- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 20, 2003

Goal scoring is put on hold when D.C. United and the Chicago Fire play. Last night's scoreless affair at RFK Stadium was the third straight between these teams.
Before 17,321 spectators in its home opener, United was frustrated in its bid to pick up three points with a victory. Meanwhile, the Fire were happy to gain one point on the road.
"That's not my type of football, I'll tell you that," United coach Ray Hudson said. "That's not the way I want the team to play, but they made it [extremely] difficult for us to get out of anything. In the end, are you happy with a point at home in your opener? No."
Dave Sarachan, the Fire's first-year coach, remained unbeaten in his second game. Sarachan, 48, served two seasons (1998 and 1999) as Bruce Arena's top assistant with United during the club's glory years. For the past three seasons, Sarachan has been Arena's No.1 aide on the U.S. men's team and still owns a home in Ashburn.
Sarachan's team (0-0-2) can be excused for not having much of an attack right now. His best forward, all-time Fire scoring leader Ante Razov is sitting out Chicago's first three games because of an elbow-throwing incident in Game 3 of last year's Major League Soccer quarterfinals during a season-ending loss to the New England Revolution.
Midfielder Jesse Marsch, perhaps Sarachan's most dependable player, is sidelined with a right fibula stress fracture suffered in the preseason.
Marsch, who played on United's 1996 inaugural championship team, started all 28 games last season for the Fire and leads the club in games played (143), games started (136) and is tied in minutes played (12,207). By going the full 100 minutes, Fire goalkeeper Zach Thornton tied Marsch's career minutes.
United (0-1-1) dominated possession in the first half but could not crack Sarachan's back line defense. United had just two quality chances in the half, but Fire defenders Jim Curtin, Carlos Bocanegra, C.J. Brown, Evan Whitfield and Thornton were determined to make United earn everything.
"We got a point, last week in a loss [3-2 at Kansas City]; this is better than a loss," United midfielder Ben Olsen said. "Now we go from here. We've got to start getting some points on the road and start building up some numbers so we can get back up top in this division."
United's first opportunity came in the third minute when midfielder Bobby Convey beat Whitfield off the right flank into the box and crossed to the cutting Marco Etcheverry. Convey put the ball where Etcheverry likes it on his left foot but the captain's shot went wide left from 10 yards in front of goal.
"I kicked it bad," Etcheverry said of Convey's service. "The bounce was bad for me, and then I kicked it bad. I was unlucky, that's it."
Said Convey: "Marco just couldn't get a full shot on it. Their team just packed it in and defended well. We've now got to find ways to break teams like that down."
Another 34 minutes elapsed before United got another chance. Santino Quaranta, D.C.'s 18-year-old forward, played a high ball over the box to Earnie Stewart lurking on the left.
Stewart, who was allocated to United this offseason after playing professionally for 14 seasons in Holland, showed a glimpse of his world-class skill. The 34-year-old veteran settled Quaranta's ball at the top of the box and then flicked it over Whitfield. Stewart dribbled in to the edge of the 6-yard box but kicked the ball into the side netting with his left foot.
All the Fire had to show for the first half was a shot by Chris Armas that went wide right in the 32nd minute. It was a nice individual effort by Armas, who missed most of last season with a torn right ACL. He made an uncontested 30-yard run straight into the box before unloading a 16-yard shot that went wide.
United's defense was simply outstanding. United's three-man back line of Brandon Prideaux, Ryan Nelsen and Mike Petke cleared all dangerous balls that found their way into the box. All three were exceptional in the air, heading out anything they reached. They tracked back, made sure tackles and also made up for United's big names who weren't playing that well.
Alecko Eskandarian, United's top overall pick in February's MLS SuperDraft, made his debut in the 66th minute, coming on for Quaranta. Unfortunately, he didn't stick around long. Eskandarian left the game in the 82nd minute with a concussion sustained in a clash of heads with Convey in the 73rd minute.
Stewart served a ball into the middle of the box, and both Eskandarian and Convey tried to head it. Instead, they headed each other. In the violent collision, Eskandarian did a 360-degree turn in midair before laying motionless for a few minutes.



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