- The Washington Times - Monday, November 15, 2004

CARSON, Calif. — The last time it came to California for MLS Cup, D.C. United lost in the Rose Bowl to a Chicago squad led by playmaking midfielder Peter Nowak.

Six years later, Nowak returned to California to coach United to its fourth Major League Soccer championship.

But after Alecko Eskandarian led a three-goal barrage in the first half, United had to play with 10 men for the final 32 minutes yesterday to earn a 3-2 victory against the Kansas City Wizards in MLS Cup 2004 before 25,797 at Home Depot Center.

The victory made Nowak the first man to win an MLS championship as a player and a coach — and gave him a sense of personal retribution after his Fire lost to Kansas City in MLS Cup 2000 at RFK Stadium.

“After the 2000 final,” Nowak said, “I got my trophy back.”

Eskandarian helped by becoming the second player to score two goals in an MLS Cup and was voted the game’s most valuable player.

“It’s a great bonus to get another trophy,” Eskandarian said of the MVP. “But the main trophy I wanted is the one back in our locker room that our captain [Ryan Nelsen] is holding.”

The Wizards took a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute. Jose Burciaga trapped Nelsen’s clearance and struck a 30-yard shot that bounced inside the right post.

But in the 19th minute, Eskandarian began United’s rally.

After taking a pass from Brian Carroll, Eskandarian attracted tight marking from defender Nick Garcia. The former All-American held Garcia back with his right arm and lofted a 20-yard shot underneath the crossbar.

Four minutes later, Eskandarian’s right arm would play a more critical role.

As Wizards defender Jimmy Conrad tried to clear the ball, Eskandarian charged forward and leaped. The ball struck him in the right elbow. Eskandarian controlled the ball, dribbled and struck a 20-yard shot inside the left post.

United finished the rally in the 26th minute when Kansas City’s Alex Zotinca deflected Earnie Stewart’s right-wing cross into the net for an own goal.

But in the 58th minute, Dema Kovalenko received the first red card in MLS Cup history for a handball. Kovalenko used his right fist to deflect Conrad’s shot off the goal line.

Kansas City’s Josh Wolff — whom United had held to one shot to that point — converted the ensuing penalty kick.

Then the Wizards began to swarm United’s half of the field. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando frustrated Kansas City in the 64th minute when he punched away Burciaga’s chip as Wolff leaped for a point-blank header.

The Wizards then frustrated themselves twice. Davy Arnaud ran on to Wolff’s right-wing cross but lifted the ball high over the crossbar just as Stewart slid for the tackle in the 66th minute.

Then in the 74th minute, Matt Taylor had a clear view of the goal after taking Burciaga’s through ball and seeing defender Bryan Namoff fall down. But Taylor decided to cross the ball to Zotinca on the right; the ball rolled too far in front of Zotinca and went out of bounds.

Even six minutes of second-half stoppage time didn’t help the Wizards. In the 93rd minute, Taylor deked Namoff and had another unencumbered chance but Rimando easily picked Taylor’s weak 8-yard shot off the ground.

“I put [the players] through [a lot of hard work], and they know it,” Nowak said. “But they got their reward today. They shared my vision, and we came away with the Cup at the end.”

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