- The Washington Times - Friday, May 6, 2005

Christian Gomez rarely plays a full game, but the playmaker still remains a potent weapon for D.C. United.

The Argentine midfielder clearly is United’s most creative player in the midfield, but it seems coach Peter Nowak doesn’t consider the 30-year-old Gomez a 90-minute player. Gomez has averaged 64 minutes in 18 games with United since joining the club last summer.

Most players would struggle with that role, but not Gomez.

“As a player you always want to play the whole match but the coach makes the decisions,” Gomez said through a translator yesterday. “He is the one analyzing the game from the bench and if there needs to be adjustments he makes them. That’s fine with me.”

At Kansas City last week, Gomez showed more displeasure than usual upon being substituted, walking slowly to the sideline after 15-year-old Freddy Adu replaced him in 77th minute. Gomez created two of the team’s three scoring chances in the drab scoreless tie.

“I don’t like to come out of a game but that’s the coach’s decision and in no way am I mad about it,” Gomez said.

Gomez, the team’s highest paid player after Adu, makes the most of his time on the field with his tireless running. United was sputtering last season with only six wins in 21 games until Gomez arrived in August from Argentine club Arsenal. With the talented midfielder, United lost only two of its last 10 games and then went 4-0 in the playoffs to claim the MLS title.

“I feel I arrived at the right moment when the team was beginning to peak,” said Gomez, downplaying his own contribution. “I was lucky to be able to convert some goals and help the team win a championship, but that’s the past. Now we must focus on the current season and the game against Columbus [tonight at RFK Stadium].”

While he notched five goals in 2004, Gomez never played a full game in his 13 matches. The only 90-minute game Gomez has played with United was the 4-3 loss to New England last month. In that game, Nowak was forced to use his three substitutes to replace injured players David Stokes, Alecko Eskandarian and Steve Guppy.

With United, Gomez has been replaced mostly by Adu (four times) and Josh Gros (three).

In 322 minutes this season, Gomez has a goal and an assist in the regular season. He scored in the team’s 2-0 win at Chivas USA in the season-opener. Four days later he scored on a nice header in the 1-1 tie with Pumas at RFK in the CONCACAF Cup. He then played the free kick that assisted Mike Petke’s goal in a 1-1 tie with Chicago.

“We’ve had a rough start to the season, especially being eliminated from the CONCACAF Cup, but the MLS season is in its early stages and we hope, starting against Columbus, we can begin to put a winning streak together,” Gomez said.

At United, Gomez wears the coveted No. 10 shirt, worn for eight seasons by United’s legendary Marco Etcheverry.

“In Latin America, Marco is very well known for what he did for his country [Bolivia] in the World Cup,” Gomez said. “He was a great player with Colo-Colo [Chile] before he came to D.C. United where he is an idol. I’m just proud to wear the same jersey that he wore for the club.”

For now, Gomez said he and his family are happy living in Arlington.

“We like the standard of living and all the commodities this country offers. We just need to learn the language,” he said.

Game notes — Eskandarian (bruised knee), Stokes (concussion) and Bryan Namoff (broken rib) are all expected to play tonight, but Guppy (Achilles’ tendon) is still out. Dema Kovalenko (broken ankle) is back training with the team.

Deja vu all over again — United’s 1-2-2 record this season is the same as it was at this point last year. If it stays on course, it will play a 1-1 tie with Columbus tonight just as it did May 8 last year. United has a four-game winless streak and is tied for the bottom spot in the East with Kansas City and the MetroStars.

New rankings — SI.com has set up a new weekly ranking system for Major League Soccer. D.C. United is ranked No. 7 in the 12-team league … Revolution midfielder Clint Dempsey was voted MLS Player of the Month for April.

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