D.C. United midfielder Marco Etcheverry will leave the team one game earlier than planned to join the Bolivian national team preparing for Copa America.
Instead of leaving after Saturday's home match with Los Angeles as planned, Etcheverry will leave after Wednesday's game at Dallas, team officials said yesterday. Forward Jaime Moreno, who also will play on the Bolivian team, will depart after the Galaxy game.
The Bolivian team "hasn't had a chance to get together, and Marco wanted to help," United General Manager Kevin Payne said. "Marco's really the Michael Jordan of Bolivia and he felt he needed to get back."
United and the Bolivian soccer federation originally had agreed that Etcheverry and Moreno, who was named MLS player of the week yesterday, would be released for national team duty after this Saturday, but Etcheverry asked Payne if he could leave early.
"He thought the team was under a lot of pressure and the coach was under a lot of pressure," Payne said. "He wants to help as soon as he can."
Etcheverry -- who has a league-high 11 assists this season, including passes on both of Moreno's goals in Sunday's 2-1 victory over the Columbus Crew -- will join Bolivia in time for a Sunday exhibition match against Chile in Santiago.
Copa America begins June 29 in Paraguay. Following that, Bolivia will compete in the FIFA Confederations Cup in Mexico.
Losing its captain is nothing new to United, and Payne said the players are used to the transition. The team went 6-2 in Etcheverry's absence in 1997.
"That doesn't mean we don't miss him," Payne said. "But we've known since March it was coming. But with his absence, the team has always done well."