RFK MEMORIAL STADIUM
7:30 pm ET (FSC; CSN-DC; FSN-W)
D.C. United end a three-game home run riding a four-match winning streak that began the first time they faced the Los Angeles Galaxy this year, a 1-0 victory on July 23 at The Home Depot Center. United have lost just twice in 13 games since the start of June, but face six of their next seven games on the road after the Galaxy match. The road hasn't been kind for the Galaxy, who while still in third place in the Western Conference are sporting just a .500 record overall and haven't won away from the Los Angeles area since last June.
REFEREE: Jair Marrufo. SAR (bench): Greg Barkey; JAR (opposite): Jorge de la Bandera; 4th: Andrew Chapin
MLS Career: 34 games; FC/gm: 31.0; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 7; pens: 17
Games involving D.C. United: P9 W6 L1 T2; FC/gm: 35.0; Y/gm: 4.3; R: 2; pens: 4
Games involving Galaxy: P8 W5 L3 T0; FC/gm: 32.4; Y/gm: 4.3; R: 2; pens: 5
INJURY REPORT: D.C. UNITED - OUT: FW Alecko Eskandarian (concussion); DF David Stokes (ankle sprain); QUESTIONABLE: FW Freddy Adu (MCL sprain); MF Ben Olsen (strained oblique) ... LOS ANGELES GALAXY - QUESTIONABLE: DF Ben Benditson (sports hernia)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
WARNINGS: DC: Josh Gros (20 CP) ... LA: Chris Albright (19 CP)
ALL-TIME (25 meetings): United 11 wins (1 shootout), 31 goals ... Galaxy 12 wins (0 shootout), 36 goals ... 2 draws
AT RFK STADIUM (13 meetings): United 6 wins (0 shootout), 20 goals ... Galaxy 6 wins (0 shootout), 22 goals ... 1 draw
This is the second of two meetings this season in the cross-country rivalry that dates from the inaugural MLS season, their only encounter set for RFK Stadium.
On the final weekend before the All-Star break, a dramatic Freddy Adu goal gave United a 1-0 win against the Los Angeles Galaxy at The Home Depot Center on July 23. It was the Galaxy's first loss at home this season.
D.C. United's impeccable match management closed down the Los Angeles Galaxy for 90 minutes on a blistering-hot day before a moment of Adu magic gave them the full three points and handed Steve Sampson his first-ever home loss since taking over the club.
Two minutes into stoppage time, Adu chased down a header won by D.C. defender Brandon Prideaux before dribbling by and shaking off the challenge from the Galaxy's Ugo Ihemelu. Drifting left, Adu then created the space in front of defender Tyrone Marshall to rocket a shot that slightly deflected off Marshall's leg and past goalkeeper Kevin Hartman into the upper corner.
Here's Sampson's team (4-4-2): 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
Here's Peter Nowak's team (3-4-1-2): Nick Rimando - Brandon Prideaux, Bobby Boswell, John Wilson - Dema Kovalenko, Brian Carroll, Clyde Simms, Joshua Gros - Christian Gomez (Jamil Walker 71) - Freddy Adu, Jaime Moreno (Shawn Kuykendall 89)
A year ago, the teams played to two 1-1 draws - one at each ground - while the Galaxy won a wild 4-2 contest on May 19 at RFK Stadium. They played to a 1-1 draw first in Carson on April 10 with a dramatic Carlos Ruiz equalizer (Ruiz 85 - Cerritos 68 pen).
In the first game at RFK Stadium, Alejandro Moreno scored the second-fastest hat trick in MLS history - all set up by Andreas Herzog (Cerritos 46+, Adu 67 - Moreno 35, 39, 43; Ngwenya 44). The feat was second to another Galaxy performance, when Harut Karapetyan scored three goals in five minutes in a Los Angeles 8-1 victory at Dallas on June 4, 1998. In addition, for Moreno, it was five goals on five consecutive shots on the year, the first player in MLS history to achieve that feat. The four goals in nine minutes were the quickest ever allowed by United.
