- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2003

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — For D.C. United, the unofficial start of the Major League Soccer playoffs started last night at Giants Stadium. And Earnie Stewart was ready.

In United’s first of three games in six days against the MetroStars, the veteran midfielder set up both goals in a 2-0 victory before 8,077. United (10-9-6, 36 points) moved within one point of the second-place MetroStars in the Eastern Conference and could take overtake the MetroStars in the next meeting between the teams Sunday at RFK Stadium.

The final game of this unusual three-game series is Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup semifinal at Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J. The winner faces the Chicago Fire, 3-2 winners over the Los Angeles Galaxy in the other semifinal Tuesday.

Last night’s victory could be costly for United because goalkeeper Nick Rimando left the game with a knee injury after grabbing a cross and throwing the ball back into play in the 76th minute.



The preliminary report on Rimando, who was replaced by Doug Warren, is a possible torn ACL in his left knee. It ended a run of 6,016 consecutive minutes played by Rimando, dating back to the 2001 season with the now-defunct Miami Fusion.

“He tweaked his knee a little bit, and when we get back we’ll get the doctor to take a look at him and hopefully it’s nothing serious,” said United assistant coach John Trask, filling in for coach Ray Hudson, who was too ill to speak after the game. “But from first indication, it could be serious.”

United went ahead in the 12th minute on Ben Olsen’s fourth goal of the year. Stewart started the play, whipping a cross into the center of the box from the right touchline and finding Mike Petke, whose header from 12 yards out bounced off the crossbar.

Olsen then beat Ricardo Clark to the rebound and knocked in a diving header at the post past a stunned Jonny Walker, who never reacted to Petke’s shot.

The MetroStars (10-8-7, 36 points) had a chance to tie the game in the 35th minute when referee Alex Prus called a penalty kick after Dema Kovalenko tripped up Amado Guevara just inside the box. But Clint Mathis’ shot from the spot rang off the post to the right of Rimando, who guessed correctly.

United sealed the game in the 67th minute when Stewart stole the ball from MetroStars defender Joseph Addo on the right side of the field, raced toward the goal on a two-man breakaway with Ronald Cerritos and then slotted the ball to Cerritos, who tapped in his fourth goal of the year.

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