The league-leading Los Angeles Galaxy continued their recent unbeaten run, grinding out a cagey 1-1 draw with D.C. United thanks to second-half penalty Saturday night at RFK Stadium.
Carlos Ruiz re-took the league lead in goals with his 10th of the season, converting a hotly disputed penalty in the second half after Ryan Nelsen had given United the lead just before halftime.
United coach Peter Novak began the game with a revamped line-up, switching from D.C.'s typical 3-5-2 formation to a 4-4-2 scheme. With veterans Earnie Stewart, Ben Olsen, and Bobby Convey all sidelined by injuries, Ezra Hendrickson and Josh Gros were new additions to the four-man midfield.
From the outset, Ruiz was subject to some tough tackling from the United back four. In the 11th minute, a nice touch from Ruiz forced Bryan Namoff to wrestle him to the turf outside the United box, and Namoff's persistent fouling of Ruiz earned him a yellow card six minutes later.
United's physicality was later evident as Brandon Prideaux received a yellow card for a hard challenge on Moreno, who took yet another crack from Mike Petke only moments later.
Alecko Eskandarian was full of energy and effort up front, and earned a great chance in the 25th minute as he intercepted a weak pass from Tyrone Marshall in the L.A. box and lashed a low shot that Kevin Hartman slapped wide.
Tempers flared and fouls grew more common as the first half went on, with Ricky Lewis replacing Tyrone Marshall, who limped off after a hard tackle on Eskandarian.
United was unlucky not to score in the 33rd minute when Gros made space on the left byeline and crossed for Hendrickson in the box, but the tall veteran headed over the bar after rising up well. Then in the 44th minute, Eskandarian's aggressive run at goal earned a free kick just outside the Galaxy box, and he delivered a sharp shot that Hartman had to tip over the bar.
D.C. finally struck gold in first half injury time. Gros' cross from the left caromed off Moreno at the six-yard box as he fought off a challenge and Nelsen was the man on the spot to tap it home from close range.
L.A.'s previous game, in Colorado's unseasonable heat, was taking its toll, as evinced by coach Sigi Schmid's halftime substitution of Jovan Kirovski for playmaker Andreas Herzog. The game slowed noticeably in the second half, as two tired teams sat back and waited to counterattack. In the 55th minute Ruiz played Arturo Torres in down the right side, but his first touch was poor and Perkins swallowed up his byeline cross.
Controversy erupted in the 64th minute as Moreno broke through the United defense and slotted a low pass that Ruiz reached just before a splaying Perkins. Ruiz's shot at the empty net was blocked by a sliding Prideaux, but referee Referee Kevin Stott blew for a handball and pointed to the spot. After vociferous protests from United, Ruiz slotted the penalty kick past Perkins to level the game at 1-1.
The Galaxy survived their own appeals for a penalty in the 78th minute when Moreno combined with Eskandarian and burst into the L.A. box, forcing Saragosa to haul him down, but Stott was unimpressed.
Kovalenko was a tireless engine in midfield, playing a neat one-two with Adu and racing down the right wing, but his cross was behind Eskandarian and the header was easily grabbed by Hartman. In the the 83rd minute, Kovalenko sprung Eskandarian with a sweet through ball into the box, but the striker's low service eluded both Hartman and a hard-charging Hendrickson at the far post.
In the dying moments, United threatened with repeated crosses and corner kicks, but the Galaxy defense managed to weather the storm, and even responded with odd numbers counterattacking. In the 87th minute Ruiz sprinted clear of his marker, but shot just high of Perkins' goal. The teams were forced to endure a nervous seven minutes of stoppage time before they settled for their share of the point.
In their next league matches next Saturday, the Galaxy continues its demanding four-game road trip at Kansas City (7:30 p.m. CT), while United travels to Texas to take on the Dallas Burn (7:30 p.m. CT). But first at midweek, each team travels to face A-League opposition in the round-of-16 in the U.S. Open Cup, the Galaxy taking on Minnesota Thunder while United travels down I-95 to take on the Richmond Kickers.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Dema Kovalenko (D.C. United)
Los Angeles Galaxy (9-5-5) vs. D.C. United (5-6-6)
July 17, 2004 -- RFK Stadium
DC -- Ryan Nelsen 2 (Jaime Moreno 7, Dema Kovalenko 6) 46+
LA -- Carlos Ruiz 10 (penalty kick) 66
Los Angeles Galaxy -- Kevin Hartman, Hong Myung-Bo, Tyrone Marshall (Ricky Lewis 34), Ryan Suarez, Paul Broome, Arturo Torres (Cobi Jones 68), Andreas Herzog (Jovan Kirovski 46), Sasha Victorine, Marcelo Saragosa, Alejandro Moreno, Carlos Ruiz.
Substitutes Not Used: Ned Grabavoy, Dan Popik.
TOTAL SHOTS: 5 (Carlos Ruiz 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (Carlos Ruiz 2); FOULS: 12 (Carlos Ruiz 4); OFFSIDES: 0; CORNER KICKS: 2 (Andreas Herzog 2); SAVES: 6 (Kevin Hartman 6)
D.C. United -- Troy Perkins, Bryan Namoff, Ryan Nelsen, Mike Petke, Brandon Prideaux (Freddy Adu 71), Ezra Hendrickson, Brian Carroll, Dema Kovalenko, Joshua Gros, Alecko Eskandarian, Jaime Moreno.
Substitutes Not Used: Kevin Ara, Bobby Convey, Nana Kuffour, Ben Olsen, Santino Quaranta, Nick Rimando, Earnie Stewart, David Stokes.
TOTAL SHOTS: 14 (Alecko Eskandarian 6); SHOTS ON GOAL: 7 (Alecko Eskandarian 3); FOULS: 19 (Bryan Namoff 5); OFFSIDES: 0; CORNER KICKS: 10 (Dema Kovalenko 5); SAVES: 2 (Troy Perkins 1)
DC -- Bryan Namoff (caution; Persistent Infringement) 17
DC -- Brandon Prideaux (caution; Tackle from Behind) 21
DC -- Alecko Eskandarian (caution; Deliberate Handball) 26
LA -- Jovan Kirovski (caution; Pushing, Holding) 59
DC -- Dema Kovalenko (caution; Reckless Foul) 60
DC -- Joshua Gros (caution; Reckless Foul) 95+
Referee: Kevin Stott
Referee's Assistants: -Craig Lowry; Steven Taylor
4th Official: Ben Jones
Time of Game: 1:56
All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.