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2001 MLS Opening Day Marked by Close Matches and Success by Teams That Missed Playoffs Last Fall

NEW YORK, New York (Sunday, April 8, 2001) - On the first night of the 2001 season, MLS fans were treated to more action than in past seasons as a full slate of six games opened the season last night. The evening was full of close results as only one match was decided by a margin of more than one goal. The night also showed off the improvements made during the offseason by the four teams that didn't make the playoffs in 2000. Each of them - the Columbus Crew, D.C. United, Miami Fusion and San Jose Earthquakes - started off the season with renewed passion in earning points against teams that made the post-season last fall. Columbus came from behind to earn a 1-1 draw with MLS Cup finalist and Open Cup champion Chicago Fire, while the others earned one-goal victories to shoot to the top of the leaderboard in the new season.

%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%MetroStars 2, New England Revolution 1
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The MetroStars defeated the New England Revolution 2-1 at Giants Stadium Saturday night, winning their first ever season opener in front of a home crowd. The Metros' two leading scorers in 2000, Adolfo Valencia and Clint Mathis, each registered a goal in the victory.

Valencia netted the game winner in stoppage time, heading home a Mark Chung rebound in the 92nd minute to give the MetroStars a 2-1 lead. Chung, streaking down the left side of the field, unleashed a powerful blast that struck the crossbar and bounced back into play. Valencia got airborne, nodding the ball past goalkeeper Jeff Causey for the tally. The MetroStars managed to blunt the New England attack for the remainder of stoppage time, starting off their 2001 campaign with a regulation win. Leonel Alvarez provided the goal for New England in the 73rd minute.

The MetroStars (1-0-0, 3 points) travel to Denver to face the Colorado Rapids (0-1-0) on Saturday, April 14th (9:00 p.m. ET) in a bid to take early control of the Eastern Division. The Revolution (0-1-0) will look to rebound against the Miami Fusion (1-0-0, 3 points) at 7:30 p.m. ET.

%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%Miami Fusion 2, Colorado Rapids 1
FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Miami Fusion forward Alex Pineda Chacon came on as a substitute in the second half helped erase a one-goal deficit to give the Miami Fusion a 2-1 win on Saturday night at Lockhart Stadium. It was the Fusion's first win in a regular season opener.

After a physical first half with few chances on either end, Colorado came out and dominated the first part of the second half, breaking the deadlock with a goal in the 50th minute. A cross from Imad Baba from the right side was headed by Ross Paule in the middle of the Fusion penalty box. John Spencer connected on the deflection, heading the ball over Miami goalkeeper Nick Rimando from five yards out.

Chacon, who was acquired from Honduran club Olimpia in the offseason, entered the match for Tim Sahaydak in the 60th minute and joined Colombian Diego Serna in the attack, changing the momentum of the match at the same time. Eight minutes after coming onto the field, Chacon netted his first goal. Ian Bishop won the ball 35 yards away from goal and sent a through ball through the middle of the Rapids defense to a streaking Chacon who slotted the ball past goalkeeper Adin Brown from six yards out.

Four minutes later, the Fusion, who won three of four games against the Rapids in 2000, took the lead for good. On a corner kick delivered by Serna, defender Ivan McKinley knocked the ball down with his chest and Chacon pounced on the loose ball, putting the ball in the net from close range.

The Fusion hit the road for the first time in 2001 next Saturday April 14 and travel to Foxboro Stadium to battle the New England Revolution (7:30 p.m. ET). The Rapids next host the Eastern Division champion MetroStars on Saturday in their home opener at Mile High Stadium. (9:00 p.m. ET).

%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%Chicago Fire 1, Columbus Crew 1 (OT)
COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Chicago Fire and the Columbus Crew battled to a 1-1 draw Saturday night as the two teams battled in Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The Fire's John Wolyniec and the Crew's Dante Washington each registered a goal in the 2001 season's first tie result, and only spectacular play from both goalkeepers kept the overtime periods scoreless.

