United stands tall on goal by Moreno On night that champs are honored with rings, they dump MetroStars, 2-1


WASHINGTON -- D.C. United and the New York/New Jersey MetroStars picked up last night where they left off last season, playing a tense, thrilling soccer game decided by a goal.

United won its home opener of the the Major League Soccer season, 2-1, on a scintillating run down the left side by John Harkes. He passed deftly into the box to forward Steve Rammel, who then slipped another pass to forward Jaime Moreno on the right.

From about five yards, Moreno touched the ball into the far right corner of the net past diving MetroStars goalkeeper Tony Meola. Only 1: 14 was left to play.

It was an unfortunate ending for Meola, who faced 20 shots on goal. That is the most against one keeper in two seasons of MLS games. The previous mark was 16 against the Revolution's Adrian Heaney by the Dallas Burn last Sept. 7.

A drained-looking United coach Bruce Arena said, "Giving up three points [in the standings] would have been bad. We made it hard for ourselves, but it was a heck of a lot better than last week [a 1-0 victory in a shootout in Los Angeles]."

It was the second consecutive heart-breaking loss for New York. Last Saturday, the MetroStars lost at Tampa Bay on a goal with about 20 seconds left.

United knocked New York out of the playoffs last fall on a penalty kick in the final minute of the deciding first-round game at RFK. The teams have met eight times, with all being decided by one goal.

United is 2-0. New York is 0-3 for the second year in a row.

United had dominated only to have its 1-0 halftime lead nullified on a misplay by Harkes. He had a slow, long pass back to goalkeeper Scott Garlick with 13: 40 to play intercepted by pesky MetroStars forward Antony De Avila, a Colombia national team veteran who has tormented United since joining New York last August.

De Avila trickled the stolen pass about 19 yards into the net for his seventh career goal against United.

The game drew 28,749, a smaller crowd than anticipated by United officials. Late afternoon showers may have contributed to the turnout, although little rain fell during the game.

United defender Eddie Pope, who scored the overtime game-winner in last October's MLS Cup off a corner kick, got the game's first goal off another corner with just less than six minutes remaining in the first half.

This one wasn't quite as dramatic as his act in Foxboro, Mass., but he did it with panache, back-heeling the loose ball from about 4 feet into an empty net.

Rammel tried for a shot from directly in front of the goal after Meola dropped the corner, only to see the ball pushed by a defender to the right side of the goal where Pope was lurking.

United dominated the first half, with Moreno, Marco Etcheverry, Rammel, and even on a couple occasions defender Jeff Agoos tormenting the New York back line and Meola, who had four saves.

United had 10 shots, six on goal, to New York's three in the first half. None of the MetroStars' efforts was on target.

NOTES: In a pregame ceremony, D.C. United players got their $3,000 MLS championship rings made by Tiffany & Co. Also receiving one was Craig Fiori, 27, of Arlington, Va., who said he saw nine games last year. He was selected to receive one in a random drawing. A parade of youth soccer teams preceded the ceremony accompanied by "We Are the Champions," by the late Freddie Mercury and the rock group, Queen. Obviously delighted players, plus fireworks, concluded the ceremony.

Moreno played 70 minutes for Bolivia on Wednesday in a World Cup qualifier in La Paz. Bolivia won a fight-marred game against Argentina, 2-1. Two Marylanders play for the MetroStars, forward A.J. Wood of Rockville and goalkeeper Zach Thornton, who played at Edgewood High and Loyola College. Both were reserves.

(Standings, 12C)

Pub Date: 4/06/97

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