- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 30, 2006

D.C. United didn’t beat FC Dallas last night at RFK Stadium, but the 1-1 tie on the strength of Ben Olsen’s goal gave United the best start in its 11-year history. United (3-0-2) is now unbeaten in five games.

Meanwhile, many in the United locker room believe Olsen has made the U.S. World Cup team that will play in Germany in June.

“I think it’s pretty much decided,” said one United player who wished not to be identified. “Ben has that certain smile on his face.”

U.S. coach Bruce Arena was at last night’s game, watching Olsen playing well. Arena will announce his 23-man roster Tuesday on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.” Olsen, who already has scored two goals for the U.S. team this year, scored his first for United last night.

“When he saw Bruce on the sideline, it gave [Olsen] special motivation,” United coach Peter Nowak said.

United clearly had the biggest share of chances in the game, outshooting Dallas 15-9, but 6-foot-3 Dallas goalie Dario Sala had one of his best games with nine saves.

“I really enjoyed kicking their [behind],” said Sala, an Argentine who is friendly with United’s three Argentine players.

Olsen scored the game’s first goal in the 17th minute. Alecko Eskandarian made a good run on the right flank and passed to Josh Gros, who was hovering on the 18-yard line. Gros set the ball up perfectly for Olsen, who drove home a low powerful shot from 24 yards out, leaving Sala with no chance.

Dallas equaled Olsen’s goal with four minutes left in the first half. That’s when 2005 MLS All-Star Ronnie O’Brien collected a pass from Mark Wilson and ripped a low shot from 26 yards out, surprising United goalie Troy Perkins, who was slow to react and dived to no avail. Now a 1-1 game, United’s hard work seemed undone.

At the hour mark, United thought it took the lead when Sala made a brilliant save on Bobby Boswell’s header and Gros knocked in the rebound. But the goal was waved off for an offside call on Gros. Sala then made another great save, stopping Christian Gomez’s blistering 19-yard free kick.

“It’s not that he’s a fantastic keeper, he just read the game well,” Eskandarian said.

While suffering a number of tough tackles from Dallas defender Greg Vanney, Freddy Adu made some good runs and he worked hard most of the game, but at times his final touch was lacking. United striker Jaime Moreno had a relatively quiet game by his standards.

Last May when the teams met at RFK, Dallas star Carlos Ruiz scored on a bicycle kick in a 2-0 win. The goal eventually earned Goal of the Decade honors. But in this game, Ruiz was benched until the last seven minutes for missing practice.

“That was a surprise decision,” Nowak said, “but they still had good players and it was a tight game. We did everything right. We got a goal, had a lot of chances, but gave up a bad goal. The second half was much better, and we dominated the whole field.”

Notes — Before last night’s game United honored members of the team’s “Decade’s Best XI” chosen by the fans online: Marco Etcheverry, Jeff Agoos, Raul Diaz Arce, Gomez, John Harkes, Moreno, Olsen, Nick Rimando and Arena as coach. Other honorees — Ryan Nelsen, Eddie Pope and Carlos Llamosa — did not attend because of club commitments. …

United fans made it clear what they felt about Dallas striker Ruiz’s habit of diving in the box in order to earn penalty kicks. A big banner in the stands read: “Scores for Ruiz … 9.0 … 9.5 … 8.0 from the USSR judge.” United next travels to meet the Colorado Rapids next Saturday.

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