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Gibbs signs with Charlton; Lewis, Leeds United advance in promotion quest.

Lewis free kick gives Leeds 1-1 draw with North End in playoff opener.

Friedel, Rovers are heading to Europe after 1-0 decision over Chelsea.

Hahnemann, Convey help Reading close season with record.

Berhalter penalty kick moves Cottbus to brink of promotion.

Hahnemann, Convey are back in action as Reading nears record.

Beasley fined $1,852 by Dutch judge for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Spector will have surgery to repair dislocated shoulder.

Spector dislocates shoulder in Charlton victory over Portsmouth.

Controversial goal diverts Rovers' run to European play.

Keller, G'ladbach see UEFA Cup hopes fade away.

Americans Abroad

DeMerit stands out; Watford advances to promotion final.

By Robert Wagman (in Washington, D.C.)

(Tuesday, May 9, 2006) -- American Jay DeMerit turned in an exceptional effort, helping Watford gain a tumultuous 0-0 draw tonight with visiting Crystal Palace which propelled Watford into the English League Championship promotion playoffs final game.

Watford won the semifinal series by an aggregate 3-0 and will play Leeds United May 21 at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff with the winner of that match joining Reading and Sheffield United in the Premier League next season.

The one-game final features an interesting matchup of Americans. While Watford has DeMerit, who has never represented his nation, Leeds relies on a strong contribution from left midfielder Eddie Lewis, who is set to be a starter when the United States opens its World Cup quest June 12 against the Czech Republic in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.

Heading home for the second leg with a three-goal advantage, all Watford needed to do was limit Palace's scoring chances. DeMerit and his partner in central defense, Malky Mackay, rose to the occasion and met the challenge, stifling the Palace attack. DeMerit marked England international forward Andrew Johnson out of the match.

"Mackay and DeMerit were the outstanding players in the tie," Palace manager Iain Dowie said after the match.

The contentious meeting eventually degenerated into a brawl. In the first half, Palace lost captain Michael Hughes with a suspected broken arm. After intermission, Palace defender Fitz Hall, apparently feeling Watford manager Adrian Boothroyd was interfering with him trying to retrieve the ball for a throw-in, appeared to throw a bunch at the coach. This led both benches to empty into a skirmish, ESPN Soccernet reported.

Dowie also seemed to raise a fist in the fracas.

While virtually every player, both managers and their staffs were involved, referee Steve Tanner eventually ejected only Boothroyd. While it was not immediately clear if Boothroyd was sent off or sent to the stands for his own protection, Tanner later confirmed the Watford coach was disqualified for delay of game. This means Boothroyd will likely be suspended for the all-important final against Leeds.

"I tried to get the ball back in play for a throw-in and then the situation occurred," Boothroyd said. "I'm not a violent guy and if I were to pick a fight with anyone, it would not be with someone as big as Fitz Hall. There was no malice in there and I don't want it to spoil a fantastic season."

Dowie said Boothroyd should be allowed to lead his team against Leeds.

Watford finished third in the League Championship, three points ahead of fifth-place United, but London bookmakers have established Leeds as the early favorite to win promotion. Making the final even more interesting is that Boothroyd served as an assistant to Leeds manager Kevin Blackwell before leaving to take over at Watford in March 2005.

Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.

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