- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 2, 2001


D.C. United coach Thomas Rongen said recently that his team's problem is not so much lacking a winning attitude as it is settling for less than victory.

United didn't lose against the Miami Fusion last night but didn't win either, giving up a two-goal halftime lead and settling for a 2-2 tie in overtime with the league leaders before 13,391 at RFK Stadium.

The result didn't help D.C. in the playoff hunt. United trails the Dallas Burn by five points for the eighth and final playoff spot. With five of its last eight games at RFK, United has to take care of business at home.

"It's got to be a very bitter pill for Thomas and the D.C. United fans to swallow," said Fusion coach Ray Hudson. "But that's what you get when you play a class, lion-hearted team. We roared back."

The Fusion (12-3-5) scored the crushing equalizer in the 74th minute. From the upper right corner of the 18-yard box, English midfielder Ian Bishop worked a give-and-go with forward Alex Pineda Chacon on the right flank. Bishop gave the ball back to Chacon on the right wing. Chacon chipped a cross to the top of the 6-yard box, and Diego Serna headed in Chacon's ball for his league-leading 13th goal. It was also the 50th of his MLS career.

At the start, it seemed only a matter of time before United (6-12-2) scored a goal. D.C. came out with full-scale pressure, shelling Fusion All-Star goalkeeper Nick Rimando until Conteh struck in the 30th minute.

The score originated in United's defensive third of the field. Center back Ryan Nelsen played a ball to left back Brian Kamler just inside the midfield stripe. Kamler took off on a 40-yard run down the left flank and beat All-Star defender Tyrone Marshall to the touchline.

Once Kamler neared the left edge of the 6-yard box, the savvy veteran crossed into the box. Conteh, who was standing unmarked on the goal line, let Kamler's cross go through his legs, and the Sierra Leonian striker redirected it with his left heel. Conteh's no-look goal went to the far post, leaving Rimando frozen.

Three minutes later, Conteh made it 2-0 with his 11th goal of the season. Midfielder Carey Talley played a ball into the middle to forward Jaime Moreno, who split the Fusion defense with a 20-yard run and slid the ball to Conteh.

From 14 yards, Conteh one-timed the ball with Fusion defender Pablo Mastroeni hanging onto the back of his jersey. Rimando got a piece of Conteh's blast, but its momentum allowed the ball to trickle into the net.

"I would honestly say that was the best first-half performance that we've have faced this season," Hudson said. "I mean they were like a pack of wolves, and I think they were deserving of a two-goal lead."

For the first 45 minutes, United played some of its best soccer of the season. However, in the 55th minute, D.C.'s defense broke down and allowed the Fusion to score.

United rookie right back Craig Ziadie's square pass went straight to Fusion captain Jim Rooney, and he played Ziadie's mistake to midfielder Chris Henderson, who was cutting across the box. Henderson crossed to an unmarked Chacon, who tapped it in for his 10th goal.

United will have no time to dwell on this game. The club leaves for the West Coast this morning and tomorrow night's CONCACAF Giants Cup semifinal against the winner of last night's late game between Mexican perennial power Chivas and CSD Comunicaciones of Guatemala at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

If United is able to beat either, it would earn one of the two automatic berths for the inaugural 2003 Clubs Cup the qualifying competition for the 2003 FIFA Club World Championship.

Note United's Sept. 1 doubleheader with the U.S. national team at RFK Stadium sold out yesterday on the first day single seats were made available. More than 51,000 tickets have been sold for the U.S.-Honduras World Cup qualifier and United's game against the Tampa Bay Mutiny. Several thousand additional seats will be installed and will be sold to U.S. Soccer affiliated groups and select United corporate partners.

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