- The Washington Times - Friday, November 7, 2003

D.C. United is two goals down with 90 minutes left to extend its season. On paper, it looks tough for the club to do.

At Soldier Field tomorrow, United must dig deep to win its playoff series on the aggregate after losing 2-0 to the Chicago Fire at RFK Stadium last week.

In any other league in the world, Chicago would have been crowned champion based on its regular-season success, but Major League Soccer’s peculiar playoff system gives United another chance. And the team has proven it can recover from adversity.

Down two goals in the 82nd minute against the New England Revolution on July27, United stormed back to score four goals — three in injury time — to win 4-2.

United midfielder Dema Kovalenko, who scored the game-winner in that remarkable game, believes his team can bounce back and pointed to an upset in Europe on Wednesday, when French club Monaco beat Spanish side Deportivo la Caruna 8-3 at home in the Champions League. Monaco had lost the first meeting 1-0 in Spain earlier in the year.

“We were talking about that game,” Kovalenko said. “It was amazing. Anything can happen. Soccer is a crazy game. We just need the right attitude and to believe in ourselves. Look what happened to Bayern.”

Precisely. Who can forget Manchester United’s comeback in the UEFA Champions League final game against German giant Bayern Munich in May 1999?

European soccer president Lennart Johansson stepped into the director’s box elevator at Nou Camp Stadium in Barcelona thinking that when he reached the field level he would walk out and present the world’s most prestigious club trophy to Bayern Munich. After all, the German club was beating Manchester United 1-0 with seconds left on the official clock.

But while Johansson was in the elevator, one of the great comebacks in soccer took place. United scored two goals off corners by David Beckham in 102 seconds. When Johansson emerged from the tunnel, he thought the scoreboard operator had made a mistake.

“I very nearly became the first UEFA president to present the cup to the losers,” he later said.

Arguably the greatest comeback in soccer history was when a 10-man Charlton team rallied from a 5-1 deficit after 62 minutes to down Huddersfield 7-6 in a 1957 English Second Division clash. Charlton’s Johnny Summers had five goals and two assists after changing his cleats at halftime.

Soccer is littered with other heroic stories.

At the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, England led Germany at halftime 2-0 in the quarterfinals. The Germans stormed back and beat the world champions 3-2 in overtime.

West German club Bayer Uerdingen was down 3-1 after 45 minutes to East German side Dynamo Dresden in the Cup Winners Cup in 1986 and needed six goals to win on aggregate. Bayer stormed back to win 7-3.

In the same event in 1984, French club F.C. Metz went down 4-2 at home to Barcelona in the first game. The Frenchmen traveled to Spain for the second game and found themselves behind 1-0 in the 33rd minute only to answer with four goals and win 6-5 on aggregate.

In 1953, the great Stanley Matthews played a stunner in the F.A. Cup final at Wembley Stadium to set up goals and lead Blackpool over Bolton 4-3 after being down 3-1 with less than 30 minutes left.

Behind 3-1in the 78th minute in the 1994 Olympic semifinals to a Brazilian team that included Ronaldo, Bebeto and Rivaldo, Nigeria fought back to send the game into overtime and won 4-3 on Nwankwo Kanu’s goal.

Meanwhile, United coach Ray Hudson will rely on veteran midfielder Marco Etcheverry for tomorrow’s game at Chicago.

“Marco has to be an integral part of this game,” Hudson said. “We need to get the ball to Marco early. They will run through us if Marco is not tuned into that. … If we take too long getting the ball to Marco, everything will collapse in the midfield.”

College news — American plays Navy tomorrow in the Patriot League championship at 1 p.m. at Reeves Field. … Exuberant after winning its first ACC regular-season title since 1971, Maryland was stunned Tuesday night at College Park by Bucknell, which ended the Terps’ 23-game winning streak.

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