United Has to Divide Its Attention

MLS Commissioner Don Garber says United is
MLS Commissioner Don Garber says United is "making progress" toward its proposed new stadium. (By Joseph Kaczmarek -- Associated Press)
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By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Under normal circumstances, D.C. United would be acutely focused on its MLS opener at Kansas City on Saturday night and unconcerned about subsequent matches.

But with the club entered in a major international tournament this spring and a critical international trip on the horizon, United Coach Tom Soehn has had to take a broad approach.

Following the Wizards game, the first of 30 matches during a seven-month regular season, United will travel directly to Mexico for the first leg of the Champions' Cup semifinals against Pachuca. The tournament crowns the best club in a region encompassing North and Central America and the Caribbean, and after repeated failure in the semifinals, United is determine to take the next step.

It has placed Soehn in a difficult situation: Does he limit the minutes of his regulars Saturday so they are available to play most, if not all, of Tuesday's match? Or does he go all out in the MLS opener and adjust as necessary in the ensuing game?

"It's difficult enough to play back-to-back games when you are in full fitness midway through the season, and we've only been together for a short time," he said. "We are going to evaluate as a staff what will put us in the best situation to succeed, realizing the importance of both matches."

Soehn declined to discuss specific lineup options, but United officials say they think they've rebuilt the roster in a way that will endure difficult travel and game circumstances. The offseason acquisitions of defenders Gonzalo Peralta and Gonzalo Mart¿nez, midfielder Marcelo Gallardo and forward Franco Niell have added a seasoned Latin American presence to a veteran corps.

Nonetheless, because of injuries, not all of United's regulars will be available for the two-game trip. Midfielder Ben Olsen remains out because of ankle problems, and forward Jaime Moreno is questionable after straining a hamstring in the first leg of the Champions' Cup quarterfinal March 12 at Harbour View in Jamaica.

Moreno, who did not play in the second leg against Harbour View and returned to practice this week, said he is 70 percent recovered. Soehn plans to include him on the 19-man travel roster, one more than usual, and monitor his progress leading up to each match.

"We are optimistic," Soehn said, "but we also have to be cautious not to rush him back and possibly force him out for an extended period of time." . . .

Forward Guy-Roland Kpene, who showed promise in eight starts and 15 league appearances last year, was waived.

"He didn't do a good job in the offseason," Soehn said of Kpene's conditioning. "It took him up until now to get himself in a situation where he could really play. Unfortunately, the rest of the guys used that time to improve themselves and get ahead."

United is in contract talks with Cezar, a Brazilian forward who has been in training camp for several weeks.

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