'Business,' Not Becks, Is Focus for United
Thursday, August 9, 2007
D.C. United's players and coaches know why RFK Stadium will be filled to capacity tonight, and they know that it has little to do with them.
But while many of the 45,000 spectators will be transfixed every time David Beckham twitches on the Los Angeles Galaxy bench, wondering if the English superstar is well enough to play, United sees an opportunity to continue to rectify its fickle season and win fans.
"It's about us," Coach Tom Soehn said. "It's not about Beckham. It's not about having 45,000 people. We need to take care of business, and there are 45,000 that we need to turn into more fans to see what we're about."
United (8-6-3) knows how the Galaxy feels. For three years, D.C.'s games turned into a sideshow of sorts because of teenager Freddy Adu's presence. Now, the roles are reversed, and United will try to ignore the distractions caused by Beckham's long-awaited arrival.
Tonight "is going to be a nice crowd -- we all know why -- but for us, we're just going to come here and do our business," team captain Jaime Moreno said. "It's going to be a lot of distraction, but for us, the big game is going to be the final" in November.
From United's point of view, the spotlight is on the club at the right time. D.C. reemerged from a midsummer swoon with a 3-0 victory at New England, in first place in the East, on Sunday and, although it was missing three key attacking players, seemed to resolve its offensive problems.
Moreno, who played 28 minutes of the second half Sunday before leaving with back spasms, said he does not think he will start tonight. Playmaker Christian Gomez, who sat out the last game with a bruised quadriceps, did not practice yesterday and appears unlikely to start. Fred, the Brazilian midfielder, is expected to return to the lineup after serving a red card suspension and could end up in Gomez's central attacking role.
"We're confident," defender Bryan Namoff said. "The new challenge is to get a streak going. We've been up and down. That's going to be the true test -- how we start off the game and how well we are able to carry what we did in the last game into this one."
The Galaxy (3-5-5) has been hurt by poor performances, injuries, national team call-ups and, of course, Beckham's absence. But Los Angeles comes to Washington with a 3-0-1 record and 13 goals scored in its last four visits to RFK, including a 5-2 pounding last August. Other than Beckham, United's chief concern will be U.S. World Cup forward Landon Donovan, who has torn apart United's defense with his open-field runs.
"We've had too many ups and downs," United midfielder Ben Olsen said. "How do we have a big win and keep the right mentality and push forward? That's been a struggle with this team for some reason."