The three D.C. United players injured during Saturday's victory over Columbus are almost certain not to play this weekend at Miami, and two of them may miss several weeks.

Goalkeeper Tom Presthus probably will be sidelined one to three weeks after injuring his left knee in United's 2-1 victory over the Crew at RFK Stadium, Coach Thomas Rongen said yesterday.

Central defender Eddie Pope, who missed most of two months with a broken right foot, injured a toe on the same foot and will have X-rays taken today. He has experienced swelling and club officials fear a fracture, which probably would keep him out for a few weeks.

Defender-midfielder Diego Sonora, who left the game in the ninth minute after feeling tightness in a groin muscle that had kept him out for two games, will take the week off to prevent further injury. Rongen hopes to have him back for the Aug. 25 home match against the Miami Fusion.

The biggest concern is Presthus, an MLS All-Star Game starter and a rising prospect in the U.S. national team program. He strained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee in a first-half collision with Columbus's Brian West and, after remaining in the game for some time, was replaced by Mark Simpson in the 35th minute.

Team trainer Rick Guter said there are signs of cartilage damage, and Presthus plans to undergo an MRI exam Tuesday or Wednesday.

"He's definitely out for a while," Rongen said. "Tom has always been remarkable in his recovery from injuries, but even if it's just a sprain, he'll have to sit down and rest. We'll know more in a couple of days."

The injuries come at a time when United already is without starting central defender Carlos Llamosa, who has missed two games with a quadriceps injury and is in his native Colombia to be with his ill father.

Another starter, left back Jeff Agoos, left yesterday for Johannesburg, where he will play for a world all-star team against South Africa's national squad Wednesday in an exhibition honoring Nelson Mandela. Agoos is expected to rejoin United in time for Saturday night's game against the Fusion in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

United (16-7, 40 points) has won four in a row to open an eight-point lead over Columbus in the Eastern Conference and, with nine games left in the regular season, has virtually ensured a playoff berth. But with almost all of his players finally available, Rongen was hoping to settle on a starting lineup and work out some late-season problems.

"Every time we get someone back from an injury or national team commitments something else happens," Rongen said. "It's very frustrating. Sooner or later, we need to start thinking about getting our best eleven players on the field, but I'm not sure who will be available."

Without Presthus, Rongen will turn to Simpson, a veteran who has been sidelined with knee and back injuries most of the past two years. After allowing a breakaway goal early in the second half Saturday, Simpson, 33, made excellent saves on consecutive shots by Brian Maisonneuve late in the game to help preserve the victory.

As for a backup, United no longer has the option of calling up Russell Payne from minor league affiliate Maryland. Payne, who was promoted earlier this year when Simpson was hurt, recently signed with MLS's Colorado Rapids. Another minor leaguer, Jon Busch, is an option.

"I'm ready for anything," Simpson said. "I've been waiting a long time to get another chance."

United Notes: Despite Saturday's turnout of 15,312 in a heavy downpour, D.C. remains the MLS attendance leader with an average of 18,407 per game. The league average is 14,884.