- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2006

After he scored three goals in four games, one would think Alecko Eskandarian’s stunning return to form after 10 months out with a serious concussion would be the topic of discussion. But the buzz this week was all about the D.C. United striker’s goal celebration against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday — the now infamous spitting incident.

After giving United the go-ahead goal in the 4-1 drubbing over New York, Eskandarian, 23, ran to the sidelines where teammate Jamil Walker threw him a can of Red Bull, the energy drink that sponsors New York. Eskandarian opened the can, took a quick swig and then spit it out on the field.

On Tuesday, Major League Soccer’s disciplinary committee fined Eskandarian $250 for inappropriate conduct. Eskandarian has a salary of about $110,000 a year.

Eskandarian — the son of former Cosmos star Andranik Eskandarian, who was honored by the Red Bulls at the team’s home-opener — seemed to regret some of his actions yesterday.

“I said this to my parents too, the only way I regret it, is if the owners of Red Bull took it the wrong way,” Eskandarian said. “That’s the only thing that made me feel bad. I meant absolutely no disrespect to them or the team or the city. I grew up there and it does not add up to say I was trying to disrespect them.”

The New York-area team, formerly known as the MetroStars, was taken over last month in a $100million deal by Red Bull, the Austrian company that makes the energy drink. The Red Bulls have yet to win a game this season and after a week of turmoil in which the general manger resigned, Eskandarian’s celebration could have hardly left anyone happy at the club.

“As for spitting,” Eskandarian said, “I just didn’t want to swallow and cramp up and have a Red Bull in the middle of the game. I had to spit, I had no choice.”

United midfielder Brian Carroll said it was only a matter of time before someone did this kind of celebration against the Red Bulls.

“I’m sure Esky and D.C. United weren’t the only ones thinking about something like that,” Carroll said. “We were just the first to do it.”

After scoring two goals in the game, Eskandarian was named MLS player of the week. His coach wasn’t too impressed with his goal celebration.

“This is not my kind of celebration for sure but it’s a new generation now with new ideas,” United coach Peter Nowak said. “Maybe I’m too old fashioned.”

The soccer message boards on the Internet also lit up over Eskandarian’s antics.

“I don’t care if ‘Esky’ never ever does another good thing for United again,” a fan with the screen name “Ursula” posted on BigSoccer.com. “He is now one of the all time greats for the team!”

The incident may have only added more fuel to the already heated rivalry between D.C. and New York. There were scuffles between opposing fans after the Red Bulls’ game against United in the season-opener April 2.

“That was a low blow from a local kid to a team that just honored his father,” another spectator “irishapple21” posted on BigSoccer.com.

United returns to play the Red Bulls at Giants Stadium on Aug. 16. Meantime, the club is preparing for Saturday’s game against unbeaten FC Dallas at RFK Stadium.

Note — United defender Facundo Erpen’s 35-yard strike against the Red Bulls was voted the league’s goal of the week.

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