Work in Sports
Goalkeeper's blunder puts MLS Cup out of reach
Posted: Sunday December 19, 1999 11:52 AM
By Jeff Green, CNN/SI
FOXBORO, Massachusetts -- Cheers rose up from the crowd Sunday when it was announced in the first half that MLS Cup '99 would be the first league game ever with official time kept by the referee on the field.
By the end of the first half's injury time at Foxboro Stadium, no Los Angeles Galaxy fans were applauding.
With the four minutes added on by referee Tim Weyland nearly expired and D.C. already leading 1-0, Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman took a bouncing back pass from substitute defender Steve Jolley and effectively gave D.C. United its third championship in four years -- and its second against L.A.
"It's disappointing," Hartman said. "I feel like I let a lot of people down."
After a casual first touch, Hartman failed to clear the ball with a swipe of his right foot, though he did manage to evade the onrushing Roy Lassiter near the center of the penalty box.
Hartman then relaxed, taking a touch of the ball before attempting a clearance. But instead of booting the ball up field, with D.C. forward Jaime Moreno closing in, Hartman tried to pass the ball to Paul Caligiuri wide on the left side, using the outside of his right foot.
Instead, he kicked the ground, and the balled rolled directly to United's Ben Olsen.
"It just popped right to me. It was heaven-sent," said Olsen, whose rising one-touch shot from outside the box found the back of the net. The game would end 2-0.
"It was just a bad decision," L.A. coach Sigi Schmid said of the league's 25-year-old goalkeeper of the year. "But how can I fault Kevin at this stage? He helped get us to where we're at."
Earlier in the week, MLS had announced that it would do away with the shootout tiebreaker and return timekeeping to the referee. At the time, MLS commissioner Don Garber said the moves wouldn't take effect until next year, but that changed Sunday.
"Sitting around this morning, we said, 'Hey, it's not really a big deal. Let's just switch the clock and give people, I think, what they were looking for,'" Garber said after the game. "It was no issue with the coaches."
It was, however, an issue with Hartman.
"I was kind of flustered by that," said Hartman. "I didn't even know we were playing extra time until the end of the first half."
Hartman and players from both teams also strongly criticized the field, which was narrow at 68 yards and worn down in the middle by New England Patriots football games.
"It's just not the kind of field you play a championship game on," Hartman said. "At the same time, I'm not going to blame [the goal] all on that.
Hartman dismissed suggestions that the incident resulted either from a reluctance to use his left foot or that he was still groggy from a knock to the head suffered moments earlier.
"Hartman just misplayed the ball -- a couple of times," said Schmid. "The one thing D.C. United does for sure much better than us, they're not afraid to kick the ball 60 yards up the field."
What did veteran defender Caligiuri, the intended target of the pass, say to Hartman after the goal?
"I said, 'Don't worry about it. You're a great player. You've been great for us all season. Get your head up.'"
The hole, however, was already dug too deep.