- The Washington Times - Monday, October 16, 2006

D.C. United brought down the curtain on its regular season by succumbing again to the Chicago Fire, a 3-2 loss last night before 18,652 at RFK Stadium.

United finished 1-3-1 against the Fire this season and could meet Chicago in the Eastern Conference final next month if both teams advance.

It was the same old story of United in recent games — missed chances and sloppy defending — ailments that could make the team’s postseason run a brief one. And while United ended the season with the best record (15-7-10, 55 points) in MLS, it enters the playoffs on a three-game losing streak.

“I don’t remember losing three games in a row since I’ve been here,” said United coach Peter Nowak, who is in his third year. “It’s reality. … We cannot feel sorry for ourselves. We made mistakes that cost us goals, and we had to chase the game.”

If there was any good news for United in this latest loss, it was Freddy Adu’s two perfect assists that helped set up a couple of goals for Christian Gomez. The talented Argentine midfielder, a top candidate for league MVP, got his 13th and 14th goals of the season to help soften the loss.

“Individually, when you score goals to help your team you are happy,” Gomez said. “But overall I’m very upset that we lost. It’s not the way we wanted to end the season.”

Nick Rimando, making only his second start of the season in place of Troy Perkins (strep throat), had no chance on the Fire’s first goal in the 21st minute. Josh Gros failed to deal with former United player Justin Mapp on top of the 18-yard box. Mapp easily shook Gros and played a nice cross to Gonzalo Segares, who headed the ball home from six yards.

Three minutes later, the Fire’s big striker, Nate Jaqua, seemingly unmarked by United, tapped home Guerrero’s cross from close-range to make it 2-0.

“We gave up goals like a U-12 team,” Nowak said.

United got back in the game in the 34th minute on a delightful goal from Gomez. Adu made a powerful run through the middle of the field and laid the ball to Gomez, who looped the ball over the 6-foot-3 Matt Pickens into the Chicago net.

Nowak, hoping to add more bite and muscle to his team, replaced Rod Dyachenko and Matias Donnet with veterans Alecko Eskandarian and Ben Olsen at the start of the second half. It nearly worked as Eskandarian hit the post in the 67th minute, and Olsen had a shot hit the bar in the 90th minute. But Chicago looked hungrier and sharper, and Andy Herron made up for a missed penalty kick in the first half when he whipped a fine shot past Rimando in the 74th minute.

Gros missed a golden opportunity in the 79th minute when his header went wide.

“The soccer gods maybe are not on our side right now,” Nowak said.

Gomez got his second goal on the night when Adu again set him up, and the Argentine’s shot banged off the far post and behind Pickens into the net with eight minutes left.

Note — United plays the New York Red Bulls in the first game of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Giants Stadium at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

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