John Wolyniec broke the deadlock in the 14th minute, coolly slotting the ball past goalkeeper Tom Presthus for the early lead. Diego Gutierrez built the play out of the Fire backfield, chipping the ball forward to the streaking DaMarcus Beasley along the left flank. Beasley cut in towards goal before centering the ball. Forward Josh Wolff drew the attention of Presthus with an expertly-executed dummy pass, stepping over the ball to leave the open shot for Wolyniec.

Washington would not be denied in the 69th minute, however, as he connected with a Robert Warzycha pass to knot the game at 1-1. Warzycha, left undefended at the top of the penalty area, launched a curling ball into the box. Washington stepped in front of his defender and redirected the ball past Thronton for the equalizer.

The late stages of the game were marred by three red card ejections. Columbus midfielder Roland Aguilera was shown the red card in the 86th minute after a sloppy tackle on Kovalenko. Less than five minutes later, Chicago's Andrew Lewis was also ejected for pulling down Washington on a breakaway chance. Finally, Gutierrez was ejected in the fourth minute of overtime for retaliating on some physical play by Warzycha.

Columbus (0-0-1, 1 point) will travel to Tampa Bay to face the Mutiny on Saturday, April 14th. Chicago (0-0-1, 1 point) will host arch-rival D.C. United (1-0-0, 3 points) live on ESPN 2 on Saturday at 9:00 p.m. ET.

%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%D.C. United 3, Kansas City Wizards 2
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Rookie Mark Lisi scored the game-winning goal with two minutes remaining as D.C. United came back twice to defeat the defending MLS Cup champion Kansas City Wizards 3-2 on Saturday night at RFK Stadium.

The 88th minute winner originated on a cross from Eric Denton from the left side. Forward Chris Albright flicked it on to the right side of the box and Lisi sent the first time shot past Wizards goalkeeper and 2000 Honda MVP Tony Meola.

The turning point in the game came when Kansas City defender Nick Garcia was sent off for committing a deliberate hand ball in the penalty box in the 65th minute. The ensuing penalty kick was converted by United forward Raul Diaz Arce.

It was a Matt McKeon run which started near midfield that allowed Kansas City to open the scoring in the 19th minute. The Wizards midfielder barreled through three defenders until one United defender tackled the ball away. Former United forward Roy Lassiter was there to tap it home just outside the six-yard box.

D.C. United's 17-year-old midfielder Bobby Convey netted his first career MLS goal fourteen minutes later to tie the score 1-1. Defender Mark Watson sent a ball into the left side of the box where forward Raul Diaz Arce flicked it backwards where an onrushing Convey knocked the ball past Meola with his right foot from six-yards out. Convey would later have to leave the game after dislocating his right pinky.

McKeon put the defending champions back in the lead at 2-1 one minute before the break. A Gomez corner found the defensive midfielder, who headed home from six yards out between two D.C. United defenders with the ball finishing to Simpson's upper right.

D.C. United next takes on Jamaica's Arnett Gardens in the second leg of a home-and-home series in the Football Confederation's Giants Cup quarterfinals. In next Saturday's MLS match United travel to Chicago to take on the defending Central division champion Fire on national television (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2). Kansas City will host Western Division rivals, the Los Angeles Galaxy (8:30 p.m. ET).

%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%Tampa Bay Mutiny 4, Dallas Burn 2
DALLAS, Texas - Carlos Valderrama, who set an MLS record in 2000 with 26 assists, kicked off 2001 with two more as the Tampa Bay Mutiny defeated the Dallas Burn 4-2 at the Cotton Bowl on Saturday night.

The Mutiny opened the scoring in the 14th minute when Valderrama received the ball from Eric Quill at the right corner of the Burn penalty box and cut it back in the path of an onrushing Steve Ralston who took two touches before sliding the ball past goalkeeper Matt Jordan.