Then on July 17 on East Capitol Street, the teams again played to a 1-1 draw as the Galaxy grabbed the equalizer on a controversial penalty (Nelsen 47+ - Ruiz 66 pen).
Five of the last seven matches in the series have ended tied after 90 minutes - two of the three last year, then the previous before that (and nearly the first meeting this year). Both meetings in 2002 were ended with golden goals, the Galaxy's 2-1 win at home on March 23 from Ruiz, and United's 1-0 win in Washington on June 29 (Bobby Convey).
The teams have of course played in two MLS Cup Finals, both won by D.C. United (1996: 3-2 aet; 1999: 2-0).
Coaches record: Steve Sampson vs. DC: P1 W0 L1 D0... Peter Nowak v LA: P4 W1 L1 D2
D.C. United extended their winning streak to four matches and unbeaten run to six, again with a dominating victory, this time a 3-0 result against Chivas USA last Saturday afternoon. But United gained no ground in the Eastern Conference as the top five teams in the division all won, still tied for third place in the East with the Kansas City Wizards with 38 points from 22 matches, one behind the Chicago Fire, four out of first place but six ahead of fifth-place MetroStars.
D.C. United carved open the Chivas USA defense for a comprehensive 3-0 victory, the fourth consecutive victory for the defending MLS Cup champion, third in a row where they scored three goals and second in a row by a 3-0 scoreline.
United struck for two goals in a three-minute span just before the halftime break to take command of the match. In the 41st minute, central defender Bobby Boswell came racing forward out of the back, played a nifty one-two with Christian Gomez before sliding the ball into the goalmouth where Santino Quaranta raced in to tap home.
Then Jamil Walker continued his run of form, racing in behind the Chivas defense to latch onto a Dema Kovalenko pass from the left flank, clinically finishing past Chivas 'keeper Brad Guzan.
Kovalenko made it 3-0 in the 64th minute, latching onto a long ball played from deep in the United end that was flicked on over the static Chivas defense by Walker, the combative D.C. midfielder racing into the penalty area before slotting a low angled shot off the inside of Guzan's right-hand post.
United boss Peter Nowak made one change to the team that defeated the MetroStars 3-0 at RFK Stadium the Wednesday before. Jaime Moreno was sent off in that match, so Jamil Walker made his third start of the season in his place.
Here's Nowak's team (3-4-1-2): Nick Rimando - Bryan Namoff, Bobby Boswell, Brandon Prideaux - Dema Kovalenko, Brian Carroll, Ben Olsen (Clyde Simms 27), Joshua Gros - Christian Gomez (John Wilson 57) - Santino Quaranta (Matt Nickell 82), Jamil Walker
"It was a tough week for us," said Nowak after his team's third match in seven days. "The toughest part is always to keep focus and concentrate. As I told my guys, you have to be careful going forward, but in this weather condition if you have a chance you have to put it in, so we did a pretty good job. In two minutes we scored two goals and the game was over."
Kovalenko has scored in each of the last three matches - all United victories - and added an assist on the Walker goal.
"Absolutely fabulous," said Nowak of his former Chicago Fire teammate's recent form. "Dema was coming very slowly after that injury he had, and he was a big part in (last Saturday's victory at) Chicago. He played very good against L.A. and he scored against Chicago, he scored in the last game against New York and today he finished his performance in the last couple of months with another goal."
While an August 27 rubber match with New England beckons as the battle for playoff positioning reaches its peak, United know they can't look too far ahead - especially with weekends like last where every Eastern Conference team around them wins.
"Last year we came in second, and we had home field advantage against (the Revolution) to get to the final, and I think that was huge for us," said Josh Gros. "That's the same thing for us this year. We need home field advantage. That's going to be a huge game, but say they drop points next week-we gotta get some. So we can't look too far ahead."
