United reigns and MLS shines despite rain D.C. claims 2nd straight title, 2-1, over Colorado before near-record crowd

October 27, 1997|By Lowell E. Sunderland | Lowell E. Sunderland,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Literally speaking, it rained for Major League Soccer's championship game again yesterday -- unrelenting, soaking, chilling stuff with temperatures in the mid-40s. But figuratively, it didn't rain on either D.C. United's or the MLS's "parade."

Heavily favored United won its second-straight MLS Cup, defeating the cellar-to-not-quite-stellar Colorado Rapids, 2-1, before 57,431 noisy, drenched fans. The crowd was 581 shy, likely because of the poor weather, of setting a record for any event at RFK Stadium. But maybe just as importantly, this game in the rain, which was not as bad as that for last fall's first MLS Cup in Foxboro, Mass., became another showcase for a sport trying to succeed at the professional level in this country.

"I was entertained. I'm sure the fans were," said losing coach Glenn "Mooch" Myernick, who guided his much-improved team into the game with four straight playoff wins after a 14-18 season. "I think you can see we came to play. United is a fine team and a deserving champion."

"Let's celebrate a great day for professional soccer in this country," said United coach Bruce Arena, the famed college coach and now winner of the first two MLS Cups. "Who would have envisioned five years ago that this would have happened? I'm happy for our team, but I'm also happy for MLS."

United captain and midfielder John Harkes put another spin on the game and result: "What we've accomplished this year with D.C. United is sending the message out for the rest of the league and the fans. take on what we're making here -- tradition, in a class style."

Rain hampered some of the art that might have been seen on a dry field, but the game did not lack action.

United never trailed against Colorado, the MLS's poorest team a year ago. But the Rapids, who finished fourth in the West, made things interesting after falling behind 2-0 in the second half.

They replaced a defender with an attacking player, Adrian Paz, who from a sharp angle in the 75th minute scored the Rapids' only goal on a nifty feed in the box from midfielder David Patino. For the final 15 minutes, Colorado pressured packed-back United unhaltingly for a tying goal, although fortuitously dodging several United counterattacks that could have iced the win.

When it was over, the game had produced three superb goals; 32 shots, 18 on target; 15 goalkeeper saves of the slippery ball; 16 potentially dangerous corner kicks, not to mention two apparent takedowns of United forwards in the penalty box that referee Brian Hall did not call.

United, which shot for the first time a mere 25 seconds into the game, led 1-0 at halftime, with Jaime Moreno, the game's most valuable player, finishing in the 37th minute a smoothly executed example of the team's ability to attack quickly and with high skill.

Defender David Vaudreuil began the play in his half of the field, capturing a loose ball and touching a quick pass to attacking midfielder Tony Sanneh near the center stripe. Sanneh dribbled 30 yards to the righthand corner of the box, where he squared a crisp pass that ran across the box near its top where two teammates were moving goalward.

Forward Raul Diaz Arce, in the middle, looked as if he would be the shooter, but he let the ball run to his left, where Moreno took it, circled tightly to avoid a defender and slotted a low shot past Rapids' goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann.

United's second goal came in the 68th minute on another quick sequence that began outside the penalty area. Midfielder Richie Williams touched a nice pass to Harkes on the left side. Harkes moved a step or two upfield to avoid a defender, then arced a cross to the middle of the box for Sanneh, who headed it hard past Hahnemann from about 10 yards.

The win meant the Rapids still have not beaten United in regulation play in two years, although they won a shootout Aug. 5.

United has one game left, the championship match in the U.S. Open Cup against MLS's Dallas Burn. That game will be played in Indianapolis on Wednesday night. United won both the Open and the first MLS Cup last fall.

NOTE: About 50 people were treated for minor injuries after some railings collapsed at RFK Stadium as fans celebrated United's victory, police said.

District of Columbia police spokesman J. C. Stamps said two people were taken in ambulances to nearby hospitals, but everyone else was treated on-sight.

Fans apparently followed players to the north side of the stadium and the railings couldn't hold the weight of so many people.

Pub Date: 10/27/97

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