Needing a victory to stay in the hunt for a place in the MLS Cup Playoffs, the MetroStars narrowly escaped RFK Stadium with a 2-1 win against D.C. United on a rain-soaked night at RFK Stadium as Youri Djorkaeff scored the winning goal midway through the second half.
Sergio Galvan Rey -- starting in place of the suspended Ante Razov -- gave the MetroStars an early lead, but more freekick magic from Jaime Moreno equalized just before halftime. Then, Djorkaeff turned home a Seth Stammler centering pass to pull the MetroStars even with the Kansas City Wizards for fourth place in the Eastern Conference and the final available playoff spot.
The ninth minute saw the game's first real chance, and it was for the home side. Moreno poked a ball at the top of the box to teammate Freddy Adu, whose one-time left-footed rocket sailed wide left of the frame by the narrowest of margins.
The visitors countered with a solid chance of their own a minute later. Galvan Rey took a ball from the right side of the penalty box and chipped onrushing United 'keeper Nick Rimando. With the ball bouncing ominously toward goal, it was cleared off the line by defender Bryan Namoff in the nick of time.
The tireless Galvan Rey made good on the 17th minute, though, giving his team the always-precious opening goal. Midfield maestro Amado Guevara lofted a gorgeous ball from about 35 yards out, which died on the foot of Galvan Rey at the penalty spot, who snuck in behind the United defense all alone and poked a low shot past a surprised Rimando.
It was the Argentinean's seventh goal of the year, and Guevara's 11th assist put him alone in second place among the 2005 league leaders.
The home side stayed resolute, though, amassing the bulk of the scoring chances in the remainder of the first half and keeping most of the play in the final third of the field. Clever combination play by United in the 30th minute won a dangerous free kick right on the edge of the penalty area. Chirstian Gomez stepped up to take it, striking a screamer that was deflected and appeared to be headed into the goal, but instead bounced off the left post and back into play. Facundo Erpen's left-footed follow skipped left of the goal.
United had another quality opportunity only five minutes later, when Gomez found Dema Kovalenko all alone on the left side of the box. Kovalenko was overzealous, however, and put a forceful one-time try high and wide left of the pipes.
Gomez put the Metros on their heels again in the 40th minute when he darted down the left flank and drove a low shot onto goal that Metros' goalie Tony Meola turned away. Mere seconds later, Meola again stood tall, when he stymied Erpen after he quickly shot on the turn.
Meola had absolutely no chance at the equalizer, though, from literally the final kick before the first half expired. The Bolivian legend curled a free kick set up from the right side from some 20 yards out, into the upper left corner of the goal, past a clearly stunned Meola. The breathtaking goal was his 15th of the year, and moved Moreno within one goal of Taylor Twellman for the MLS Budweiser Golden Boot.
The opening minutes of the second half saw end-to-end action, with both teams able to penetrate the opposing defense. Guevara's ambitious try in the 50th minute from just outside the box nearly gave the visitors a one-goal advantage again, but caromed off the left post.
United also pushed forward countless times, looking like a team intent on getting the win at home and catching first-place New England. Adu possessed the ball on his left foot at the top of the box in the 60th minute and struck a low line drive that Meola sprawled out to save and keep the score tied.
As the second half progressed, tempers began to flare as desperation and yellow cards mounted for the visitors -- first for Jeff Agoos, then Stammler and finally Jason Hernandez.
But the MetroStars' aggressiveness finally paid off in the 68th minute, when Djorkaeff connected on his 10th goal of the year off a feed from second-half substitute Stammler. Stammler received a ball from Guevara on the right flank, and his second try at a cross after the first came right back skipped through the heart of the area to a streaking Djorkaeff, who first-timed it into the lower right corner of the goal past an outstretched Rimando.
United's Erpen gave the home crowd a flicker of hope they might draw even again in the 85th minute when he bicycle-kicked a Moreno cross, but Meola made the save with relative ease, and the Metros clung to their one-goal edge for the remainder of the match.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Amado Guevara (MetroStars)
Omar Garriott is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.