- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 4, 2005

Show me the way to San Jose, and I’ll show you a struggling D.C. United team.

From the very first game in Major League Soccer, United’s trips to the San Jose Earthquakes’ Spartan Stadium often have been tough ones. After losing the inaugural MLS game 1-0 on April 6, 1996, United has won just two games in the Santa Clara Valley, and those came back in the glory days of coach Bruce Arena.

“San Jose is a very tough place to go,” said midfielder Ben Olsen, looking ahead to tonight’s game there between United (3-4-2, 11 points) and the Earthquakes (3-3-4, 13 points). “I don’t know if anybody knows our record [there] — it’s not very good.”

You can say that again.

Since its last win there on June 3, 1998, United hasn’t earned a victory in seven trips. It’s the club’s longest non-winning span at any MLS venue.

The narrow field at the intimate stadium used to provide an excuse for visiting teams. But the 26,000-seat facility at San Jose State University was widened by five yards in 1998 to the FIFA-mandated 70 yards — just two fewer than RFK Stadium. The field length went from 106 to 110 yards, the same as RFK.

Still, whether it’s San Jose or any other road venue, United’s road record has been dismal since 2000. Last season the team had a 2-8-5 mark — second worst in MLS — and scored a league-low 12 goals in 15 regular-season road games. However, it didn’t stop the team from winning its fourth title.

United has one win on the road this season over struggling Chivas USA.

“That’s what good teams are about [winning on the road],” said United forward Jaime Moreno, who has seven career goals against San Jose. “We are trying to find a way to win on the road. The young players need to know how to win away.”

Part of United’s problem this season is the team’s inconsistency. After a 3-2 home win over Kansas City, United suffered a 2-0 loss to FC Dallas at RFK last week.

“There have been lineup changes, and we are having trouble finding our identity,” said Olsen. “We didn’t show the other night [against Dallas] the heart that we have. Anytime you play bad that’s one thing, but to not have that heart at home, and that willingness to fight and tackle, that’s disappointing.”

MLS notes — Chivas USA interim coach Javier Ledesma, who replaced former United coach Thomas Rongen this week after 10 games (1-8-1, four points), is the uncle of Chicago Cubs shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, who is married to longtime national team star Mia Hamm. Chivas tied the Kansas City Wizards 1-1 in Ledesma’s debut.

Tiffeny is back — The U.S. women will play Canada at Virginia Beach on June 26, and talented striker Tiffeny Milbrett, who missed the 2003 World Cup after a dispute with former coach April Heinrichs, is back in the mix to round out some career numbers. New coach Greg Ryan recalled Milbrett, who has played 199 games for the U.S. and scored 99 goals.

Freddy with the boys — Freddy Adu, who turned 16 on Thursday, has joined the U.S. under-20 team for the FIFA World Youth Championship from June 10 to July 2 in Holland. The Americans are in tough Group D and play Argentina (June 11), Germany (June 14) and Egypt (June 18). The event will be a good test for Adu, and no doubt numerous scouts from Europe’s big clubs will be watching him and other American youngsters like Eddie Gaven (MetroStars), Chad Barrett (Chicago Fire) and Danny Szetela (Columbus Crew).

Goal scorers elite — Villarreal’s Diego Forlan and Arsenal’s Thierry Henry will share the Golden Shoe award for being this season’s top goal scorers in Europe. Ex-Manchester United star Forlan scored 25 goals in Spain’s La Liga to equal Henry’s total in the English Premier League. Henry becomes the first player to win the award two seasons in a row.

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