Thanks to an own goal, Ben Olsen's first two goals of the year and some Jaime Moreno magic, D.C. United officially clinched a spot in the MLS playoffs with a 4-1 win Saturday night at Giants Stadium. And in doing so, the defending MLS Cup champions dealt rival MetroStars' playoff hopes a crushing blow.
United, playing their first MLS game since a 2-0 win against Colorado on Sept. 17, rallied from a halftime deficit to score two goals in the opening 10 minutes of the second half and a pair of goals in a two-minute span to punch their postseason ticket.
D.C. head coach Peter Nowak made one change at the half, bringing on Jamil Walker for Santino Quaranta. And two minutes later United tied the game on an own goal.
Dema Kovalenko broke free down the left side and sent the ball towards the net, in an apparent attempt to find Walker at the far post. But MetroStars defender Jeff Agoos slid in, nearly colliding with goalkeeper Tony Meola, and inadvertently tapped the ball into the net.
D.C. United took a 2-1 lead on an open Olsen header. Josh Gros slid the ball to his right to Walker, who took two touches on the ball and whipped the ball into the box where Olsen leapt between a pair of defenders to nod the ball past Meola.
In the 71st minute Metros coach Bob Bradley switched to three defenders, replacing Chris Leitch with Sergio Galvan Rey in a desperate attempt to net the equalizer. Galvan Rey found the back of the net in the 80th minute but he was ruled offside on the play.P Instead it was D.C. that put two more goals in the net. First it was Olsen finishing a sublime service by Moreno in the 85th minute and two minutes later Moreno put an exclamation point on the rout by taking on nearly the entire Metros backline, including nutmegging Agoos, and slotting the ball past Meola.
The Metros took a 1-0 lead in the 19th minute off a Mark Lisi free kick. Lisi slid the ball to his left to Youri Djorkaeff and the Metros captain crossed the ball in front of the net, where Mike Magee headed in his fifth goal of the year from eight yards out.
Five minutes later United 'keeper Nick Rimando nearly handed a second goal over to the Metros - literally. Perhaps confused with the football lines on the field, Rimando handled the ball about three yards outside the 18-yard box. But Djorkaeff's free kick sailed over the crossbar.
United's best scoring chance of the first half came in the 27th minute when Meola dived to his right to stop Moreno's shot from 20 yards out. Moreno had an opportunity in the 18th minute as well, when he received Kovalenko's cross on the right side of the box. But his shot from 14 yards out was saved by Meola.
With Amado Guevara sitting out a one-game suspension because of an accumulation of caution points, Lisi got the nod in the midfield and was the lone change from the Metros starting 11 against New England last week.
United made a switch up top with Freddy Adu replacing Christian Gomez, who was also serving a one-game ban for caution points. Gomez spent much of the match banging the drum with the D.C. supporters at Giants Stadium.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Ben Olsen (D.C. United)
Dylan Butler is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.