D.C. United sent its MLS rivals a clear warning on Saturday night, reminding all why they are the defending champs with a comprehensive 3-1 victory against the Columbus Crew.
Getting his second start of the 2005 season, 15-year-old Freddy Adu was the catalyst to United's first victory since the season opener, setting up two United goals within the first 10 minutes then sealing the match with a wonderful individual effort late.
D.C. got off to a roaring start, tallying a fifth-minute goal off their first meaningful attack of the match. Fullback Brandon Prideaux made a rare foray into attack, beating the Crew's offsides trap with a well-timed run that Christian Gomez rewarded with a through ball into space.
Prideaux looked somewhat unsure of himself as he bore down on Crew goalkeeper Jon Busch with volumes of time and space, but he was able to spin a soft shot past Busch that was goalbound, but too slow to beat a backtracking Chad Marshall.
Marshall did well to hook the ball off the line, but he couldn't hit it far enough to end the danger. Adu retrieved the ball just to the left of the Crew box and sent in a low cross that Jaime Moreno slotted home in clinical fashion from close range.
Mere moments later, Josh Gros brought the RFK crowd to its feet with a great individual effort, capped by a picture-perfect finish off a Ben Olsen cross. Adu slipped the ball between defenders to find Olsen on the right flank, and Gros had come steaming into the penalty area where he met Olsen's right-wing cross with a diving header that bulleted into the upper corner past Busch.
More dominating United possession created another great chance in the 26th minute when a poor Crew clearance rolled out to Simms, who curled a high cross to the far post that Frankie Hejduk misjudged on the bounce. The mistake was nearly punished by Moreno, who slapped a quick shot on goal, only to be blocked well by a late-arriving Chris Wingert.
Columbus should easily have cut the deficit in half in the 32nd minute when Mario Rodriguez played a give-and-go with Buddle at the top of the D.C. box, gashing open the home defense and setting up the Guatemalan for an easy finish. United 'keeper Rimando came up with a clutch save, but failed to knock the rebound out of danger, yet Rodriguez scuffed his second chance wide.
After the break, United let down and allowed the Crew to string together stretches of possession that they had found lacking in the first half. Rimando had to be alert in coming off his line to stop a quick succession of Crew half-chances in the 54th minute, first racing out to smother at Buddle's feet, then beating Glen to another loose ball just seconds later.
But the athletic netminder let the ball pop loose from his grasp and was fortunate not to give up a goal when Glen laid it off for Mediate to shoot on an empty net. The goalbound effort was blocked by a well-placed Bobby Boswell - just another chapter in the rookie's assured performance in central defense.
Mediate again had a good chance in the 67th minute, when he had a clear look at goal but saw his effort well saved by Rimando. But the former star from the nearby University of Maryland wasn't to be denied and still managed to mark his return to the capital area with a goal, as he met Buddle's flick-on in the box with a well-placed side volley to Rimando's right that quieted the crowd and gave Columbus hope with just more than 20 minutes left.
The Crew's resurgence proved short-lived, as Adu, pushed forward into a striker's role after Nowak brought Brian Carroll on for Eskandarian, added a smooth goal to his scoresheet moments later.
The young phenom received a long ball from Ben Olsen on the right deep in the Columbus box and left Wingert for dead with a quick cut to the left, then calmly finished with a low shot home off the base of the left post.
Mediate was proving to be one of the few bright spots in a dismal night for the men in gold, and he almost got an assist in the 74th minute with a pinpoint cross to a leaping Buddle in United's six-yard box. But the big striker was unable to keep his header down and a relieved Rimando watched it spin just over the crossbar.
Adu, trying to add to a confident, enthusiastic performance, took another crack at goal after cutting inside from the left channel, this time surprising all with a rare right-footed shot. But while the effort beat Busch, it caromed back off the left post.
In the dying moments, second half substitute Marcus Storey almost gave the visitors a late consolation gift when he drilled a full volley from long distance that whizzed past Rimando and rattled the crossbar, but bounced down and out, and United were home and dry.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Freddy Adu (D.C. United)
Charles Boehm is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
Columbus Crew (2-4-0) vs. D.C. United (2-2-2)
May 07, 2005 -- RFK Stadium
DC -- Jaime Moreno 3 (Freddy Adu 2) 5
DC -- Joshua Gros 2 (Ben Olsen 1, Freddy Adu 3) 9
CLB -- Domenic Mediate 1 (Edson Buddle 1, Danny Szetela 1) 69
DC -- Freddy Adu 1 (Ben Olsen 2) 71
Columbus Crew -- Jon Busch, Frankie Hejduk, Chris Wingert, Chad Marshall, Mario Rodriguez, Simon Elliott, Kyle Martino (Manny Lagos 78), Danny Szetela (Ante Razov 78), Domenic Mediate (Marcus Storey 76), Edson Buddle, Cornell Glen.
Substitutes Not Used: Bill Gaudette, Ryan Kelly.
TOTAL SHOTS: 16 (Domenic Mediate 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 9 (Domenic Mediate 3); FOULS: 17 (Frankie Hejduk 4); OFFSIDES: 1 (Edson Buddle 1); CORNER KICKS: 2 (Simon Elliott 2); SAVES: 3 (Jon Busch 2)
D.C. United -- Nick Rimando, Brandon Prideaux, Bobby Boswell, Mike Petke, Ben Olsen (Bryan Namoff 79), Freddy Adu, Christian Gomez, Clyde Simms, Joshua Gros (Dema Kovalenko 89), Alecko Eskandarian (Brian Carroll 68), Jaime Moreno.
Substitutes Not Used: Kenny Arena, Nana Kuffour, Troy Perkins, Santino Quaranta, Eliseo Quintanilla, Jamil Walker.
TOTAL SHOTS: 7 (3 tied with 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Freddy Adu 2, Jaime Moreno 2); FOULS: 18 (Bobby Boswell 3, Jaime Moreno 3); OFFSIDES: 1 (Jaime Moreno 1); CORNER KICKS: 1 (Freddy Adu 1); SAVES: 8 (Nick Rimando 8)
DC -- Joshua Gros (caution; Reckless Foul) 15
CLB -- Frankie Hejduk (caution; Pushing, Holding) 24
CLB -- Cornell Glen (caution; Tackle from Behind) 28
Referee: Kevin Stott
Referee's Assistants: Nathan Clement; Steven Taylor
4th Official: Marcel Yonan
Time of Game: 1:51
All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial