- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 30, 2005

D.C. United goes into its first game against expansion Real Salt Lake at RFK Stadium tonight hoping to end some disturbing trends.

The defending Major League Soccer champion has developed a nasty habit of giving up crucial goals in the dying seconds of a game, picking up red cards and putting the ball in the back of its own net.

“We have to stop this immediately,” coach Peter Nowak said yesterday. “I’m not going to tolerate our way of playing. We had three games and three red cards, and at the end of the day we are losing games we are not supposed to lose.”

Adding to United’s woes will be the absence of forward Santino Quaranta (national team duty) and midfielder Dema Kovalenko (red-card suspension). The team also might be without key attacking midfielder Christian Gomez (eight goals, seven assists), who is nursing a tight hamstring and is questionable. Nowak and his staff will consult today on whether to play Gomez or save him for a tougher test at the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.

Forward Freddy Adu likely will start in place of Quaranta, and defender Bryan Namoff is back after a suspension.

In United’s last two matches — a penalty-kick loss to FC Dallas in the U.S. Open Cup and a 2-1 defeat at the New England Revolution — United gave up goals in stoppage time. In both defeats, the club was playing with a man down because of Kovalenko’s red cards.

“These red cards are unacceptable from the players’ angle and the officials’ angle, and this has to stop from both sides,” Nowak said.

United also has offered up a number of gift goals in recent games.

Central defender Bobby Boswell, who otherwise is having a stellar rookie year, has scored three own-goals this season, which is a league and club record. In his last two league games, Boswell has put the ball past his own goalie Nick Rimando.

“It’s nothing I intend to do,” Boswell said. “This year I had two which were freak accidents, and the last one was just a poor decision.”

Helping Boswell at the back is new defender Facundo Erpen, who had a fine league debut against the Revolution on Saturday until he took his eye off Taylor Twellman in the final seconds to allow the former Maryland Terrapins star to nab the game-winner.

“If we take care of business before the 90th minute, it won’t come down to late goals,” Boswell said.

After riding a six-game unbeaten streak that included four wins in a row, United (11-8-5, 38 points) has lost its last two league games and three games overall. The team remains in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, five points out of danger of missing the playoffs.

Meanwhile, struggling Real Salt Lake (5-14-4, 19 points), which has yet to win on the road, will introduce its latest signing tonight, Melvin Tarley, a Liberian-born forward. The visitors also will have the talented but combustible Clint Mathis available after the midfielder sat out a three-game suspension.

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