Two minutes later the Burn tied the score with good work from the midfield. Bolivian Rookie Joselito Vaca received the ball on the right flank and sent a square ball to Antonio Martinez. The flank midfielder crossed the ball to Jorge Rodriguez who settled the ball and slotted it home.

Only five minutes later Valderrama helped the Mutiny retake the lead at 2-1. Ralston found Valderrama in the center of the field and sent a one-touch through pass to an onrushing Joe Addo at the top of the box who put the ball in the back of the net.

In the 26th minute Dallas drew even as Rodriguez netted his second goal of the night. Defender Lubos Kubik passed the ball along to his Salvadoran teammate who sent a rocket of a shot from 20 yards out, finding the upper left corner of the goal.

In the second half the Mutiny took a stranglehold on the match when rookie Ali Curtis netted his first career MLS goal six minutes into the half. The former Duke University forward took a pass from Quill and found the lower right corner of Jordan's goal.

Last season's goal-scoring champion, Mamadou Diallo, earned and converted a penalty kick five minutes later to establish a two-goal advantage. Dallas defender Eric Dade brought Diallo down and the Senegalese striker took a violent shot down the middle of the goal on the ensuing spot kick.

The Mutiny next take on Central Division rivals, the Columbus Crew, on April 14 at Raymond James Stadium (7:00 p.m. ET) while Dallas travels to take on the upstart San Jose Earthquakes at Spartan Stadium (10:00 p.m. ET).

%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%San Jose Earthquakes 3, Los Angeles Galaxy 2
PASADENA, Calif. - The San Jose Earthquakes rocked the Los Angeles Galaxy 3-2 Saturday night at the Rose Bowl, recording the team's first opening day victory in three years. Earthquakes' midfielder Scott Bower recorded two assists in the victory, in which San Jose's Landon Donovan and Dwayne DeRosario made their MLS debuts.

Earthquakes' defender Troy Dayak, making his first MLS appearance since 1997, opened up the scoring in the ninth minute of play, finishing off a Richard Mulrooney pass to put the `Quakes up 1-0. Mulrooney fired a well-placed corner kick towards the near post, where Dayak darted past Ezra Hendrickson and Simon Elliott to nod the ball past goalkeeper Kevin Hartman.

Ronald Cerritos added another in the 24th minute, nodding a Zak Ibsen cross into an empty corner of the net. Ibsen took a give-and-go pass from Bower and crossed the ball to a wide-open Cerritos, who redirected the ball towards the inside of the far post.

San Jose played with a surprising cohesiveness in their first match, dominating the Galaxy with sharp passing and dangerous runs. DeRosario netted his first MLS goal in the 27th minute, finishing a Bower pass from close range. Ian Russell and Bower played several passes to each other while building the attack from midfield before finding DeRosario open at the far post. DeRosario slotted the ball underneath goalkeeper Kevin Hartman to extend the lead to 3-0.

The Galaxy mounted a desperate comeback in the second half, slowly gaining control over the pace of play. Galaxy midfielder Victorine finally got Los Angeles on the board in the 80th minute, slipping a loose ball through a crowded midfield. Elliott sent a ball into the penalty area, where it bounced loose and rolled to Victorine. The Olympic Team midfielder quickly fired a low shot that found the net for his first goal of the 2001 campaign.

Cienfuegos set up L.A.'s second goal with a well-timed heel pass at the edge of the box in the 83rd minute. Defender Adam Frye rushed onto the unguarded ball, sending it past Cannon to narrow the San Jose lead to one. San Jose managed to hold onto the margin until the final whistle, handing Los Angeles only their second opening night loss in club history.

The Earthquakes (1-0-0, 3 points) will look to build on their win on Saturday, April 14th, when San Jose hosts the Dallas Burn (0-1-0, 0 points) at 10:00 p.m. ET. The Galaxy (0-1-0, 0 points) will get their next opportunity to gain some points in the standings on Saturday when they face the Kansas City Wizards (0-1-0, 0 points) at 8:30 p.m. ET.

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