- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 11, 2005

No one is panicking yet, but D.C. United must pick up points soon — the big three-point hauls from wins — and they will come only if the team starts scoring more. Twelve goals in 10 games is just not good enough for a club of United’s caliber.

“The season is creeping upon us,” said United goalie Nick Rimando. “We have to start getting some points.”

The coaching staff is cautiously optimistic the goals will come.

“I think we would worry more if we weren’t creating chances,” said assistant coach Tom Soehn. “If you’re not creating opportunities, then you do have real issues.”

It’s not that United isn’t playing well. In a scoreless tie with the San Jose Earthquakes last week, United was clearly the superior team with its crisp possession game and neat passing. The problem lies in converting chances.

United coach Peter Nowak has been urging his players to be less cerebral in front of the goal and to take shots if they see an opening. “Don’t think, just shoot” seems to be Nowak’s recent philosophy.

Almost all of United’s goals this year have come from inside the 18-yard box, but Nowak wants his player to shoot from a distance.

“I just have to encourage my players that on every chance they get to shoot on goal, they cannot hesitate,” Nowak said. “So if you have a shot from 20 yards out, just do it. We can’t keep making so many passes into the goal area. If you have a shot on goal, you have to take it.”

From a defensive point of view United is doing very well, and against San Jose the forwards were doing their fair share of defending.

“Part of our offense is playing good defense,” Soehn said. “I’d be worried if we were peaking right now because it would be too early.”

United (3-4-3, 12 points) has to be careful not to drift out of playoff contention. The club has three games coming in the next eight days against teams all performing well. United travels to face the MetroStars (4-3-4, 16 points) tomorrow and then plays home games against the Chicago Fire (6-5-1,19) on Wednesday and the unbeaten New England Revolution (6-0-4, 22) three days later.

While United’s record after 10 games is identical to the mark it had at the same point in 2004, the teams above them in the standings are doing much better. At this point last season, only one point separated United from the front-runners. New England, this year’s conference leader, is already 10 points ahead of D.C.

United’s attacking players, Jaime Moreno and Christian Gomez, have modest results so far, but the club’s younger forwards have not performed. Alecko Eskandarian, the team’s leader in goals in 2004, has yet to score. Santino Quaranta has only one goal.

Some have wondered whether United should be looking for another striker rather than acquiring an Argentine defender who reportedly will arrive in August.

“We think we have the answers here,” said technical director Dave Kasper who hires United’s players. “It’s just a matter of time before Esky hits his stride, and Santino is putting together some good games up top. I think we will be fine [on offense.]”

But Nowak is not afraid to experiment with his team and give his reserves a chance if his starters aren’t producing.

“We are still looking to improve,” the coach said. “We are still looking and asking ourselves do we have a championship team or not?”

The next three games should tell.

Meanwhile, the MetroStars bolstered their forward line this week by adding bad-boy striker Ante Razov from the Columbus Crew. Razov, who has netted 78 goals in 168 game, will be looking to prove something in his debut against United.

MLS news — Because of disagreements over the lease of the Alamodome, the city of San Antonio is no longer considered a candidate for an MLS team in 2006. MLS will focus on other cities, including Toronto, Houston, Seattle, St. Louis, Rochester, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee and Philadelphia.

World Cup bound — South Korea, Japan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Argentina all booked their passage to the 2006 World Cup in Germany this week. Teams almost there are Holland, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Portugal, Poland, Brazil, Mexico and the United States.

Freddy is ready — Freddy Adu, who turned 16 last week, and the U.S. under-20 team take on favorite Argentina today at the FIFA Youth World Championship in Holland. The game will be aired live on FSC at 11:30 a.m.

Moving up — With recent goals in the U.S. team’s 3-0 wins over Costa Rica and Panama in World Cup qualifying, Brian McBride and Landon Donovan have moved up the all-time scoring list. McBride has 28 goals, six behind Eric Wynalda for the top spot. Donovan has moved ahead of Germantown’s Bruce Murray into fourth place with 22 goals, two behind Joe-Max Moore.

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