- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 18, 2003

In what has been the story of D.C. United’s season, the club played 100 minutes of close soccer with little to show for it.

For the fifth time this season, United went to overtime last night — and for the fourth time came away with a tie. D.C. finally scored at home but remained winless for the season.

Marco Etcheverry converted a first-half penalty kick for a score as United settled for a 1-1 tie with the Kansas City Wizards in the second game of a soccer doubleheader before an announced 21,859 at RFK Stadium.

“This isn’t scientific stuff, but sometimes you need a little luck,” United coach Ray Hudson said. “Lady luck has not smiled at us at all. We wonder where that luck’s going to change.”

Before last night, United (0-2-4) had played two scoreless Major League Soccer games at RFK. Before this season, United had never failed to win at least one of its first three home games.

Team captain Etcheverry ended the team’s 313-minute scoreless streak in the 31st minute after his second goal of the season was set up by a foul on forward Earnie Stewart.

The play started when Bobby Convey, United’s 19-year-old midfielder, tried to cross into the box from the right side. The ball went off Wizards defender Carey Talley’s head and straight up in the air. While waiting for it to come down, newly acquired Kansas City defender Alex Zotinca jumped on Stewart’s back and pulled him down inside the penalty area. Referee Ricardo Salazar immediately pointed to the penalty spot and issued Zotinca, a Romanian who was originally discovered but not signed by former United coach Thomas Rongen, a yellow card.

On the penalty kick, Etcheverry cleverly beat Wizards goalkeeper Tony Meola with his left foot to the net’s lower right corner. Meola guessed incorrectly that Etcheverry was going to the left corner.

“The penalty? Good officials make mistakes,” Wizards coach Bob Gansler said. “It was not a penalty. Earnie Stewart did a sell job on them.”

This game started off wrong for United. In the sixth minute, the Wizards took a 1-0 lead on Preki’s third goal of the season. Preki, 39, took the ball from midfield and ran with it to near the top of the 18-yard box. From 22 yards out, his shot deflected off United defender Mike Petke’s foot and caught United goalkeeper Nick Rimando going the wrong way.

Preki’s goal was reminiscent of one he scored in the April12 season opener against United. In that game, Preki ran into the middle of the box off a wing and scored when he caught Rimando going the wrong in the third minute of Kansas City’s 3-2 overtime win.

For the second straight MLS game, Hudson started rookie Alecko Eskandarian at forward. Eskandarian, the top overall pick in February’s MLS SuperDraft, scored the game-winning goal Wednesday night in Mexico in the U.S. under-23 team’s 3-1 win.

Eskandarian’s start last night was a mix of necessity and premonition. An abdominal strain suffered by striker Santino Quaranta in training Friday forced Hudson to juggle his forward line.

Hudson was hoping Eskandarian’s hot streak would carry over to this game. Unfortunately, United’s goal-scoring problems may be deeper than its forwards’ inability to finish. Eskandarian worked hard but didn’t get enough service to be effective. Generously listed at 5-foot-9, Eskandarian needs balls at his feet because he probably isn’t going to win much in the air.

“I’m going to stick with Esky — I’ll tell you all that now,” Hudson said. “He shows great endeavor and tremendous natural instincts.”

United was forced to play the final 46 minutes a man down after midfielder Ryan Nelsen was sent off for sliding into Wizards midfielder Kerry Zavagnin with spikes up. Nelsen will have to sit out United’s next game in two weeks at Dallas because of the red card.

“The game totally changed after the red card,” Stewart said. “Nellie is a big part our team. Once he goes off and you’re a man down, that makes it a lot more difficult. We wanted to make sure we took [a 1-1 score] back into the locker room and hoped to get lucky somewhere down the road.”

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