- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 10, 2004

D.C. United is playing its best soccer at the right time.

The team has serious momentum with one week left in the regular season. Since early September, United has won five of six in all competitions and hasn’t lost in its last nine regular-season matches at home.

United continued its stellar play with its fifth home shutout last night as midfielder Christian Gomez scored the game’s only goal in a 1-0 victory over the New England Revolution before 19,461 at RFK Stadium.

“We’re getting results at the right time,” midfielder Ben Olsen said.

United clinched a Major League Soccer playoff spot Wednesday night when the Columbus Crew beat the Chicago Fire 1-0. United used this game as a playoff tuneup and delayed any postseason plans for the Revolution (7-13-9). To make the playoffs as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, New England must defeat Chicago at home Saturday.

United (10-10-9) can secure home-field advantage in the first round of the Eastern playoffs by beating the MetroStars next Sunday at RFK. The playoff format is a home-and-home series, with the winner advancing on cumulative goals.

Poor defending and goalkeeper Matt Reis’ slow reactions gave United its goal in the 32nd minute.

Christian Gomez, United’s recently acquired Argentinean midfielder, scored his second goal of the season when the ball literally fell at his feet eight yards from goal. Olsen started the goal when he took a ball out of the air with his right foot from the left side of the box.

Alecko Eskandarian drew two defenders towards him on Olsen’s ball, leaving Gomez unmarked. Eskandarian attempted to back-flick a header to the far right post and worked perfectly as a decoy. All Gomez had to do was drive the bouncing ball with a side volley into the lower right corner.

“I was surprised the ball actually went through the first post, and I found it on the second post all by myself,” Gomez said through an interpreter. “All I did was a half-volley, and luckily it went in. I didn’t think the ball was going to get there, but I was at the right place at the right time.”

While Reis was struggling in the first half, United goalie Nick Rimando made two huge saves to keep New England scoreless. Gomez’s goal seemed to take the air out of the Revolution. United controlled possession and run of play for the latter stages of the first half and most of the second half until the 74th minute, when Dema Kovalenko was ejected after receiving his second yellow card.

Referee Marcel Yonan issued a second yellow card on Kovalenko after the Ukrainian midfielder committed a reckless tackle on rookie midfielder Clint Dempsey on the sideline. Because Kovalenko was sent to the showers, United was forced to play a man down for the remaining 16 minutes.

With his ejection, Kovalenko must sit out next Sunday’s season finale against the MetroStars at RFK.

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