D.C. United plays Real Madrid to 1-1 deadlock
SEATTLE -- D.C. United felt it was carrying the torch for American soccer on Wednesday night playing Spanish power Real Madrid.
United believed it proved itself and Madrid thought likewise.
In a match filled with missed chances and strong defensive play, the best American squad played the Spanish power an entertaining 1-1 draw Wednesday night.
"We wanted to prove American soccer is not a joke," United's 17-year-old midfielder Freddy Adu said. "We wanted to go out there and tell all you guys who diss American soccer that you can just forget about it."
It was the second positive result for the MLS against the European soccer powers in the last week. The MLS All-Stars defeated English Premier League champion Chelsea 1-0 last weekend -- a team that featured seven United players.
Earlier this summer, United easily beat Glasgow Celtic 4-0 and last summer played Chelsea tough in a 2-1 defeat.
"We wanted to show all these people that came tonight that we really have good teams in America," United forward Jaime Moreno said.
Newly acquired Madrid defender Fabio Cannavaro said it was clear after the World Cup that America wanted to give the world a better opinion of its soccer ability.
"I think everyone knows around the world our league has made great steps forward," United coach Peter Nowak said.
English star David Beckham played just the first half for Madrid, and delighted the sellout crowd with a few strong runs and his famous bending crosses. Beckham appeared fully recovered from the knee injury suffered in England's World Cup quarterfinal loss to Portugal.
Both goals came in the first half, when Madrid's Anthony Cassano scored in the 22nd minute on an assist from Brazilian star Roberto Carlos, and United's Alecko Eskandarian netted the equalizer 3 minutes later.
Cicinho nearly gave Madrid the victory in stoppage time, shooting off the outside of the far post from the corner of the penalty box.
It was the first game of a brief two-game tour of the United States for Madrid, who will play Real Salt Lake on Saturday night in Salt Lake City. Madrid is preparing for its La Liga opener on Aug. 27 against Villarreal.
At times, the Spanish power looked like a team still finding its way in the preseason with newly acquired defenders Emerson and Cannavaro, and forwards Robinho and Ruud van Nistelrooy. Robinho and van Nistelrooy both flailed their arms in frustration at times.
In other moments, Madrid showed how talented its heralded lineup is, one expected to challenge for its 30th league title this season, exciting the crowd of 66,830.
"After the travels and double session yesterday, we put in a great performance," said van Nistelrooy, who added he is feeling "really comfortable with the team."
The highlight of the match came in the 63rd minute on a remarkable defensive effort by United. Facundo Erpen tackled van Nistelrooy at the top of the penalty area, giving Madrid a free kick.
Roberto Carlos took the free kick, rifling a left-footed shot through the United wall that goalkeeper Troy Perkins denied with a tremendous diving save. Loose in the box, Emerson settled the ball and chipped a shot that deflected off the crossbar and to the feet of Raul.
Looking at an open net, Raul's shot was saved off the line by United midfielder Ben Olsen and cleared away from trouble by Erpen.
Minutes later Madrid missed another opportunity when Cicinho shanked a cross wide of the open net.
Cassano's goal came off a long pass from Roberto Carlos. The Italian cut back on defender Bryan Namoff in the box to create space and lined a shot to the short side and off the inside of the post that Perkins got his fingers on, but could not push wide.
About 90 seconds later, Madrid nearly made it 2-0, but van Nistelrooy could not get a clean shot from just outside the 6-yard box.
United quickly bounced back. In the 25th minute, midfielder Christian Gomez passed to Moreno, who placed a one-touch ball back to the top of the box, and Eskandarian hit a low, left-footed shot past goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Eskandarian has seven goals in MLS play this year.
"It was a great finish," Moreno said. "It was a nice goal, because it was one-touch footwork. That play was really nice."
Raul and Roberto Carlos exited in the 65th minute and van Nistelrooy played 75 minutes.