D.C. United 2
Columbus 1

Los Angeles 2
Dallas 1

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D.C. United was dominant, Los Angeles somewhat lucky in playoff victories.

By Robert Wagman

Analysis | Game Summary

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sunday, October 31, 1999) -- After today's D.C. United 2-1 victory over the Columbus Crew in the Major League Soccer Eastern Conference best-of-three final, Crew coach Tom Fitzgerald said "Same old story, they got two good goals and we got one."

Implied in that quote is that United slipped past the Crew. Nothing could be further from the truth. United dominated this match through most of the 90 minutes, except for the very late going, when Crew sub Andrew Williams seemed to lift his struggling team.

If the run of play was any indication, United should have won this match about 4-0. If a team lets United get into a rhythm, it is extremely difficult to defeat. And today United found that rhythm early and attacked relentlessly.

What kept the Crew in the match was the play of keeper Mark Dougherty, and United's continued inability to finish plays for goals when it should.

One plays stands out. In the 68th minute, March Etcheverry slipped the ball through to a charging Ben Olsen. He took it almost to the end line. Olsen crossed the ball sharply to Jamie Moreno all alone at the far post. He volleyed it toward the empty net. Suddenly Dougherty came flashing out of nowhere and, fully extended, slapped the ball away. It was simply a stunning save and kept the Crew in the match.

The Crew's problem today was lack of an effective midfield. Columbus could not control and hold the ball for any time at all, and the result was a relentless United attack.

United got good play from Moreno and Etcheverry and very good defending from Eddie Pope and Carey Talley. Sub Geoff Aunger, playing for the suspended Richie Williams, was very effective in Williams' normal role as disrupter.

If the Crew is going to have a chance to return to D.C. for a decisive third match, it will have to step up its midfield play next Sunday in Columbus. Stern John, although kept in close check by Aunger and Pope, is always dangerous. If he can get better service, he could change the result on his own.

The key next Sunday may be whether the Crew can get off to a quick start. If Columbus falls behind early, its hopes of overcoming United may be at an end.

What a strange, strange match in the Rose Bowl. The Dallas Burn came into the match sounding like a team that expected to be beaten. Dallas talked about the fact that L.A. would have to win twice in the Rose Bowl to advance.

The Burn, you see, assumes it will win the match next weekend back home in the Cotton Bowl where it is undefeated this season. So, in pre-game interviews, Dallas all but said it will come down to a third game in two weeks.

Actually, in the first half, Dallas played like a team that expected to lose. The Burn generated little offense and went a goal down as Mauricio Cienfuegos scored in the 39th minute, on a patented, sharply-angled free kick that Dallas keeper Matt Jordan did not do much with.

At halftime, it seemed that the Burn would go through the motions for the next 45 and then head back to Big D to regroup. But Dallas deserves a lot of credit. Instead of folding, it came out full of fire, and surprisingly took the game to the Galaxy.

A well deserved Ariel Graziani goal in the 75th minute brought Dallas level, and it continued to attack. Then, just when it seemed it might steal the road victory in a shootout, disaster struck.

With only seconds to go, a seemingly harmless shot from the wing by Ezra Hendrickson redirected off the leg of the Burn's Brian Haynes and somehow found its way between Jordan and the near post. So instead of stealing a victory, Dallas will have to go back to plan A, and that is win next weekend in Dallas and return to the Rose Bowl for the decisive third match.

Robert Wagman is a regular contributor to SoccerTimes and can be e-mailed at

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