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MLS playoffs

D.C. United, Galaxy are just one win away from MLS Cup '99 meeting.

By Gary Davidson

Analysis | Game Summary

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sunday, October 31, 1999) -- D.C. United is one victory away from a fourth straight MLS Cup after a dominant 2-1 decision over the Columbus Crew this afternoon in the first game of the Major League Soccer Eastern Conference best-of-three final played before 14,529 at RFK Stadium.

United beat the Crew for the fifth time in 1999 and has never lost at home to Columbus in 12 meetings in the four-year history of the league.

"Having seven days to focus on this game, I think showed today," United coach Thomas Rongen said. "We had a load of energy (and were) very focused from the opening whistle. We wanted to be the aggressor at home, which you have to be. We really played the way we wanted to play.

United clearly won the battle of midfielder, creating numerous scoring chances, on one hand, and otherwise denying good service to the Crew's dangerous strikers Stern John and Brian McBride. When Columbus was on the attack, D.C.'s central defenders Eddie Pope and Carey Talley were tight with their marks within the zone approach.

"We didn't want them to dictate how we were going to defend," Pope said. "We have our positions and they switched a lot. So we just dealt with it. I think Carey's more than capable with marking either one of them and I'm sure he feels that way about me. We feel comfortable with each other."

Pope was right in the middle of United's scoring strike. Midfielder Marco Etcheverry sent a right-side corner kick that Pope flicked on from the middle of the penalty area to Jaime Moreno at the far post. Moreno knocked home his shot from three yards for a 1-0 lead in the 15th minute.

"I went in to the back post and just had to touch it," Moreno said.

Columbus goalkeeper Mark Dougherty did a fine job of keeping the Crew in the match midway through the second half. He made a sliding leg save of forward Roy Lassiter's close-in drive in the 66th minute. Two minutes later, he was on the ground and somehow managed to get a hand up to poke away Moreno's stab for another three-yard tally after a perfect feed from midfielder Ben Olsen.

In the 72d minute, however, United midfielder John Maessner carried up the left flank before finding Olsen on the penalty spot. Olsen drove his 12-yarder on the first touch with his left foot and watched the ball hit a diving Dougherty's left arm before rolling into the net for a 2-0 advantage.

"Today was the old Ben Olsen that I used to play like," Olsen said. The coaching staff "sat me down and said, 'Listen, you're not doing as good as you can.' And I agreed with that, and we talked it out, and tried to solve some problems, and I think it worked. I haven't been playing as simple. My game is simple and hard work, so maybe I was trying to do too much."

Columbus did show some life in the late-going, following the insertion of Andy Williams in the midfield for Brian West. And in the 82d minute, the Crew reduced its deficit to 2-1 off a right-side cross from Robert Warzycha that Stern John flicked on to Brian McBride in the left side of the box. McBride sent a header perfectly to Jeff Cunningham who blasted a 12-yarder into the right corner.

"We were up 2-0 and when that happens, you tend to relax a little bit," Pope said. "That was certainly our fault. We were trying to (run out the clock) instead of keeping our pressure up. But (Williams) came in and did a great job."

Columbus continued to apply considerable pressure and John barely missed the right corner in the 87th minute, but that was it.

"I think we're playing our best soccer," Moreno said. "I think we're having a great time now and that's because of the work we've been doing this year, and finally we're all healthy. . . Today was a good day. Luckily everything just went right. We just played so well today that we were able to win."

Gary Davidson is managing editor of SoccerTimes and can be e-mailed at

D.C. United 2, Columbus Crew 1

Lineups: D.C. United - Tom Presthus, Diego Sonora, Eddie Pope, Carey Talley, Jeff Agoos, Geoff Aunger, Ben Olsen (Jason Moore 82), John Maessner, Marco Etcheverry, Jaime Moreno (A.J. Wood 82), Roy Lassiter; Columbus - Mark Dougherty, Todd Yeagley, Michael Clark, Mike Lapper, Brian West (Andy Williams 63), John DeBrito (Jason Farrell 75), Rob Smith (Ansil Elcock 73), Robert Warzycha, Jeff Cunningham, Stern John, Brian McBride.

D.C. United - Moreno (Pope, Etcheverry) 15;
D.C. United - Olsen (Maessner, Agoos) 72;
Columbus - Cunningham (McBride, John) 82.

