Freddy Adu's quirky 16th-minute goal stood up as the only score in a 1-0 victory for D.C. United against the MetroStars that moved the Atlantic Cup rivals closer to their first postseason showdown since the inaugural MLS season of 1996.
Adu scored when his shot was partially blocked by MetroStars' defender Jeff Parke but the ball took an unusual trajectory towards the far post and Jonny Walker never had a chance to react. United immediately settled into a defensive posture that rendered the remainder of the game void of much attacking soccer.
D.C. United central defender Ezra Hendrickson turned in a sterling performance in the back in filling in for suspended captain Ryan Nelsen, and his hustle in the ninth minute kept the MetroStars off the scoreboard. John Wolyniec ran onto a through ball and was greeted inside the 18-yard box by United 'keeper Nick Rimando. Wolyniec clipped a rolling shot past Rimando that was headed toward the empty goal before Hendrickson ran it down and cleared it in the nick of time.
United's goal-scoring sequence began as Christian Gomez lined up 20 yards from goal to take a free kick on the left flank. Gomez's kick ricocheted off the MetroStars' two-man wall and bounced through the box to Dema Kovalenko, whose quick flick found Adu alone at the right corner of the restraining arc.
The 15-year old Adu lined up his shot as Parke was late to close him down, able only to make a deflection that carried the shot on a trajectory that left Metros 'keeper Jonny Walker no chance.
D.C. then immediately backed into a defensive posture, putting all 11 players behind the ball and clogging the area just above Rimando's area. The tactic frustrated the MetroStars and sent the second-largest Giants Stadium crowd of the season home without seeing the best attacking soccer either team has to offer.
Hendrickson's lone blunder on the night gave the MetroStars their best chance to equalize in the 34th minute when he lazily played a ball out of the back and Amado Guevara swooped in to intercept. Guevara then walked in on Rimando, but the goalkeeper won the battle with his lone outstanding save on the day.
The second half saw more of the same defensive posturing from United and little in terms of an answer from the MetroStars. Following a 70th minute throw-in, Fabian Taylor found himself on the ball inside the penalty area, but his shot was barely enough to make Rimando move. In the 77th minute it was Cornell Glen setting up to rip a blast from 20 yards out, but his left-footed cannon sailed high and wide.
United's defense let down for a brief moment in the 88th minute, allowing a free kick from midfield to bounce in the penalty area. As players from both teams converged to the ball, Eddie Pope got first touch as he crashed into Rimando but he sent a harmless shot high over the goal.
United nearly padded their lead on a stoppage time counter-attack. Adu passed out wide and into space for Santino Quaranta. Walker was up to the task for the save, but though the rebound came back to Adu, rather than shoot again immediately, he was stripped of the ball.
Next up for United is a home match against the New England Revolution next Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET), where a draw will be enough to send United into the postseason. The MetroStars are back at Giants Stadium next week (7:30 p.m. ET) to entertain the Eastern Conference-leading Columbus Crew, needing a victory against Columbus to maintain a chance to finish with the top seed in the East.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Ezra Hendrickson (D.C. United)
D.C. United (9-10-9) vs. MetroStars (11-11-6)
October 2, 2004 -- Giants Stadium
DC -- Freddy Adu 5 (Dema Kovalenko 10) 16
D.C. United -- Nick Rimando, Mike Petke, Ezra Hendrickson, Bryan Namoff, Dema Kovalenko, Brian Carroll, Christian Gomez (Santino Quaranta 67), Ben Olsen, Joshua Gros, Freddy Adu (David Stokes 96+), Earnie Stewart (Brandon Prideaux 64).
Substitutes Not Used: Troy Perkins, Jason Thompson.
TOTAL SHOTS: 7 (Freddy Adu 2, Dema Kovalenko 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (3 tied with 1); FOULS: 26 (Christian Gomez 7); OFFSIDES: 2 (Freddy Adu 1, Christian Gomez 1); CORNER KICKS: 3 (3 tied with 1); SAVES: 5 (Nick Rimando 4)
MetroStars -- Jonny Walker, Craig Ziadie, Jeff Parke, Eddie Pope, Chris Leitch, Gilberto Flores (Pablo Brenes 69), Ricardo Clark, Amado Guevara, Eddie Gaven, Mike Magee (Cornell Glen 27), John Wolyniec (Fabian Taylor 64).
Substitutes Not Used: Kenny Arena, Sergio Galvan Rey, Tim Regan, Seth Stammler, Joselito Vaca, Zach Wells.
TOTAL SHOTS: 12 (3 tied with 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (John Wolyniec 2); FOULS: 12 (Gilberto Flores 3); OFFSIDES: 0; CORNER KICKS: 3 (Amado Guevara 3); SAVES: 2 (Jonny Walker 2)
MET -- Mike Magee (caution; Professional Foul) 20
DC -- Freddy Adu (caution; Professional Foul) 20
DC -- Christian Gomez (caution; Pushing, Holding) 47
DC -- Santino Quaranta (caution; Pushing, Holding) 86
Referee: Kevin Stott
Referee's Assistants: Greg Barkey; Emiliano Monje
4th Official: Erich Simmons
Time of Game: 1:57
All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial