Harkes comes through for United, 3-2 75th-minute goal gives MLS champ victory over Wizards in home opener

March 22, 1998|By Lowell E. Sunderland | Lowell E. Sunderland,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- D.C. United and the Kansas City Wizards, Major League Soccer's two winningest teams last year, demonstrated at RFK Stadium last night that they haven't lost the scoring touch.

On drizzle-drenched turf attackers love and defenders hate because of how the ball skates, two-time MLS champion United won, 3-2, in an entertaining, if not artistic, home opener before 18,108 chilled, soaked fans.

United midfielder John Harkes, relieved of his captain's armband this season, scored the winner, a sure goal-of-the-year candidate, in the 75th minute from 16 yards.

Off a feed on the left from new captain Marco Etcheverry, Harkes worked just inside the penalty box, abruptly cut back against a defender and rifled a shot that barely deflected off the Wizards' Mo Johnston on its scorching route high into the net over diving goalkeeper Mike Ammann.

"I was happy for John," United coach Bruce Arena said. "Since he came back to us from the national team [workouts and games earlier this year], he's been better than ever here. He's had a great attitude and shown tremendous leadership."

United forward Roy Wegerle and Johnston, a midfielder, each scored twice in the loosely played first half.

United (2-0) tied the score for the second time, 2-2, in the 38th minute after Harkes sprung free about 30 yards to the left of goal, took a shot that was blocked at the top of the penalty box, but immediately fired goalward by teammate Brian Kamler.

Wegerle easily tapped the ball in from about three yards.

Johnston got his second goal in the 16th minute on a textbook restart just outside the right side of the box. Left-footed forward Preki Radosavljevic curled a perfect cross over the packed goal area box to the unmarked Johnston about four yards to the left of goal. United keeper Scott Garlick was helpless.

Johnston opened the scoring for Kansas City (0-1) in the fifth minute, pouncing on a rebound that deflected off United defender Carlos Llamosa about eight yards out and pounding it under Garlick.

United tied the score about seven minutes later on a penalty kick by Wegerle after Rockville's A. J. Wood, acquired by United in the off-season was knocked down in the box by Wizards defender Uche Okafor.

NOTES: United players received their rings for winning the 1997 MLS Cup before last night's game. MLS commissioner Doug Logan and deputy commissioner Sunil Guhlati were among last night's spectators, Guhlati rooting ardently before the match began for Connecticut to beat North Carolina in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Pub Date: 3/22/98

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