Ninety minutes of uninspired play can easily be forgiven for one moment of brilliance, and Freddy Adu did just that on Saturday afternoon, providing the match's only goal with a 20-yard strike in second half stoppage time as D.C. United defeated the Los Angeles Galaxy at The Home Depot Center.
It was a textbook road result carved out by the MLS Cup holders as they became the first MLS team to beat the Galaxy at home this season, keeping it tight in the back and only taking the offensive initiative when the opportunity presented itself. United have five wins and three draws in their last 10 matches.
The 16-year-old chased down a header won by D.C. defender Brandon Prideaux about 45 yards out, before dribbling by and then shaking off the defensive challenge from Galaxy rookie defender Ugo Ihemelu. Drifting left, Adu created the space in front of defender Tyrone Marshall to rocket a left-foot shot that slightly deflected off Marshall's leg and past goalkeeper Kevin Hartman into the top, left corner of the net.
As is customary with United's philosophy away from home -- the team has allowed only seven goals in nine away fixtures -- they took almost no chances in throwing numbers forward out of their 3-5-2 setup, as evidence of D.C.'s inability to put a shot on the frame in the first half. United coach Peter Nowak made no changes to his starting team for the third consecutive match.
Left winger Joshua Gros sat back to watch Cobi Jones' wide runs in the first half before switching flanks with Dema Kovalenko after the break. Central midfielders Clyde Simms and Brian Carroll carried out their duties with a defensive posture, bracing for the Galaxy's offensive buildup on their expansive home pitch.
The Galaxy, again without the premium services of Landon Donovan, pressed with the attack in the first 10 minutes with striker Herculez Gomez at the forefront. In the first eight minutes, he latched onto a header that sailed wide and cleanly hit a left-footed volley off Todd Dunivant's left-sided cross that flew a yard wide of the far, right goalpost.
The best opportunity of the half fell to Jones, who was played into the penalty area by Gomez on a quick transition from midfield. Gros fell in trying to hold off Jones, leaving Jones to casually fly a point-blank shot from near the penalty spot well over the crossbar as he tried to chip United 'keeper Nick Rimando, who was well off his line.
Interestingly enough, Gros was United's most prominent first-half presence in the area as he had an early header and a 35th-minute volley from Kovalenko's switching ball into the area sail harmlessly wide.
Adu took United's sole first-half corner kick in the 29th minute. It was dangerously flicked on to the top of the 6-yard box by a Galaxy defender to Jaime Moreno, who could not react in time and glanced a header over the bar.
The match desperately yearned for a goal and, consequently, opened up more around the hour mark. Jones lofted a curling ball in front of Gomez down the right flank in the 58th minute. Gomez beat United's John Wilson to the ball and got behind him, but the defender recovered to slide from behind and slightly catch the right ankle of Gomez at the last minute, disrupting Gomez's shot.
A minute later, Galaxy midfielder Peter Vagenas launched a far-post corner kick that Rimando could not get out to beyond the far post, but Chris Albright's header looped over the bar and onto the roof of the net.
As the final quarter of the match came into view, United started to have their best spells. Christian Gomez was played through the center forward channel on goal, only to lose the ball when poking it around an onrushing Hartman. D.C. then wasted three corners in the next two minutes, only managing to create a steep-angled shot for Moreno.
Adu had a 28-yard free kick dip late and over the top, right corner in the 66th minute. Twenty minutes later, Simms took a chance with a speculative shot outside the area and from straightaway, but it rolled past a diving Hartman and wide left by a yard.
Speedy forward Jamil Walker, who came on for Gomez in the 71st minute, put a hard shot right on Hartman as stoppage time began for his only look at goal and United's first attempt on target for the match.
It seemed to be a match destined for a scoreless draw, but Walker's chance turned out to be a foreshadowing of what was to come. Namely, Adu's magic moment.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Freddy Adu (D.C. United)
D.C. United (8-6-5) vs. Los Angeles Galaxy (8-7-4)
July 23, 2005 -- The Home Depot Center
DC -- Freddy Adu 2 (unassisted) 92+
D.C. United -- Nick Rimando, Brandon Prideaux, Bobby Boswell, John Wilson, Dema Kovalenko, Brian Carroll, Christian Gomez (Jamil Walker 71), Clyde Simms, Joshua Gros, Freddy Adu, Jaime Moreno (Shawn Kuykendall 90).
Substitutes Not Used: Kenny Arena, Steve Guppy, Troy Perkins.
TOTAL SHOTS: 13 (Dema Kovalenko 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 2 (Freddy Adu 1, Jamil Walker 1); FOULS: 19 (Brian Carroll 4, Jaime Moreno 4); OFFSIDES: 0; CORNER KICKS: 4 (Freddy Adu 3); SAVES: 2 (Nick Rimando 2)
Los Angeles Galaxy -- Kevin Hartman, Chris Albright, Ugo Ihemelu, Tyrone Marshall, Todd Dunivant, Cobi Jones, Paulo Nagamura, Peter Vagenas, Guillermo Ramirez (Joseph Ngwenya 63), Alan Gordon (Michael Enfield 46), Herculez Gomez.
Substitutes Not Used: Pablo Chinchilla, Mubarike Chisoni, Steve Cronin, Ednaldo da Conceicao, Ned Grabavoy, Troy Roberts, Michael Umana.
TOTAL SHOTS: 8 (Chris Albright 2, Herculez Gomez 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 2 (Joseph Ngwenya 1, Guillermo Ramirez 1); FOULS: 16 (Herculez Gomez 3, Peter Vagenas 3); OFFSIDES: 2 (Herculez Gomez 1, Joseph Ngwenya 1); CORNER KICKS: 4 (Peter Vagenas 3); SAVES: 1 (Kevin Hartman 1)
DC -- Bobby Boswell (caution; Professional Foul) 12
DC -- Jaime Moreno (caution; Reckless Foul) 45
DC -- Christian Gomez (caution; Diving, Exaggeration) 60
LA -- Tyrone Marshall (caution; Professional Foul) 76
Referee: Kevin Stott
Referee's Assistants: Steven Davidson; David Bragg
4th Official: Ramon Hernandez
All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial