost uninterested. High balls in the box was often their only attack and without a huge aerial presence, not very successful.

I have seen K.C play often and I know they would want to play this one again. The nervousness that crept into their game in the first half and the slowness of the attack in the second half is not normal for them. Most all of their players were under their best form.

D.C. United had a great 25 minutes and then played intelligently to guide the team to their fourth title. They scored when they dominated and the cool and cleverness of Moreno, Ben Olsen and others took over in the second half. They could have been had, but not on this day -- and not with what the Wizards were bringing.

Nine championship games and four titles for D.C. United. Congratulations to them and their fans that were an important part of Sunday's match. If I was still with the Galaxy maybe the ... no, I better leave that one alone. Celebrate and enjoy the occasion. Another final with goals and drama -- may that long continue.

Sigi Schmid is one of the winningest coaches in MLS history, having led the Los Angeles Galaxy to four honors in his five-plus years at the helm, including the 2002 MLS Cup championship. Send comments to Sigi at sigischmid@hotmail.com. Views and opinions expressed in this column views and opinions are the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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