- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 26, 2006

D.C. United’s morale improved after its 4-3 win over the New York Red Bulls on Saturday at RFK Stadium. It was the team’s first win in four games and only its second victory in 10 matches.

The coaching staff even gave the starters a day off yesterday. Still, there was some lingering concern over giving up three goals to the Red Bulls. United has not shut out an opponent since accomplishing the feat against the Red Bulls eight games ago on Aug. 16. Before that, D.C. United had seven shutouts in 21 games.

“We need to do better in that area, but we were a man down,” said United midfielder Clyde Simms, who came off the bench after the ejection of United defender Facundo Erpen. “Still, that’s not an excuse. We need to know how to keep that lead, especially when we go two goals up with time left. In the next couple of weeks in training we will be working on our defensive shape.”

United gave up a two-goal lead twice in the last 10 minutes of the Red Bulls game. The last time United won with a two-goal lead was on May 31, when it drubbed the struggling Columbus Crew 5-1.

“Yes, we gave up three goals but we scored four,” said Stephen deRoux, who earned his first start with United this month. “We got a red card and we were down a man, but we pulled out the win. It’s been a while since we scored four goals in a game and that was very good for us to bounce back with the playoffs next month.”

United has three games left in the season — all on the weekend, which means the players have more time to prepare for games.

“In the last few months or so, we had a bunch of midweek games, so if you came off a loss you didn’t have much time to prepare for the next game,” Simms said. “With that win, we have a whole week to prepare for the next game. There’s nothing like a win for morale when you go into a week of practice.”

With Saturday’s victory, United earned the top seed in the playoffs and will enjoy home field advantage for the entire Eastern Conference series. But the club team has plenty to play for when it visits the Houston Dynamo on Saturday. United hopes to claim the Supporters’ Shield, which goes to the team with the best regular season record. United can claim the Shield with a win at Houston or an FC Dallas loss at Columbus, or if both United and Dallas tie their games. Winning the Shield means automatic entry into the CONCACAF Champions Cup and international soccer games next season.

“You want to be able to say you are the best team in the league record-wise,” Simms said. “We want to play in the CONCACAF Cup next year and get the international exposure. It’s also a great experience for the guys to play international teams.”

United will open its Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series with a road game on either Oct. 21 or 22, before playing host to the return game at RFK on Oct. 29 at 6 p.m. If United advances, the team will play host to the conference final at RFK, on either Nov. 4 or 5. The MLS Cup will be played in Frisco, Texas, on Nov. 12 at 3:30 p.m.

Note — United midfielder Christian Gomez was named MLS Player of the Week for the second time this month for his goal and two assists in the 4-3 win over the Red Bulls.

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