United then won twice in three weeks to take a psychological advantage against the Metros in the Eastern Conference semifinals. United won 1-0 on Oct. 2 at Giants Stadium on a 16th-minute goal from Freddy Adu, then two weeks later claimed a 3-2 victory at RFK Stadium (Gomez 23, 29; Petke 64 - Wolyniec 14, Clark 50).
That set the stage for the home-and-home Eastern Conference semifinals, which United won 4-0 on aggregate, posting 2-0 victories in each half of the tie. United won 2-0 on Oct. 23 in New Jersey (Stewart 67, Eskandarian 88), then a week later won by the same scoreline in Washington (Moreno 85, Namoff 89) on their way to the MLS Cup Final.
United reclaimed the Atlantic Cup last year in the third season it was contested for. United won in the first year of 2002, the MetroStars claiming the trophy the next season. Goal difference is the first tie-breaker, followed by away goals; if still tied, the MetroStars (as holders) will retain the cup.
Last year was the second time United had met the MetroStars in the first round of the playoffs, and the second time United eliminated their I-95 rivals. In the inaugural season of 1996, United advanced when they won their best-of-3 series 2-1.
United have won the season series two of the last three years. The MetroStars have won just once in the last eight meetings between the clubs.
Coaches record: Peter Nowak v MET: P5 W3 L1 T ... Bob Bradley v DC: P21 W8 L9 T4
D.C. United won for the second consecutive match and extended their unbeaten streak to four games, holding on to come away from Soldier Field with a 3-2 victory against Eastern Conference leader Chicago Fire on Saturday night. United and the Kansas City Wizards are still tied for third place in the East with 32 points (though United have a match in hand), four behind joint leaders Chicago and New England Revolution.
D.C. United lost Freddy Adu to injury early in the contest, but were able to break open a taut contest with the first goal just before the break. Brian Carroll hit for his first MLS goal after a lovely buildup, Jaime Moreno playing the ball into the heart of the box where Christian Gomez knocked it down for Carroll to side-foot home (40).
United then grabbed command of the match with two goals in seven minutes. Santino Quaranta found Dema Kovalenko steaming forward on the left and he burst into the area before ripping home a low drive (72), then Moreno converted from the penalty spot after Gomez was hauled down from behing by substitute Thiago (78).
Yet the Fire were given a glimmer of hope five minutes later when Lubos Reiter stabbed home from close range after a loose ball fell from a corner kick, then five minutes after that Ivan Guerrero whipped in a pinpoint cross from the left that found Chris Rolfe alone at the back post and he headed home Chicago's second.
But while Rolfe had another clear header from a Guerrero cross in stoppage time, he couldn't beat Nick Rimando and United escaped with the three points in another wild encounter between the Eastern Conference rivals this season.
United boss Peter Nowak made three changes to the team that knocked off the Los Angeles Galaxy 1-0 in the final match before the All-Star break on an Adu goal in stoppage time. Bobby Boswell missed his first match of the season, through suspension, and so Bryan Namoff made his first appearance since June 4. Santino Quaranta and Ben Olsen returned from international duty with the USA in a reconfigured midfield, as Clyde Simms and defender John Wilson returned to the substitutes' bench.
Here's Nowak's team (3-4-1-2): Nick Rimando - Joshua Gros, Brandon Prideaux, Bryan Namoff - Santino Quaranta, Brian Carroll, Ben Olsen (Clyde Simms 74), Dema Kovalenko - Christian Gomez (Jamil Walker 85) - Jaime Moreno, Freddy Adu (John Wilson 36)
"We played a very smart game today. Unfortunately, Freddy had to go. He's had a great run lately, but unfortunately those things happen. But overall, I think the better team won today, because we scored three very nice goals today. At the end it was a little bit disorganized, but Chicago was throwing numbers up and throwing the ball up top a lot."
Freddy Adu will miss at least the midweek match with the knee injury he suffered in the Fire match. He was involved in a couple of tackles in the first five minutes and managed to stay on the field until the 36th minute, but couldn't continue.
"When I was spinning, [Fire defender Samuel Caballero] came in and hit me on the outside of my right knee. I had my feet planted so hard that it forced my knee to go inside and that's when the sprain happened. We're going to have doctors take a look at it, but they're saying it's an MCL sprain. I knew right away when it happened. They told me to try to run on it and see if it felt better, but I couldn't."
The victory snapped a four-game losing in Chicago for United, and was just United's third-ever win against the Fire on their home ground.
"It's a great way to start the second half of the season. It's a great tone to set going into a really tough place to play. We haven't won here in it seems like seven or eight years. It was the last time I scored a goal, so who knows how long ago that was."
The MetroStars spotted FC Dallas a two-goal lead in the first half of the opening of Pizza Hut Park, but hit for two goals just after the start of the second half to come away with a 2-2 draw in the first game at the new soccer-specific stadium in Frisco, Texas. The MetroStars couldn't gain any ground on the teams directly ahead of them in the Eastern Conference, still on 29 points from 21 matches, three behind D.C. United and Kansas City Wizards.
A sellout crowd of 15,000 saw the new ground opened in style by - who else? - Carlos Ruiz. Just as he had in opening The Home Depot Center when he hit for the only goal in that stadium's first game, the Guatemalan international scored the first goal in Pizza Hut Park history in the 31st minute when his glancing header off a Ronnie O'Brien cross from the right flank settled neatly inside the far post.
Ruiz then doubled the FC Dallas lead three minutes later with O'Brien again playing provider, rolling a square pass into the area that Ruiz neatly flicked home with the inside of right heel.
But Youri Djorkaeff lifted the MetroStars on his world champion back and hit for two goals in seven minutes just after the break. First, FCD 'keeper Jeff Cassar saved an Ante Razov shot but Djorkaeff got in ahead of a defender to stab the rebound under Cassar (47), then in the 53rd minute he saw the 'keeper off his line and let fly with an audacious chip from outside the area that sailed over Cassar's head.
Both teams had their chances over the final half hour, but in the end it was FC Dallas again left to rue a lead lost, as their winless run extended to five games, four in which they've held the lead.
MetroStars coach Bob Bradley made two changes to the team that played in the first match of the home-and-home series against FC Dallas, in the final match before the All-Star break. With Jeff Parke out injured, Seth Stammler made his first MLS start in central defense, and Amado Guevara returned after missing three matches to a knee injury, coming back into the team in place of Sergio Galvan Rey.
Here's Bradley's team (4-4-2): Tony Meola - Chris Leitch, Carlos Mendes (Danilo da Silva 65), Seth Stammler, Jeff Agoos - Michael Bradley, Mark Lisi (Sergio Galvan Rey 46) - Eddie Gaven (Mike Magee 60), Amado Guevara - Youri Djorkaeff, Ante Razov
"We got two goals and I would have liked to have gotten a third one. I know that they had some chances after our second goal, but so did we. We have some great opportunities. But in the end, nobody was satisfied with the final result," Bradley said.
A big change in the match came at the halftime break, when Bradley took Mark Lisi off for Sergio Galvan Rey to give the midfield more attacking edge.
"We need to make a change in the second half. Obviously, we got a goal right away. Sergio gave us an immediate boost by getting in the box and it helped us out," Bradley said.
On Tuesday, Djorkaeff was named Honda MLS Player of the Week for his performance in voting by the Professional Soccer Reporters Association.