- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 15, 2002

D.C. United just won't go away.
Reserve forward Ali Curtis scored the biggest goal of his professional career to keep United's last-gasp playoff hopes alive.
Curtis scored the game-winning goal in the 87th minute to lead United to a crucial 2-1 victory over the New York/New Jersey MetroStars before an announced 17,677 last night at RFK Stadium.
United can control its playoff destiny to a degree by beating the Dallas Burn on Thursday in the regular season finale at RFK and hoping for outside help. If United beats the Burn, it will need the MetroStars to beat the New England Revolution on Saturday and the Columbus Crew to defeat the Chicago Fire on Sunday in order to qualify for the playoffs.
Only in Major League Soccer can a team with a 1-10-3 road record remain alive for a playoff berth with one game remaining.
"It's so bittersweet, I'm not going to sleep a wink tonight," United coach Ray Hudson said.
United played with a man advantage for the final 60 minutes, and Curtis used his speed and fresh legs to keep his team's dream alive. The game-winning goal is an example of how United should have played all season. From United's defensive third, midfielder Bobby Convey sent a long ball to midfielder Marco Etcheverry, who sent a long ball up the middle to Curtis.
Curtis, who entered the game in the 71st minute for ineffective forward Henry Zambrano, found himself one-one-one with MetroStars goalkeeper Tim Howard inside the 18-yard box. Howard came way off his line to challenge Curtis, and the forward's perfectly timed 15-yard shot beat Howard into an open net.
"Marco got the ball in the midfield and put the ball right on my foot," Curtis said. "Howard came out and I was able to put the ball past him."
United's win did come at a price. Etcheverry and defender Brandon Prideaux must sit out of United's season finale because of yellow card accumulation.
United was missing five starters forwards Santino Quaranta, Jaime Moreno, defenders Milton Reyes, Ryan Nelsen and midfielder Richie Williams because of injuries and suspensions.
Starting left back Bryan Namoff, who was called up from the Richmond Kickers, United's A-League affiliate, played the full 90 minutes Friday in Charleston, S.C., in the Kickers' 2-1 loss. Less than 24 hours later, a spent Namoff was asked to play as an outside back in United's 3-5-2 formation. He was impressive as he shut down MetroStars' goal-scoring machine Mamadou Diallo.
It wasn't a Namoff defensive breakdown that gave the MetroStars an early 1-0 lead, it was midfielder Petter Villegas, who must have thought he was still playing for the MetroStars (11-14-2) when he virtually handed them a goal in the sixth minute.
Villegas tracked down Diallo's poorly played ball in the right flat. Villegas, who was acquired on May 9 from the MetroStars along with defender Orlando Perez for midfielder Mark Lisi and defender Craig Ziadie, lazily played a square ball directly to Rodrigo Faria outside the 18-yard box.
Faria took Villegas' dreadful pass into the box and from 15 yards out and finished with a side-footed shot that rolled past United goalkeeper Nick Rimando to the left post. Just like that, United found itself trailing 1-0 in a must-win match.
"[U.S. national team coach] Bruce Arena must be the greatest comedian, afterward he said, 'Well, that one was never in doubt,'" Hudson said.
Luckily for United (9-13-5), referee Kevin Stott didn't like the way MetroStars forward Clint Mathis treated United midfielder Jose "Chino" Alegria while United's young Peruvian midfielder was on the ground. Stott sent off Mathis, a U.S. World Cup team star, for stomping on Alegria's head and neck area in the 30th minute.
Convey scored his co-team leading fourth goal of the year in stoppage time during the first half to tie the game 1-1. Villegas atoned for his mistake on Convey's equalizer.
United playmaker Etcheverry, who finished with two assists, played a ball out of the midfield to Villegas about 35 yards from goal. Villegas slotted a ball through the middle to Convey sitting at the top of the 18-yard box.
As two MetroStars' defenders stood looking at Convey, United's teenage prodigy ran straight at Howard. From 12 yards out, Convey used his left foot to beat Howard to the right post and tied it 1-1.
Rapids 2, Wizards 1
John Spencer scored the go-ahead goal in the 49th minute as Colorado beat Kansas City in Kansas City.
With the score tied 1-1, Spencer took a pass from Carlos Valderrama and gave the Rapids (13-11-3) the lead with a goal from 7 yards out. The assist was Valderrama's franchise single-season record 15th.
Colorado took a 1-0 lead in the 35th minute when Zach Kingsley headed in a corner from Mark Chung.
Kansas City (9-10-8) tied it four minutes later off a penalty kick. After a quick restart by Wizards forward Darrio Fabbro, Igor Simutenkov was taken down by Rapids defender Rick Titus inside the box.
Preki took the kick, putting the ball to the right of David Kramer for the equalizer.
Wizards defender Diego Gutierrez will sit out the final regular-season match with a yellow card accumulation suspension after being carded in the 13th minute.

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