- The Washington Times - Friday, September 15, 2006

D.C. United continues to sputter along to its all-important goal of winning the Supporters Shield, awarded to the team with the most points in MLS. The team squandered two points with a mid-week 1-1 tie at the New England Revolution. That said, a point taken on the road is always precious. And it won’t get any easier tomorrow, when United (14-3-10, 52 points) travels to face the Chicago Fire (10-9-8, 38).

United will be missing a key midfielder in Ben Olsen, who is suspended, and there are other worrisome signs. United strikers Alecko Eskandarian and Jaime Moreno are struggling with injuries as the team heads into its last five games of the season.

To bolster its offense, United added the minor league Richmond Kickers’ Ugandan striker Robert Ssejjemba, 26, to its roster yesterday. Ssejjemba, who scored a hat trick in a United reserve game Sunday, is available for the Chicago game.

Meanwhile, the team hopes the ever-maturing Freddy Adu can conjure up a few more goals like the splendid free kick he perfectly curled over the Real Salt Lake defensive wall in the 1-1 tie at RFK Stadium last Saturday. The goal was named the MLS Goal of the Week.

“It’s a great feeling to score like that,” Adu said. “You practice, practice, practice, and in the game it pays off. Hopefully the flood gates will now open and the bounces will go my way.”

Midfielder Christian Gomez is United’s usual free kick-taker, but Adu hopes coach Peter Nowak allows him to take a few more.

“The trick is getting the ball over the defensive wall, that’s the most important thing,” Adu said. “Once you get it over the wall, there’s the chance it will go in.”

Nowak has noticed Adu’s efforts of late.

“Freddy put a lot of work together in practice and that free kick was the payoff,” Nowak said.

The 17-year-old Adu has scored only two goals this season after notching five in 2004 and four last season. But it’s not for trying. Adu has had 23 shots on goal this season compared to 16 in both 2004 and 2005. It was a shot from Adu that led to United’s goal in the mid-week match at the Revolution, when Josh Gros tapped in the rebound from Adu’s strike.

“When you go for a long time without scoring, it eats at you,” Adu said.

Teams are now fighting for playoff spots and home-field advantage.

“Every game will be war,” United technical director Dave Kasper said.

With a 14-point lead over the Fire in the Eastern Conference, United has the top seed in the conference playoffs well in hand and now is going for the Shield and an automatic berth in the international CONCACAF Champions Cup.

“We want the international competition, the prestige and the potential for bonus money for the players,” Kasper said.

Luckily for United, its key competitor in the race for the Shield — FC Dallas — lost in a mid-week game to Chivas USA.

Playoff schedule — United will play its second game in the Eastern Conference semifinals at RFK Stadium on Oct. 29 at 6 p.m. (ESPN2).

National roundup — Construction on the $200 million soccer-specific, 25,000-seat stadium for the New York Red Bulls begins in Harrison, N.J., on Tuesday. … One of the big college soccer games of the weekend is the George Mason women’s game against Maryland tomorrow at 7 p.m. at George Mason Stadium.

International notes — European champion Barcelona, probably the best team in the world, will promote an organization on the front of its jerseys for the first time in its 106-year-old history. Barcelona has signed a five-year agreement with UNICEF to bear the slogan of the United Nations children’s charity on the players shirts. The team will also donate $1.9 million to UNICEF projects each year.

“For me it’s perfect that the team is wearing this charitable logo and I hope people will take it as an example,” Brazilian star Ronaldinho told the sports daily Mundo Deportivo.

Barcelona is the only major team not to have a commercial advertisement on its shirts. … The winner of the FIFA World Club event in Japan in December will win $4.5 million. The total prize money in the event is $15 million. Mexican team Club America will represent the CONCACAF region. European entrant Barcelona is the favorite. … FIFA has created an Ethics Committee headed by Sebastian Coe to “protect and promote the ethics and the morals” in the game. FIFA also announced that the U-17 Women’s World Cup will be played in New Zealand in 2008 and the U-20 Women’s World Cup will be held in Chile in 2008.

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