Facundo Erpen has joined the club, but is no guarantee to immediately take over the role in the center of United's back three. "We always look to get this roster competitive, so people have to look over their shoulder," said Nowak. "We're not going to hand the job to Facundo. He has to earn it, and he has to earn the respect of these guys."
Said rookie Bobby Boswell, who has been the starter in the center of defense for all but one league match (that missed through suspension): "Really, I just feel like anything that's going to make the team better is going to make me better," he said. "Every week we have to work pretty hard just to earn our spot on the field, and this is going to mean we have to work that much harder as a team, and me as an individual."
LOS ANGELES GALAXY
The Los Angeles Galaxy continued to struggle outside of the Southland, falling 2-1 to the Chicago Fire at Soldier Field last Saturday night. But with no other Western Conference team managing a victory, the Galaxy stayed close, still in third place in the division with 32 points from 23 matches, three behind FC Dallas for second place and six out of first place, while still ahead of fourth-place Colorado Rapids by seven points.
The Fire won their final home game for nearly two months while once again keeping the Galaxy unsuccessful when they ventured forth from southern California.
The Fire took a two-goal lead into the interval thanks to the influence of Justin Mapp. In the 20th minute, he set off on a juking run into the Galaxy penalty area before he was sent flying to the turf by L.A. center back Michael Umana, and Jesse Marsch coolly converted from the spot.
Then in the 38th minute, Mapp dribbled the left flank and whipped in a cross to the back post that found John Thorrington completely unmarked, and he powerfully headed home for his first MLS goal.
The Galaxy pulled back a goal in the 53rd minute when Peter Vagenas headed home a Landon Donovan corner kick at the top of the six, then they saw an apparent equalizer ruled out for a foul just four minutes. But the Fire claimed the win before heading on a five-game road swing that will last until the first weekend in October, while the Galaxy still haven't won outside of Los Angeles since last June.
Galaxy boss Steve Sampson made two changes to the team that defeated Chivas USA at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum at midweek. Paulo Nagamura returned from suspension, coming in for Troy Roberts, Chris Albright returning to the back four. Jovan Kirovski also returned to the first XI in attack, for Joseph Ngwenya.
Here's Sampson's team (4-4-2): Kevin Hartman - Chris Albright, Pablo Chinchilla (Joseph Ngwenya 77), Michael Umana, Todd Dunivant - Cobi Jones, Paulo Nagamura, Peter Vagenas, Guillermo Ramirez (Troy Roberts 43) - Jovan Kirovski (Landon Donovan 46), Herculez Gomez
"I thought it was a hard-fought match. It was two very good teams going after it and I give credit to Chicago for getting two goals in the first half. I thought their precision in front of the goal, especially the second goal, made the difference," Sampson said. "I think we made a very good response in the second half and came a goal back and battled. I thought Chicago did a good job of containing us, even when it was 2-1."
While the Fire owned much of the opening 45 minutes, the addition of Landon Donovan to start the second half (held out of the starting lineup to fatigue) and then the early goal gave the Galaxy a jumpstart.
"It sort of turned the tide for us. It put the game within reach. Like coach Sampson said, we need to get that first one in the first 10 minutes [of the second half] and I think we got it in the 11th," Vagenas said. "We're a young team and maybe we pushed it too much too early. We had about 40 minutes left and the chances were going to come. Being who we are, we were anxious to tie and then get ahead. Again, we were right there, we were on the cusp."
After starting 19 of 20 games after the season opener - missing out only on the May 25 scoreless draw against Columbus through suspension - rookie Ugo Ihemelu has missed the last two matches.
"He had a bad game (Aug. 6 v Colorado) and everyone's entitled to a bad game." said Sampson. "It doesn't mean Ugo's being discarded. It means 'Hey, it's time to take a rest. You've seen a lot of minutes that's going to pay dividends for you and this club.' We'll chalk that game up to experience."