As Major League Soccer's premier team for more than three years, D.C. United is accustomed to being a big attraction every time it plays on the road. Tonight, United is barely an afterthought.
D.C.'s match against the San Jose Clash was moved from cozy Spartan Stadium to vast Stanford Stadium in nearby Palo Alto to serve as part of a doubleheader with the Women's World Cup semifinal between the United States and Brazil.
It's safe to say that nearly all of the estimated 60,000 spectators will be there primarily to see the women's game, which begins at 4:30 p.m. The MLS match starts at approximately 7:30.
But United players aren't ready to concede the spotlight.
"I don't think our game is secondary," defender Jeff Agoos said. "I see it as complementary. We'll entertain the fans just as much as the Women's World Cup. . . . Their World Cup complements our league."
The stakes certainly are different. While a berth in the championship game is on the line for the women's teams, United and the Clash are playing just another midseason game during a nearly seven-month regular season. Several United players have been watching the U.S. women's team games on television, but although they're playing at the same stadium today, United will stick to its usual pregame routine and perhaps arrive in time to see the second half.
Coach Thomas Rongen is looking forward to playing in a festive setting.
"It's going to be a neat event," he said. "United, the U.S. women's team -- what else do you want?"
For United, this is the start of a grueling stretch that includes three matches in seven days. The club will fly from the Bay Area to Columbus, Ohio, for Wednesday's game against the Crew, then return home to face the Colorado Rapids on Saturday at RFK Stadium. The combined record of their opponents is 29-15, although seven victories by San Jose (9-7) have come in shootouts.
United defender Eddie Pope has played little in the past two months after breaking his right foot, but likely will play tonight and, if things go well, start Wednesday.
Rongen would like to give midfielder Ben Olsen (groin injury) some time off soon, but as the playmaker in captain Marco Etcheverry's absence, he is needed tonight. Olsen, who usually plays on the right flank, became the primary central midfielder in the second half against Kansas City last week after rookies Antonio Otero and Jason Moore struggled there.
"Ben is a dynamic player and you don't know what to expect," Agoos said. "That's a great aspect to have when you're playmaking. We can't replace Marco, but Ben's got unique characteristics that Marco doesn't -- work rate, ability to stretch things out, get behind players."
The Clash is coming off a 4-3 loss at Columbus Wednesday -- its first shootout defeat of the year -- in which San Jose led three times before giving up Stern John's tying goal with three seconds left in regulation.
"For 89 minutes and 57 seconds, I was very pleased with the way we played," said Clash Coach Brian Quinn, who expects a boost tonight from Costa Rican midfielder Mauricio Solis, who signed with the league last week and was allocated to the Clash.
United Notes: Forward Jaime Moreno played all 90 minutes in Bolivia's 1-0 loss to Peru Friday night in the Copa America tournament in Paraguay. Etcheverry, who has a sore heel, entered in the second half for Bolivia, which must beat Japan on Monday to have a chance of advancing to the quarterfinals.
If Bolivia is eliminated, Moreno and Etcheverry may be available for United's game Saturday before rejoining their national team for the FIFA Confederations Cup in Mexico, which begins July 24.
D.C. UNITED PREVIEW
Game: vs. San Jose Clash.
Where: Stanford Stadium.
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: NewsChannel 8.
Radio: WACA-1540 (Spanish).
Records: United 11-5, 29 points; Clash 9-7, 13 points.
D.C. Probable Starters: GK -- Tom Presthus; D -- Carlos Llamosa, Carey Talley, Jeff Agoos; MF -- Richie Williams, Diego Sonora, Jason Moore, Brian Kamler, Ben Olsen; F -- A.J. Wood, Roy Lassiter (14 goals, 5 assists).
Clash Top Players: F Ronald Cerritos (8 goals, 3 assists), F Raul Diaz Arce, MF Eddie Lewis, D John Doyle, MF Jeff Baicher.
CAPTION: Both D.C. United and San Jose Clash will play on the road tonight. The MLS game was moved from San Jose as part of Women's World Cup festivities.