- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 26, 2001

Too little, too late? D.C. United doesn't think so.

Stephen Armstrong and Abdul Thompson Conteh scored in the final 21 minutes as United registered a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over the Columbus Crew yesterday before 13,855 at RFK Stadium.

The victory over Major League Soccer's hottest team gave life with four games remaining to United's faint hopes of gaining the eighth and final playoff berth.

The Crew came into RFK with a nine-game unbeaten streak, the second-longest MSL run this season. Their last loss was June 30 to the league-leading Miami Fusion.

"Everybody outside our locker room believes that we are down and out," United coach Thomas Rongen said. "I keep saying that this team continues to believe. I know there are some sources close to the team that keep saying that is not the case, but today was a clear indication that this team still believes in winning games. We're still alive and that's what we're thinking about right now."

With one of its better efforts of the season, United (7-15-2, 23 points) edged within five points of the Dallas Burn for the final playoff spot. The Burn played host to the Kansas City Wizards last night.

Conteh scored the game-winner in the 80th minute when he beat two Crew defenders Mike Clark and Tenywa Bonseu on a pretty through pass from forward Jaime Moreno. Moreno's ball, from just inside the midfield circle, set Conteh free, and the Sierra Leonean striker beat Clark into the box off the left wing while Bonseu peeled off to protect the far post. Conteh dribbled into the box and sent a perfect left-footed, 10-yard strike that curled just inside the far right post that made it 2-1. It was Conteh's team-leading 12th goal of the season.

The score made amends for a missed opportunity just 17 minutes earlier. Faced with a similar situation, Conteh attempted to beat Crew goalkeeper and former United teammate Tom Presthus with a shot to the near post. However his blast sailed over the crossbar.

"We were down 1-0 for a long stretch in the game and we didn't let down," Conteh said of the goal. "We kept pounding and pounding, and that was the result. We haven't done this in a long time. The minute [Moreno] received the ball, he turned and I started making my run. I knew I could beat the guy on the dribble. I kept telling myself, 'I have to go the second post.' In my mind, I knew Presthus was going to go first post, then I hit it and it turned out to be a great goal."

Another great goal was Armstrong's game-tying score from 30 yards in the 69th minute.

United right back Scott Vermillion played a short pass square to Armstrong on the left flank. Armstrong gave the ball a quick touch and then let go a rocket that was still rising when it hit the right corner of the net.

"This one lifted up nicely," Armstrong said of his third goal of the season. "I was free for quite a few seconds coming across from the right, and I was hoping Scott Vermillion would see Bryan Namoff and me. Luckily, instead of going down the line, it came across to me and I knew I had space. Their guys were dropping right off me. I knew before I got it that I was going to let it go."

United squandered several scoring chances in the first half as the Crew (11-6-6, 39 points) took what seemed like a routine shot and scored the game's first goal.

Midfielder Brian Maisonneuve, who is a leading contender for MLS Comeback Player of the Year, dribbled into the box on the right side and played a short pass to forward Jeff Cunningham. From the top of the box, Cunningham surveyed the situation and decided to try a long-range shot.

United goalkeeper Mark Simpson was positioned for what looked like an easy save opportunity. However, Cunningham's shot deflected off the right leg of United midfielder Mark Lisi, flew over Simpson's head, sliced under the crossbar and ended up in the net's left corner. Simpson never had a chance.

"It had traveled probably five or six yards before it got deflected those are always the tough ones," Simpson said. "If it deflects right away, you're not really set to the original shot, and it's a lot easier to make a save when it's like that. This one traveled a little bit and you almost halfway commit yourself to the shot and it's one of those bizarre things."

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