Two sides in dire need of a positive result met Wednesday night at RFK Stadium. D.C. United rose to the occasion, dominating possession and play to earn a 3-1 win against the Colorado Rapids and snapping a four-game winless streak.
United peppered the Rapids goal throughout the match, getting goals five minutes apart late in the first half from Freddy Adu and Earnie Stewart, before sealing the contest with an own goal that was all thanks to some Jaime Moreno brillance.
From the outset United looked the hungrier. In the third minute some sweet one-touch passing opened up the Rapids right side with Josh Gros finding Dema Kovalenko open in the Rapids box, but his curling shot spun wide of Joe Cannon's goal. Two minutes later, Gros blasted just high and wide after being set up by Adu, who was given his first start in several weeks.
As they have all season, Colorado seemed content to surrender possession and bunker in. Tim Hankinson's side stacked numbers behind the ball and only ventured forth for the occasional counterattack or long-range effort. But the Rapids won their first corner in the seventh minute, a John Spencer header forcing a diving save from D.C. goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
Alecko Eskandarian started to show some danger signs in the Rapids defense, nearly poking home a Moreno layoff in the eighth minute as panic ensued, then forcing a diving save from Cannon in the 12th on a low blast that the veteran netminder did well to hold cleanly despite the wet pitch.
United continued to keep the Rapids on the back foot. Stewart's hard work on the left sprung Moreno, who ran at the defense before laying off to Adu, but his left-footed effort curled just over the crossbar. Then in the 23rd minute Ben Olsen woke up the crowd with a thunderous first-time strike from the top of the 18-yard box, but the shot caromed off a Rapids defender.
Nearing the half-hour mark, Olsen released Moreno on the left flank, and a goal seemed certain as the Bolivian carried the ball into the box and delicately lifted a cross to the back post. But Kovalenko's side-footed half-volley skipped wide of Cannon's right post.
In a rare foray upfield the Rapids nearly caught United's defense when Mark Chung's driven cross from the left wing seemed to startle Perkins, but Ezra Hendrickson rescued his 'keeper by clearing off the line. Then in the 35th minute, Colorado were again cursing their luck after Chung powered past Mike Petke and delivered to the far post, where an empty net beckoned for Henderson -- but to his dismay the veteran weakly scuffed the spinning ball over the crossbar.
United raced right back up the field and struck first blood. Collecting a loose ball on the left touchline, Gros saw Adu run into a huge hole in the Rapids defense and slid a low cross into his path. The youngster brought the crowd to life with a cool finish from just inside the penalty spot, notching his third goal of the season.
Five minutes later, Stewart doubled the lead with a composed, textbook finish from the corner of the penalty box, after Eskandarian had made space on the left and crossed to the far side.
The story was the same in the second stanza: United dominating possession and tormenting Cannon with shot after shot. Stewart's 50th-minute inswinging corner was headed down sharply by Hendrickson, but the dangerously skipping ball was blocked wide by Alberto Delgado.
Moments later, D.C. deserved a third tally when Adu floated out to the left wing and curled in a pinpoint cross for Moreno. But Cannon proved why many consider him to be the best 'keeper in MLS when he produced an impressive reaction save, palming away Moreno's flick when it seemed destined for the upper corner.
Eskandarian then tested the 'keeper twice in short order, first whizzing a measured drive just wide of the left post, then stinging Cannon's palms with a rising blast from distance. Colorado was unable to clear and Moreno quickly found himself in his preferred position, with the ball at his feet, running at defenders.
The cagy striker bewitched two defenders, easing by Antonio de La Torre and nutmegging second-half sub Joey DiGiamarino before trying to slot a pass back into the area. But hard-charging Ritchie Kotschau got there first, unlucky to see the ball deflect off him and into his own net to give United a 3-0 lead after 64 minutes.
The Rapids finally pegged one back with an opportunistic strike nine minutes later. Brandon Prideaux turned the ball over deep in his own half and Delgado quickly centered to Chung, who slotted an inviting ball to Rapids captain John Spencer. The veteran Scotsman made no mistake with a confident shot into the upper right corner, scoring his first goal since the season opener against Dallas.
D.C. United remains at home on Saturday night for a vital Eastern Conference match against the New England Revolution (7:30 p.m. ET), while the Rapids remain on the road, visiting Soldier Field to take on the Chicago Fire (8:30 p.m. ET).
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Freddy Adu (D.C. United)
Colorado Rapids (6-7-8) vs. D.C. United (6-8-6)
August 11, 2004 -- RFK Stadium
DC -- Freddy Adu 3 (Joshua Gros 4) 35
DC -- Earnie Stewart 2 (Alecko Eskandarian 1) 40
DC -- own goal (Ritchie Kotschau) 64
COL -- John Spencer 2 (Mark Chung 3, Alberto Delgado 3) 73
Colorado Rapids -- Joe Cannon, Ritchie Kotschau, Nat Borchers, Gary Sullivan (Joey DiGiamarino 55), Antonio de la Torre, Chris Henderson (Jordan Cila 65), Kyle Beckerman (Seth Trembly 74), Matt Crawford, Mark Chung, Alberto Delgado, John Spencer.
Substitutes Not Used: Michael Erush, Scott Vallow.
TOTAL SHOTS: 13 (Chris Henderson 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 8 (Mark Chung 2); FOULS: 10 (Alberto Delgado 3); OFFSIDES: 2 (Alberto Delgado 1, Chris Henderson 1); CORNER KICKS: 6 (Antonio de la Torre 5); SAVES: 9 (Joe Cannon 9)
D.C. United -- Troy Perkins, Ezra Hendrickson, Mike Petke, Brandon Prideaux, Earnie Stewart, Freddy Adu, Dema Kovalenko, Ben Olsen (Brian Carroll 48), Joshua Gros, Alecko Eskandarian (Nana Kuffour 74), Jaime Moreno (David Stokes 88).
Substitutes Not Used: Kevin Ara, Andrew Terris, Jason Thompson.
TOTAL SHOTS: 22 (Alecko Eskandarian 5); SHOTS ON GOAL: 11 (Alecko Eskandarian 4); FOULS: 15 (Dema Kovalenko 3, Brandon Prideaux 3); OFFSIDES: 3 (3 tied with 1); CORNER KICKS: 5 (Earnie Stewart 3); SAVES: 7 (Troy Perkins 7)
Misconduct Summary: NONE
Referee: Kevin Terry
Referee's Assistants: -Robert Fereday; Adam Wienckowski
4th Official: Ben Jones
Time of Game: 1:50
All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.