Work in Sports
Three for D.C.
Two first-half goals lift United to MLS Cup
Posted: Sunday December 19, 1999 03:54 PM
FOXBORO, Mass. (CNN/SI) -- Major League Soccer has the dynasty it initially tried to avoid, as D.C. United captured its third title in the league's four years.
D.C. won a rematch with the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-0 on Sunday, three years after overcoming pouring rain and the Galaxy's two-goal lead in the inaugural MLS Cup.
"Four years, four finals," said D.C.'s Bolivian midfielder Marco Etcheverry while he looked for a match to light his celebratory cigar. "If you can win the championship, you always feel happy."
Etcheverry's countryman forward Jaime Moreno gave United the lead in the 19th minute, and United took an insurmountable two-goal lead when Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman badly misplayed a ball in the penalty box and kicked it to midfielder Ben Olsen for a virtual empty-netter.
"What can I say? I couldn't miss that one," said Olsen, who picked up an MLS Cup Most Valuable Player Award to complement last season's Rookie of the Year -- both firsts for a player signed through the Project-40 developmental program. "Believe me, I'm not the MVP of the game. Marco was out there, Jamie and the rest. I just jump on their backs and they carry me."
United also took the MLS title in 1997 -- beating the Colorado Rapids -- and lost in the final last season to the expansion Chicago Fire.
"We remember the feeling we had last year. It was bitter disappointment," said Eddie Pope, who scored the golden goal in overtime of the 1996 game. "We waited all year for this. We didn't want to do that again."
A crowd of 44,910 enjoyed a 63-degree day -- a drastic improvement on the '96 championship, when United fought back from a two-goal deficit to tie it before Pope won it in overtime.
No comeback was needed this year.
Moreno gave D.C. the lead in the 19th minute when Etcheverry's throw-in was accidentally headed into the middle by Steve Jolley, who entered in the ninth minute to replace the injured Robin Fraser. Roy Lassiter's shot was stopped by Hartman's right foot, but the rebound went off Lassiter to Moreno when Paul Caligiuri whiffed a clearance attempt; Moreno beat the sprawling goalkeeper to make it 1-0.
Los Angeles had a chance in the 32nd minute, but Danny Pena's header went off the post, and Richie Williams cleared the rebound from the goal line after the ball had bounced off teammate John Maessner. Galaxy players appealed for a handball on the play.
United made it 2-0 at halftime in the third minute of injury time when Hartman misplayed his clearance attempt. After escaping Lassiter's lunge, he kicked it directly to Olsen; Hartman was in no position to recover, and Olsen lofted it easily toward the back of the net.
Hartman was voted the league's top goalkeeper this season -- after earning a 0.91 goals-against average. But he may have been a groggy after getting knocked in the head by Moreno while making a save moments earlier.
"Instead of clearing the ball, he got his foot stuck," Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid said.
The Galaxy almost the entire game without Fraser, its captain and the MLS defender of the year. Fraser broke his collarbone after being shoved from behind by Lassiter in the seventh minute.
"When you rely on somebody as heavily as we have the entire year, ... it's a matter of almost totally having to relearn the game," Hartman said.
No foul was called, drawing criticism from Schmid after the game. The Galaxy also complained that the referee failed to call a penalty when Cobi Jones was taken down near the penalty box late in the first half -- the cries echoed complaints that D.C. made in its MLS Cup loss a year earlier.
"He made a mistake," Jones said. "I don't care anymore, I've had it. I've had it with the refereeing."
Both teams also griped -- the losing team perhaps more strongly -- about the poor condition of the field, which was used Monday night for an NFL game between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets. Both teams struggled all game trying to control the ball as it bounced on the rock-hard surface, which had a stripe of dirt running from goal to goal where the grass was worn.
"There's no question about it, on both goals the field
conditions had a lot to do with it," defender Paul Caligiuri said.
"Soccer is much like golf. It's so important that you have good
The Associated Press contributed to this report.