With the CONCACAF Champions Cup less than a week away, D.C. United Coach Thomas Rongen said yesterday that he will rest four starters and limit three or four others to about a half in Saturday's Major League Soccer match between conference leaders in Los Angeles.
United (22-7, 54 points) will put a club-record 10-game winning streak on the line against the Galaxy (18-10, 48). But with home-field advantage already clinched for the Eastern Conference playoffs and the possibility of playing three Champions Cup matches in five days, Rongen doesn't want to take any chances.
Midfielders Marco Etcheverry, Ben Olsen and Richie Williams and forward Jaime Moreno will not play, Rongen said. Goalkeeper Tom Presthus, who has had some tightness in his left knee this week, may be removed at halftime, along with two or three others.
Central defenders Carlos Llamosa and Eddie Pope are scheduled to play all 90 minutes, Rongen added.
"We want to win in L.A., and we'll put a team on the field that can do that," he said. "But with CONCACAF just around the corner, we also have to be smart. It's a very important tournament for us and for American soccer."
The Champions Cup, a week-long tournament involving the top teams in North America, begins Tuesday at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. United is the defending champion of the 37-year-old event, and this year's winner advances to the inaugural world club championship in Brazil in January.
The CONCACAF champion receives $75,000 to split among players and front office. But just by appearing at the world tournament, which also includes European powers Manchester United and Real Madrid and two Brazilian powers, a club would collect $1.5 million--a staggering amount to a team in low-budget MLS.
United's opener is Wednesday against Olimpia of Honduras, with the winner facing Necaxa (Mexico) or Saprissa (Costa Rica) in the semifinals two days later. The championship game is two days after that. The other side of the bracket includes Mexican power Toluca and 1998 MLS champion Chicago.
Etcheverry, Olsen, Williams and Moreno were chosen to sit out the Los Angeles match because, Rongen said, "historically, they are the players who have struggled with little rest and a lot of games in a short amount of time. We talked about it . . . and they know their own bodies. They know what they can handle."
Said Williams: "I'd like to play in every game I can play, but in soccer these days, there's a million games and trying to do it all can hurt you. You've got to take a rest when you can."
Presthus, who has missed four of the past six games with injuries to his left knee and right ankle, was listed Monday as doubtful for Saturday's game because of tightness in that same knee. But he said yesterday that he's well enough to play.
Mark Simpson, who has played well in reserve, likely will enter in the second half.
MLS Notes: Former United midfielder Tony Sanneh played 65 minutes and assisted on the first of two goals by Iranian forward Ali Daei in Hertha Berlin's 2-1 victory over Chelsea (England) in a European Champions League game Wednesday. . . .
MLS, which owns all player contracts, re-signed U.S. stars Brian McBride of Columbus and Chris Armas of Chicago to multiyear contracts. However, two other promising players, San Jose midfielder Eddie Lewis and Los Angeles goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, may consider signing with European clubs. . . .
Chicago forward Josh Wolff, a U.S. Olympic team prospect, tore an anterior cruciate knee ligament and will be sidelined six months. He was injured Wednesday while practicing a shootout attempt.