Saturday, July 22, 2006

Huge Road Point For D.C. United

Chicago Fire 1
D.C. United 1
Chicago: Jaqua 5th goal, 29th minute
D.C. United: Eskandarian 7th goal, 74th minute

A hard-fought point on the road for D.C. United. They had a bad first half but they came back and scrapped out a tie for the point. Championship teams manage to find ways not to lose and with this result, DC's unbeaten streak is now 14. I'll take it. Chicago played 40 minutes with a man down as Logan Pause got his secong yellow card in the 50th minute. One could look at this tie and be disappointed but when Pause's ejection took place, D.C. was down 1-0. Next game: Saturday July 29 at Salt Lake 9:00 PM EST

George Solomon wrote a little bit about D.C. United in the Sunday Post. For those who check in here and want some info about this year's D.C. United team, read this.

United Stands Apart
Fans will notice Washington Nationals banners alongside those of D.C. United's -- an example of coexistence among the two RFK Stadium tenants. But that's where the comparisons end. While the Nats struggle to escape the cellar of the NL East, United is running away from the other 11 teams in Major League Soccer. Consider these facts: Going into this weekend's games, United had 44 points on a 13-1-5 record, 11 points more than its nearest rival (FC Dallas), and boasted an 13-game unbeaten stretch. It also has seven players and Coach Peter Nowak on the league's all-star team that plays the two-time defending English Premier League champion, Chelsea, Aug. 5 outside Chicago.

With the lengthy regular season slightly more than halfway completed, Nowak, United's intense third-year coach, isn't concerned about his team peaking too soon before the playoffs begin in late October. "For 19 weeks, we try to teach our players to win," Nowak said after practice at the stadium on Wednesday. "First things first -- win the games and the regular season and then worry about the playoffs."

Nowak, 42, played pro soccer for 23 years before becoming a coach. He has a reputation as a no-nonsense taskmaster whose infrequent use of teenage prodigy Freddy Adu in 2004 and 2005 was criticized by the media here and in Europe. But this year Adu has become a regular and Nowak put the 17-year-old midfielder on the all-star team.

"The fact my coach selected me was very satisfying," Adu said. "When I started here three years ago the expectations, including my own, were ridiculous. But I'm more relaxed now and just trying to play my game."

"I'm a tough teacher," Nowak admitted, adding that he signed as a player in Poland "when I was 15, so I know it's difficult at Freddy's age. But he's made a lot of progress the past three years and has become a stronger person. He's on the all-star team -- because he's earned it."

Still, Adu's success in Washington this season has not deterred his determination to leave United and MLS to play in Europe next year. "I'll be 18 -- and that's where I'm headed. I'm just waiting for the right situation," he said.

Nowak's take: "It's very demanding to play in the best of the European leagues. But everyone has dreams. When he's ready, he'll know it."

One of Adu's mentors, Jaime Moreno, 32, United's six-time all-star, says that nowadays "most young players are spoiled." Moreno, who has played 225 games for United and is a steadying force, remembered his early days, "cleaning shoes and doing stuff for the older players." But he respects Freddy.

I asked Moreno if he'd like to be 17 again? "Not 17," he answered. "I'd be happy to be 20."

The best source of the history of D.C. United was written by my friend Dave. Scroll down on his blog and read his D.C. articles.

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