- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 29, 2006

D.C. United could make a little history when it faces FC Dallas tonight at RFK Stadium.

If United (3-0-1, 10 points) beats Dallas (3-0-1) it will be the best start in the club’s 11-year history. Even if United ties the Texas team, it will be the first time United has opened up with a five-game unbeaten streak.

“It’s just four games in the season and it means nothing,” United coach Peter Nowak said of his team’s recent success. “If we play another 28 games like that then I’ll be happy.”

Tonight’s game features the two remaining unbeaten teams in MLS and the leaders of their respective divisions. But United has scored one more goal than Dallas and given up three fewer.

In terms of goal scoring (10) and giving up goals (three), this is United’s best opening.

“We can’t be comfortable because we know Dallas is a very good team and hard to play against,” Nowak said. “It’s no accident they have 10 points. In their last game they were a man down and won.”

A good chunk of United’s success is because of Alecko Eskandarian, who after missing most of last season with an injury, has scored three goals in four games. Eskandarian appears to have regained the form that made him United’s leading scorer and MVP in 2004, but he begs to differ.

“I feel I’m in 2006 form to be honest,” said Eskandarian, who leads United with 11 shots. “I hear a lot of comparisons to 2004, but I never changed. Last year was a struggle but I’ve worked hard. … I’m not going back, I’m going forward.”

FC Dallas arrive with 21-year-old Kenny Cooper, the team’s leading scorer with three goals. The Baltimore-born Cooper, is a former Manchester United reserve player and the son of Ken Cooper, the former Baltimore Blast coach. Meanwhile, FC Dallas signed 22-year-old Argentine defender Marcos Charras yesterday and he is eligible for tonight’s game.

United’s best — The fans have spoken. D.C. United unveiled the club’s “Decade’s Best XI” this week. Bolivian ace Marco Etcheverry got the most votes from the fans online. The team includes seven former players (Jeff Agoos, Raul Diaz Arce, Etcheverry, John Harkes, Carlos Llamosa, Ryan Nelsen and Eddie Pope) and four current players (Christian Gomez, Jaime Moreno, Ben Olsen and Nick Rimando). Bruce Arena, who led the team from 1996 to 1998, was named as the Decade’s Best coach. Etcheverry, Agoos, Diaz Arce, Gomez, Harkes, Moreno, Olsen, Rimando and Arena will be honored before tonight’s game at RFK.

Loyal fans — The D.C. United fan club, the Screaming Eagles, will donate $250 to the Nicole Megaloudis Foundation in a show of support for United star Alecko Eskandarian, who was fined $250 by the league this week for spitting out the Red Bull energy drink in a goal celebration against the New York Red Bulls last week. Eskandarian was a close friend of Nicole, who died in a car accident in 2004.

Crunch time — Arena, the U.S. team coach, will announce his 23-man roster for the 2006 World Cup on Tuesday live on ESPN’s SportsCenter at 6 p.m. The roster needs to be submitted to FIFA by May 15.

Overseas awards — Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard, 25, was voted the English Professional Footballers’ Association’s player of the year by his peers, while Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney, 20, took the Young Player of the Year Award for the second year running. England’s Football Writers Association had other ideas, and named Arsenal striker Thierry Henry the footballer of the year, followed by John Terry, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard.

American goalie Marcus Hahnemann (Reading), was named to the Championship team of the year by his fellow players.

Predictions — UBS Wealth Management Research analysts, using a simulation model they say has predicted 89 percent of all of the semifinal winners of the previous nine World Cups, forecast Italy winning the World Cup over Brazil.

UBS predicts the quarterfinal results will be host Germany losing to Argentina, Italy beating France, Holland downing England and Brazil beating Spain. In the semifinals Italy will beat Argentina and Brazil will beat Holland. UBS’s model has the U.S. team coming in third in Group E ahead of Ghana and behind Italy and the Czech Republic.

Big bucks — France Football magazine reports that Brazilian striker Ronaldinho has replaced England captain David Beckham as the world’s highest-paid player, earning $30.9 in annual income from salaries and other deals.

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