When D.C. United and the New England Revolution last met it was in the 2004 Eastern Conference Final that many have branded the best MLS match ever. They did their best to top that legendary contest on Saturday night, going blow for blow at RFK Stadium before New England held on for a wild 4-3 victory.
The Revolution scored three goals in a six-minute span midway through the first half, but Jaime Moreno converted the first of his two penalty kicks (and three in all on the night) just before the break. United's Santino Quaranta pulled it back to 3-2, but Clint Dempsey headed home for the eventual match decider.
Buoyed by a raucous, chanting home crowd, United went right at the Revs from the outset, dominating possession and carving New England open at will. But their inability to convert in the box was cruelly punished when the Revs snuck in the opening goal against the flow of play.
Brian Carroll defended Pat Noonan well as he attempted to cross from the right wing, but even a deflected service proved dangerous as it squirted across the box to Taylor Twellman as he burst away from his marker. His cold-blooded finishing abilities were put on display with a low shot under United 'keeper Nick Rimando that put New England on top after 26 minutes.
Before the stunned RFK crowd could catch its breath, the Revs were given a second glorious opening after defender Bobby Boswell was ruled to have pushed Twellman over as he tried to meet another cross from New England's right wing. Referee Mark Geiger shocked the home side as he pointed the spot while striker, defender and Rimando all lay in a heap in the penalty area after a collision.
Shalrie Joseph stepped up for the penalty and drilled it to Rimando's right as the 'keeper dived the wrong way. Despite little sustained possession, the visiting side was 2-0 clear and on their way.
Defender David Stokes, who had been on the business end of some bruising treatment from New England's strikers, forced D.C. coach Tom Soehn -- deputizing for a suspended Peter Nowak -- into an early substitution at the half-hour mark when he came off with a concussion.
Confusion after the substitution soon showed after a smart but elementary combination between James Riley and Marshall Leonard sprung the latter, who coolly finished from the left side of the area for his first-ever MLS goal.
In the 43rd minute, Jose Cancela's well-hit corner kick from the right created more turmoil in the D.C. box, and it took a superb reaction save from Rimando to deny Pat Noonan a goal that would have turned the match into a full-fledged rout.
But then United were thrown a lifeline in the dying seconds of the half. United crisply switched the ball from their right flank to the left, and Quaranta cracked a shot from just inside the Revs box that looked to be well-blocked by a sliding Riley -- but referee Geiger immediately indicated another penalty kick without hesitation.
Moreno drove home his first goal of the season, beating Revolution 'keeper Matt Reis with a shot into the left side netting that gave United hope for the second stanza.
Freddy Adu came on for Alecko Eskandarian to start the second half, and it paid dividends from the whistle, as United resumed control of possession and drove forward with increased urgency.
After Quaranta missed a point-blank shot, seconds later he made amends when Adu set up Guppy for a low cross to the near post that he arrived to meet first and expertly flick past Reis to make it 3-2.
Just when a United equalizer seemed inevitable, Clint Dempsey put a dagger in the home side's heart in the 77th minute. Second-half sub Andy Dorman curled in a free kick from the right, and Dempsey met the service with a full-length diving header into the side netting.
Yet amazingly United weren't yet done. The Black-and-Red continued to press forward desperately, and were rewarded when Adu's cross sailed over Quaranta and fell to John, who nicked the ball with his hand as he chested it down with no attackers in sight. The linesman alertly saw the infringement and waved his flag, and again Moreno stepped to the spot and coolly drove the ball home.
United still had a couple of chances late, Christian Gomez nearly flicked a wide cross back on goal and Mike Petke pounding a header off the turf and the over the crossbar, but New England held on for the full three points as the clubs added another riveting encounter to their growing rivalry.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Taylor Twellman (New England Revolution)
New England Revolution (2-0-1) vs. D.C. United (1-2-1)
April 23, 2005 -- RFK Stadium
NE -- Taylor Twellman 2 (Clint Dempsey 2) 26
NE -- Shalrie Joseph 1 (penalty kick) 28
NE -- Marshall Leonard 1 (James Riley 2) 31
DC -- Jaime Moreno 1 (penalty kick) 50+
DC -- Santino Quaranta 1 (Steve Guppy 1, Freddy Adu 1) 57
NE -- Clint Dempsey 2 (Andy Dorman 1) 77
DC -- Jaime Moreno 2 (penalty kick) 82
New England Revolution -- Matt Reis, Jay Heaps, James Riley, Michael Parkhurst, Avery John, Marshall Leonard, Jose Cancela (Andy Dorman 66), Clint Dempsey, Shalrie Joseph, Pat Noonan, Taylor Twellman.
Substitutes Not Used: Connally Edozien, Ryan Latham, Luke Vercollone, Doug Warren.
TOTAL SHOTS: 10 (Taylor Twellman 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 7 (Taylor Twellman 3); FOULS: 18 (Marshall Leonard 4); OFFSIDES: 2 (Pat Noonan 1, Taylor Twellman 1); CORNER KICKS: 3 (Jose Cancela 3); SAVES: 3 (Matt Reis 3)
D.C. United -- Nick Rimando, David Stokes (Santino Quaranta 30), Bobby Boswell, Mike Petke, Joshua Gros, Brian Carroll, Christian Gomez, Ben Olsen, Steve Guppy (Clyde Simms 64), Alecko Eskandarian (Freddy Adu 46), Jaime Moreno.
Substitutes Not Used: Kenny Arena, Troy Perkins, Eliseo Quintanilla, Jason Thompson, Nick Van Sicklen, Jamil Walker.
TOTAL SHOTS: 14 (Jaime Moreno 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Jaime Moreno 3); FOULS: 18 (Ben Olsen 5); OFFSIDES: 4 (Steve Guppy 3); CORNER KICKS: 7 (Christian Gomez 4); SAVES: 3 (Nick Rimando 3)
DC -- Brian Carroll (caution; Reckless Foul) 24
NE -- James Riley (caution; Reckless Foul) 34
NE -- Pat Noonan (caution; Dissent) 50+
DC -- Ben Olsen (caution; Reckless Foul) 79
NE -- Clint Dempsey (caution; Reckless Foul) 86
Referee: Mark Geiger
Referee's Assistants: Greg Barkey; Bill Dittmar
4th Official: Alex Prus
Time of Game: 1:56
All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.