- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 27, 2003

WILMINGTON, N.C. — Ronald Cerritos made the difference in his second game with D.C. United.

He scored the game’s only goal in the 30th minute, and the defense did the rest as United blanked the Wilmington (N.C.) Hammerheads 1-0 last night in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup before 5,026 at Legion Stadium.

United advanced to the semifinals Sept.23 and will play the MetroStars at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. The MetroStars defeated the New England Revolution 2-1 last night in overtime.

“I have a lot of confidence right now,” said Cerritos, 28. “The most important thing is that we won the game. Every forward is happy when he scores goals. I played 90 minutes [Sunday] against San Jose and feel well physically.”

The Hammerheads won the USL Pro Select League (formerly Division III) championship Saturday when they defeated the Westchester (N.Y.) Flames 2-1 in overtime. Throw in a 17-game unbeaten streak since June13, and the Hammerheads came in feeling pretty good.

Wilmington reached the quarterfinals by pummeling the Dallas Burn 4-1 in the round of 16, in what was the biggest shocker of this year’s U.S. Open Cup.

“There’s not many MLS teams clubs that would have come out of that environment with a win tonight,” United coach Ray Hudson said. “The score line really doesn’t matter; you just want to get the heck out of this place. It’s a haunted house. … We came into the haunted house, got our scares but we’re happy to go to bed tonight.”

On the scoring play, United right back David Stokes, who was a constant threat overlapping on the right side, sent in a perfect cross to the far post from 25 yards out on the right. Stokes’ header found rookie forward Alecko Eskandarian, who played the ball back into the box on a falling-away header. Eskandarian’s ball one-hopped out to Cerritos, who drove a 15-yard shot into the lower right corner past outstretched Hammerheads goalkeeper Billy Platz.

“I gave it to Stokes, he crossed, and I kept on running in front of the goal — that’s what a forward has to do,” Cerritos said. “Nobody knew what was going on, so the ball comes to me, I’m lucky, and I put it in the net.”

Just before halftime, a scrum broke out but nobody was carded or sent off. On a dangerous Wilmington free kick into a congested penalty area, Stokes and Hammerheads defender Kevin Nylen got entangled once the ball was cleared past the end line and both went down clutching each other inside the 6-yard box. The play didn’t end there.

Stokes and Nylen continued wrestling and made no attempt to disengage. United goalkeeper Doug Warren jumped on both players as a would-be peacemaker but exacerbated the situation. Both teams rushed in, some pushing and shoving ensued, but referee Gus St.Silva issued no cards.

The difference in the half was strong defense and good midfield play by United. Midfielders Earnie Stewart, Dema Kovalenko, Chino Alegria and rookie Brian Carroll, controlled the middle of the field.

With United dominating the midfield, the Hammerheads were unable to generate any semblance of an attack. Hammerheads striker Byron Carmichael, who joined the club midway through the USL Pro Select season and scored five goals in five games, was marked out of the game by United captain Ryan Nelsen.

Carmichael, who starred at Marshall, made his runs, received no service, and was replaced in the 54th minute by midfielder Junior Zarate.

It was a Zarate cross that nearly led to a Hammerheads goal, but a brilliant save by Warren preserved his clean sheet. Tim Karalexis (Charleston Battery), who along with Nylen (Virginia Beach Mariners) and Platz (Charleston Battery) are reporting to A-League clubs today, played a short corner on the right to Zarate. Zarate crossed into the box and a poor clearance by Stokes placed the ball at the feet of Ryan Miller.

Standing inside the 6-yard box, Miller’s near-post drive was saved by the sliding Warren and safely cleared by Alegria for a corner in the 57th minute.

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