- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 15, 2003

Finally, the rookie lived up to his name.

D.C. United forward Alecko Eskandarian, whose father, Andranik, was a star forward for the New York Cosmos in the old North American Soccer League, scored the first two goals of his Major League Soccer career as United downed the Columbus Crew 3-0 last night at RFK Stadium. The 13,907 spectators saw the home team earn its biggest win of the season.

Central defender Mike Petke, who was traded from the New York/New Jersey MetroStars this year, also scored his second of the year as United (2-3-5, 11 points) broke out of its long scoring slump against the Crew (4-4-3, 15 points).

“This is huge for me,” said Eskandarian, who has struggled through injuries to find the back of the net this season. “It’s a huge monkey off my back. I just wanted to do something to prove I should be out there. I’m just going to build on this.”

United goalie Nick Rimando kept his team in the game and earned his third shutout in a row, a team record. Rimando pulled off a key save in the 12th minute when he ran out and dived to steal the ball from the feet of Crew striker Brian West, who found himself just 9 yards from the goal with only the keeper to beat.

Rimando made an acrobatic dive to catch a 28-yard free kick by Freddy Garcia in the 23rd minute. Just before halftime, Rimando pulled off another save when American World Cup star Brian McBride blasted a low shot to the left near post.

United thought it had the lead in the 29th minute after Ali Curtis headed in Hristo Stoitchkov’s cross, but the referee called a foul on Petke for pushing, and the goal was disallowed. Petke protested the call, but he got his revenge soon.

United scored for real just a minute before halftime. Marco Etcheverry was fouled 25 yards from the Crew goal on the right flank by Brian Dunseth. The veteran midfielder took the free kick, bending the ball perfectly across the Columbus goal mouth. Petke, standing unmarked at the back post, demonstrated a textbook header and knocked the ball hard and low into the Columbus net.

United finished off the Crew when Etcheverry set up a goal in the 79th minute for rookie forward Eskandarian, who had come on the field in place of Stoitchkov 10 minutes earlier.

The Bolivian maestro, looking like his old self from United’s glory days, fended off Crew players Mike Clark and Trevor Perea as he hugged the ball close to the end line, and sent a low pass to the rookie, who shot home from 9 yards.

“Marco beat two guys on the end line, and it took a slight deflection,” said Eskandarian, the overall top pick at the MLS Draft. “I just got it and shot.”

Seven minutes later, Eskandarian collected a pass from substitute Santino Quaranta and banged home a shot from 14 yards to make it 3-0.

“I’m so pleased for Alecko,” said United coach Ray Hudson. “[Before the game,] I said ‘Alecko, your time will come,’ but I wasn’t sure it would come tonight.”

Petke failed to score in his last two seasons with the MetroStars, and his best total was three goals in 2000. Now he is tied for second with midfielder Bobby Convey and Eskandarian on United’s scoring list with two goals. Etcheverry has three.

United is still unbeaten this season at home and next faces the New England Revolution on Saturday night at RFK.

Notes — At the postgame news conference, Hudson said that last night’s game might be Stoitchkov’s last for United because it is looking to sign another senior international player.

“I’ll decide that,” said the 37-year-old Bulgarian through a translator. …

English First Division striker Jamie Cureton, who played for Reading FC last season, will arrive today in Washington for a tryout with United. … Both teams last night were missing key starters who were on national team duty at the Confederations Cup in France. United was without Ryan Nelsen, Convey and Earnie Stewart, while the Crew were missing Kyle Martino, Jeff Cunningham, Frankie Hejduk and Duncan Oughton.

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