Total shots: D.C. United 13 (Moreno 4, Olsen 4), Columbus 10 (John 3). Shots on goal: D.C. United 9 (Moreno 3), Columbus 5 (five players with 1). Saves: D.C. United - Presthus 4; Columbus - Dougherty 6. Fouls: D.C. United 15 (Aunger 3, Agoos 3), Columbus 13 (five players with 2). Offside: D.C. United 3, Columbus 3. Corner kicks: D.C. United 6, Columbus 3. Yellow card cautions: D.C. United - Aunger 24; Columbus - Yeagley 40, Warzycha 73. Possession percentage: D.C. United 53%, Columbus 47%.

Referee: Kevin Stott. Referee's assistants: Nathan Clement, Craig Lowry. Attendance: 14,529 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. Weather: Sunny, 74 degrees.

Los Angeles Galaxy 2, Dallas Burn 1

PASADENA, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Galaxy, the beneficiary of a fortuitous bounce, managed a 2-1 decision over the Dallas Burn in the opener of the Western Conference best-of-three final from the Dallas Burn.

Ezra Hendrickson's desperation shot redirected off the leg of defender Brian Haynes with 47 seconds remaining for the game-winner at the Rose Bowl where the Burn has lost six straight meetings.

With a shootout appearing imminent, substitute Simon Elliott launched a long ball to Hendrickson on the right flank. Hendrickson danced further into Burn territory before taking a shot from an impossible angle that hit the inside of Haynes' leg and curled inside the near post past keeper Matt Jordan.

Midfielder Mauricio Cienfuegos gave L.A. a 1-0 lead in the 39th minute. Awarded a free kick just outside of the Burn penalty area for Sergi Daniv's hard tackle of Roy Myers, the Galaxy lined up at the far post. Instead of crossing to his teammates, Cienfuegos hooked the ball sharply toward the near post, barely clearing the two-man wall before homing in on the top corner for his third career playoff goal.

Galaxy defenders Greg Vanney and Robin Fraser were charged with the task of keeping 1999 scoring champion Jason Kreis and striker Ariel Graziani under wraps. The duo's tight marking and intelligent positioning short-circuited much of the Dallas offense in the first half, limiting the traffic reaching goalkeeper Kevin Hartman.

In the 75th minute, however, second-half substitute Paul Broome sent Ted Eck's pass to Graziani, who was waiting deep inside the penalty area. Collecting the ball with his back to the goal, the Ecuadorian striker quickly turned and beat Hartman low to the near post for a 1-1 tie.

Los Angeles Galaxy 2, Dallas Burn 1

Lineups: Los Angeles - Kevin Hartman, Ezra Hendrickson, Paul Caligiuri, Robin Fraser, Greg Vanney, Roy Myers (Simon Elliott 73), Danny Pena, Mauricio Cienfuegos, Cobi Jones (Zak Ibsen 87), Carlos Hermosillo, Clint Mathis; Dallas - Matt Jordan, Jorge Rodriguez, Eric Dade, Brian Haynes, Chad Deering, Ted Eck, Mark Santel (Paul Broome 65), Sergi Daniv (Dante Washington 77), Oscar Pareja (John Jairo Trellez 83), Jason Kreis, Ariel Graziani.

Los Angeles - Cienfuegos (unassisted) 39;
Dallas - Graziani (Broome, Eck) 75;
Los Angeles - Hendrickson (Elliott) 90.

Total shots: Los Angeles 16 (Cienfuegos 5), Dallas 12 (Kreis 2). Shots on goal: Los Angeles 6 (Hendrickson 2, Cienfuegos 2), Dallas 5 (Kreis 2). Saves: Los Angeles - Hartman 4; Dallas - Jordan 4. Fouls: Los Angeles 16 (Hendrickson 3, Mathis 3). Dallas 21 (Eck 4). Offside: Los Angeles 2, Dallas 1. Corner kicks: Los Angeles 6, Dallas 5. Yellow card cautions: Los Angeles - Pena 61; Dallas - Daniv 30, Broome 84. Possession percentage: Los Angeles 51%, Dallas 49%.

Referee: Noel Kenny. Referee's assistants: Tom Bobadilla, Chip Reed. Attendance: 17,372 at Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. Weather: Hot, 92 degrees.

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