- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 6, 2003

MetroStars coach Bob Bradley used a loophole in Major League Soccer’s rulebook to set up the game-winning goal, which teenage forward Eddie Gaven scored in the 99th minute to stun D.C. United 3-2 in double overtime yesterday before 13,715 at RFK Stadium.

With approximately one minute left in the second overtime, Gaven received a long ball out of the MetroStars’ midfield from playmaker Amado Guevara and outran United defensive midfielder Ryan Nelsen to the edge of the 6-yard box. With his left foot, Gaven, a mainstay on the U.S. under-17 team, found the right-side netting for the MetroStars, who played the final 64 minutes with 10 men after defender Kenny Arena was sent off.

Gaven wouldn’t even have been in the game if not for Bradley’s controversial substitution. Under MLS rules, teams are allowed to make four substitutions — three field players and the goalkeeper — during a game. The MetroStars substituted their third field player in the 76th minute when defender Tim Regan came on for left back Edgar Bartolomeu.

However, at the beginning of overtime, the MetroStars notified referee Kevin Terry that they were switching goalkeepers. Star goalie Tim Howard switched jerseys with midfielder Mark Lisi, and Howard became a midfielder while Lisi jumped in goal for a few seconds.

After play stopped when the MetroStars intentionally kicked the ball out of play, Gaven came on for Lisi, and Howard switched his jersey again with Gaven and jumped back between the pipes.

Gaven (16 years, eight months and 10 days) became the second youngest player in MLS history to score a goal. But United coach Ray Hudson was not happy with Bradley’s maneuvering.

“I thought there was some disgraceful sporting behavior on their part,” Hudson said.

If the league had a simple four-substitution policy regardless of position, the MetroStars’ interpretation of the rulebook wouldn’t even be an issue. This isn’t the first time a team has utilized the league’s substitution rule; the Dallas Burn and the Kansas City Wizards both did something similar earlier this season.

“Those are the rules in our league,” Bradley said. “You have the opportunity to use the extra sub if that’s how you do it. When you’re playing a man down in this heat, in the afternoon, you look after your players. That to me is the most important part of the spirit of the game.”

Gaven’s first career goal just happened to be the game-winner, but this was a game United (3-5-6) should have won. Coming off its best performance of the season — a 3-1 win at Dallas on Wednesday — United squandered an opportunity to climb back into a playoff spot and reach .500 for the first time this season.

Last-place United appears to be in chaos. There’s discontent among the players — “I think our [big] names need to go out the door because all the names on this club are not performing,” Nelsen said. Overall attendance is down for the third straight season, and Hudson sounds like the season is already over.

When asked if he intended to resign after this disastrous loss, which dropped United’s home record to 2-1-4, Hudson replied, “We cannot change the whole [team]. … Something’s needed for sure to get us over. I’ve tried everything that I can, and that I know. If [firing me is] what management wants to do, then that’s what it’s going to be. I’m not going to go in and throw myself on a sword, because I think the players are backing me up as best they can.”

United seemingly outplayed the MetroStars (7-4-3) but wasted one scoring opportunity after another.

Tied 2-2, United had three golden chances to win the game in overtime. In the 89th minute, reserve forward Santino Quaranta chipped over Howard 20 yards from goal only to have Howard race back to the goal line and tip the ball over the crossbar.

In the 93rd minute, United substitute forward Alecko Eskandarian headed a ball over the crossbar with an empty net in front of him from point-blank range. In the 95th, Quaranta was denied by Howard inside the 6-yard box when Howard fell down and got a hand on Quaranta’s bid. The ball bounced dangerously along the goal line until defensive sub Chris Leitch cleared the ball off the line.

United bolted out to a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute and looked like it could forge its first winning streak of the season. Terry awarded United a penalty kick when forward Ali Curtis blew by Bartolomeu in the box and was tripped from behind by the newly acquired Angolan defender. Midfielder Marco Etcheverry converted the penalty kick for his team-leading fourth goal of the season.

Ten minutes later, the MetroStars tied the game 1-1 when United allowed Lisi to walk through the midfield and roll a ball into space on the right side for Jaime Moreno. The former United great ran onto the ball and finished with a low drive 16 yards from goal to the far left post.

The MetroStars took a 2-1 lead in the 26th minute when a poor clearance by United central defender Mike Petke fell at the feet of rookie Ricardo Clark. Clark took two dribbles and blistered a 30-yard shot that went through goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who got his left arm on the ball only to watch the ball bounce over the goal line.

United tied the game early in the second half on one of the better goals of the season. Forward Hristo Stoitchkov played a long 30-yard ball down the right sideline to midfielder Ben Olsen. Olsen took the ball to the end line, held up for just a second and then rolled a cross back into the box that midfielder Dema Kovalenko received. Kovalenko took two dribbles to the inside and unloaded a left-foot 15-yard blast that beat Howard to the right post.

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