Monday, October 18, 2004

A Glorious Day at RFK

Yesterday, I had the pleasure to be at the DC United-Metrostars match at RFK Stadium. It was an intense, hard-fought, thoroughly entertaining affair, with United beating the scum 3-2 on Mike Petke's 64th minute header off a Freddy Adu corner kick. Despite the scoreline, DC looked the better team for most of the match, and when Metroscum Craig Ziadie was sent off for a thuggish assault on Adu, the game was effectively decided.

With the win, United finished the regular season in 2nd place in the MLS East, and 4th overall, with 11 wins, 10 losses, and 9 ties for a total of 42 points. This was United's first winning season since 1999, the last of the MLS Cup glory years. Ironically, this was only the first of three straight meetings between us and the Metroscum as we will meet them in the first round of the playoffs starting Saturday. By finishing second in the East, United will host the second leg of the two game aggregate goals series at RFK on October 30. DC took three of four from the Metroscum during the regular season, and go in as solid favorites. If we can come away from the Meadowlands with at least a draw, we should be able to wrap things up at home.

DC United's brief history has been a tale of feast or famine. The club won the inaugural MLS Cup in 1996, in epic fashion. Trailing Los Angeles 2-0 with less than 20 minutes remaining, United rallied to tie and force overtime, where Eddie Pope's thunderous golden goal header provided the victory. DC then won 2 of the next 3 cups, and was the losing finalist the other year (1998). Starting in 2000, the bottom fell out. The club suffered 4 straight losing seasons, missing the playoffs in 3 of them. With former Polish international Peter Nowak coaching the club to a winning season in his first year in charge, the lean times appear to be at an end.

Can United bring home the Cup this year? Stranger things have happened. This season has been eerily similar to 1996. Both years, United struggled for form and consistency before coming on late in the season. Both years, a late season acquisition helped jumpstart United's attack (Jaime Moreno in '96, Christian Gomez this year). Both years, United was stuck below the 500% mark until a late winning streak to end the season. Finally, just as in '96, United finished 2nd in the East and will meet the Metrostars in the 1st round of the playoffs. Can history repeat itself? Check back later this week for an answer.


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