- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 18, 2009

Don’t count D.C. United out just yet. Some may have given the club up for dead after it recorded three straight home losses, but United is showing signs of life.

The struggling outfit snapped that skid Saturday night at RFK Stadium with a 1-0 victory over the best team in the league, the Columbus Crew.

Luciano Emilio’s goal kept United (9-8-12, 39 points) alive in the hunt for a berth in the playoffs, but the team will have to win its last game at Kansas City on Saturday and hope other results go its way. United is in a four-team tie with New England, Toronto and Dallas, all with 39 points, for the final wild-card berth.

“Today was just about grinding out a result,” coach Tom Soehn said. “The team showed a real commitment to working hard in defending, which you need to do this stage of the season. Obviously everybody knows the importance of the game - keeping our playoff hopes alive.”

Newly acquired goalkeeper Steve Cronin, who joined United on loan this week from the Portland Timbers, appeared comfortable and confident in his first game for the club and made a number of key saves. Like the rainy weather, it was a drab affair, but United did all it needed to get the vital three points.

“I felt at ease and comfortable from the beginning,” Cronin said. “The guys’ tendencies are pretty easy to learn. And as long everybody’s talking, it makes it so much easier.”

Things started well for the home team. Emilio notched his 10th goal to put United ahead in 17th minute.

Running at the top of the box, Thabiso Khumalo played a fine pass to Emilio, who chipped the ball over onrushing Crew goalie William Hesmer. Defender Danny O’Rourke slid in to clear the ball, but it had already crossed over the line.

United struck again, but Hesmer stopped Christian Gomez’s shot.

Cronin was again called on to make a fine save to stop a powerful curling shot from former Maryland star Robbie Rogers. United’s new acquisition also stopped Eddie Gaven’s close-range header just before halftime.

United made a change at the break, with Lawson Vaughn replacing defender Devon McTavish.

The Crew’s key playmaker, Guillermo Barros Schelotto (12 goals), had little impact and was replaced in the 56th minute by former Maryland ace Jason Garey.

Jaime Moreno came off the bench in the 58th minute for Gomez to play in his 307th game, making him the league’s all-time leader for the most regular-season games played for one club.

United had few forays up the field in the second half but soaked up the Crew’s efforts on goal. The Crew’s night got worse when substitute forward Emilio Renteria was red-carded for a nasty tackle from behind on Julius James.

United was missing three key midfielders: Santino Quaranta (foot), Ben Olsen (red card) and Chris Pontius (yellow-card suspension).

TORONTO FC 1, REAL SALT LAKE 0: Jim Brennan scored his second goal of the season in the 47th minute and Toronto FC beat Real Salt Lake at home to boost its slim playoff chances.

FIRE 0, REVOLUTION 0: Host New England lost control of its playoff fate, and Chicago blew a chance to clinch a postseason berth in Foxborough, Mass.

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