D.C. United Coach Thomas Rongen spent the early part of this week concocting potential starting lineups for tonight's game against the Miami Fusion at RFK Stadium. With injuries, a suspension and player commitments to the U.S. national team, Rongen wasn't sure who would be available.
Yesterday, he finally was able to assemble his lineup.
Defender Jeff Agoos, forward Roy Lassiter and midfielder Richie Williams will play. Defender Eddie Pope probably will play. Defender Carlos Llamosa and midfielder Marco Etcheverry will not.
"It's been fun, actually," Rongen said. "I felt like a juggler. I was just trying not to drop anything."
Before United's practice yesterday, Rongen met with U.S. Coach Bruce Arena to discuss the availability tonight of the four United players who have been training with the national squad in preparation for Sunday's match against Argentina. Arena cleared Agoos, Lassiter and Williams to play, but asked Rongen to remove them from the game as soon as possible.
Llamosa also is with the national team, but a sprained ankle will keep him out of tonight's game and might prevent him from playing Sunday.
"Bruce has been very accommodating during this whole process," said Rongen, who will be without all four national team players for Sunday's MLS game at Columbus. "If we can get those players a rest, we'd like to do that, but the game will dictate it."
In addition, Rongen will have Pope (broken foot) for the first time in about six weeks. However, the all-star defender needs time to regain full fitness and likely won't play tonight until the second half.
"The foot is still pretty sore, but I'm ready to get back," he said. "It's like starting all over again in preseason. Everyone will be flying around and I'll probably be a little behind, but it's a start."
Etcheverry, United's playmaker and MLS's assists leader, is serving a one-game suspension for accumulating yellow cards. He received the last with about three minutes left in last Saturday night's 1-0 victory over Columbus.
Jaime Moreno, who filled in nicely when Etcheverry missed two games with a hamstring injury last month, will drop back from forward to midfield again. A.J. Wood probably will take Moreno's position.
United (8-3, 20 standings points) has won five consecutive games since losing three in a row, and has built a five-point lead over Columbus in the Eastern Conference standings. Miami (4-9, 8 points) is in last place in the East and has won only two games in regulation time. United is the league's best goal-scoring team, with an average of 2.27 per game; the Fusion is allowing a league-worst 1.85 goals per match.
Fusion defender Leo Cullen, a late addition to the national team, also has been allowed to play tonight.
Soccer Notes: Prior to the United-Fusion game, the Northern Virginia Royals minor league team will play the Cocoa (Fla.) Expos in a U.S. Open Cup first-round match, starting at 4:15 p.m. The winner will play at Jacksonville of the second division A-League.
The Royals are a third-division affiliate of United, which has a bye until the tournament's third round in August, when it faces Wilmington (Del.) or Charleston (S.C.). . . .
Etcheverry, a Bolivian, will practice with the U.S. national team this morning at United Park. . . . American University Coach Bob Jenkins, one of Arena's assistants this week, was in Chicago last night to scout the Argentina Mexico game at Soldier Field. . . . Arena has been particularly impressed with University of Virginia forward Chris Albright, who was called up from the under-20 national team.
Game: vs. Miami Fusion.
Where: RFK Stadium.
When: 7:30 p.m.
Radio: WACA-1540 (Spanish).
Records: United 8-3, 20 points; Fusion 4-9, 8 points.
United probable starters: GK -- Tom Presthus; D -- Diego Sonora, Jeff Agoos, Brian Kamler; MF -- Richie Williams, Geoff Aunger, Jason Moore, Ben Olsen, Jaime Moreno; F -- A.J. Wood, Roy Lassiter.
Fusion top players: F Diego Serna, D Leo Cullen, GK Jeff Cassar, MF Henry Gutierrez, F Welton.