- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 15, 2005

With the playoffs just around the corner, D.C. United coach Peter Nowak is reluctant to rest any key players as his club plays out the regular season tonight against the Columbus Crew at RFK Stadium.

After last week’s 2-1 loss to the MetroStars at RFK ended a four-game winning streak, Nowak wants to use tonight’s match as a springboard into postseason play, which begins Friday at the Chicago Fire.

“I think it’s a very important game to make sure we set the standard and set the tone before the playoffs start,” Nowak said. “You can’t just take guys off the field and rest them. You just can’t switch players on and off. The most important thing is to keep them fresh.”

United (16-10-5, 53 points) is 2-1 this season against the Crew (11-16-4, 37 points), who already have been eliminated from the playoffs. The last time the teams met at RFK was in May, when United won 3-1. Freddy Adu had a goal and two assists.

“This game is a test on how we are going to play in the playoffs,” United defender Bryan Namoff said. “We have to take the game like it’s a playoff game.”

Nowak also may be hesitant to use his backups against the Crew because his reserve team has a game tomorrow morning.

Players only are allowed to be on the field a combined 120 minutes during a weekend. United’s reserve team (7-4, 21 points) can win the Reserve Division title and a $20,000 prize with a win or tie against the Crew reserves at RFK’s Auxiliary Field at 10 a.m. Admission is free.

Nowak wants to get the club’s new forward — Argentine Lucio Filomeno — on the field tonight.

When asked this week whether Filomeno will play against the Crew, Nowak said: “Absolutely.”

Filomeno seems to have shrugged off a knee injury. This week he played with the starters in scrimmages at training sessions.

“I’m very pleased with his work ethic,” said Nowak, who calls the Argentine ” a plain striker, the guy who can be up top and finish off chances.”

Meanwhile, with 15 goals this season, United forward Jaime Moreno remains one behind New England’s Taylor Twellman in the chase for the league’s Golden Boot award.

Last spot — The MetroStars and the Kansas City Wizards are battling for the last playoff spot in the East and go into the weekend tied in points and head-to-head play. The Wizards are ahead on goal differential at plus-8. If Kansas City wins today at FC Dallas, the MetroStars are out of the playoffs. If the Wizards lose or tie, the MetroStars can earn a playoff spot with a win at Chivas USA tomorrow.

Resting Alecko — Alecko Eskandarian, United’s leading goal scorer in 2004 and the MVP of the MLS Cup, will miss the rest of the season because of the concussion he suffered June 18 against New England. Eskandarian, who is taking three courses at American University in pursuit of his degree, refereed United’s scrimmage games at practice and tested United’s goalies with his powerful shots.

Good show — D.C. United starters Santino Quaranta and Brian Carroll both played 90 minutes and had solid performances as the U.S. team beat Panama 2-0 at Foxboro, Mass., on Wednesday. The win helped the United States (7-2-1, 22 points) beat Mexico on goal differential to win the CONCACAF Final Round World Cup qualifying group for the first time. Next up is the World Cup draw Dec. 9.

Meanwhile, former Columbus Crew star Stern John, who scored 44 goals in 55 MLS games from 1998 to 1999, notched two big goals to down Mexico 2-1 on Wednesday, giving Trinidad and Tobago a chance to become the smallest nation to qualify for the World Cup. The Soca Warriors now play Bahrain in a two-game playoff. Meanwhile, in other World Cup playoffs, Australia plays Uruguay, Spain meets Slovakia, Norway plays the Czech Republic and Switzerland faces Turkey. The winners advance to the finals in Germany next year.

Top prize — Shannon Boxx and Christine Welsh were the only American players named to the 24-woman list for the FIFA world player 2005 award. On the 30-man list, six Brazilians were named (Cafu, Kaka, Roberto Carlos, Robinho, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo) but only one Argentine (Juan Roman Riquelme). England had four nominees (David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney). The awards will be announced Dec. 19.

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