Having dispensed with the Los Angeles Galaxy in a Major League Soccer match that was almost meaningless for it, D.C. United now can turn its attention to the CONCACAF Champions Cup.
"We know there are some very tough games to be played there, but we're very confident at this particular time," United Coach Thomas Rongen said after Saturday night's 2-0 victory here, the club's 11th straight. "We think we can be successful and defend our title."
United (23-7) arrived in Las Vegas today and is scheduled to begin training Monday for Wednesday night's quarterfinal against Olimpia of Honduras. The winner of the tournament advances to the inaugural world club championship in Brazil early next year.
"We won CONCACAF last year, but what's ahead of us--being able to compete with [Manchester] United, Real Madrid, Corinthians, Vasco de Gama--would be very special," Rongen said.
United defender Eddie Pope said the creation of the world club championship will make it "harder than last year" to win the Champions Cup tournament.
"There's a pot of gold at the end that everybody sees," Pope said. Each team in the world club championship is guaranteed $1.5 million.
With the Champions Cup the obvious priority and the MLS Eastern Conference regular season title already clinched, Rongen rested four starters Saturday--midfielders Marco Etcheverry, Ben Olsen and Richie Williams, and forward Jaime Moreno. A fifth starter, central defender Carlos Llamosa, had been expected to play 90 minutes but sat out because of a groin injury.
Their replacements stepped up. Forward A.J. Wood scored in the 17th minute and defender Clint Peay in the 56th. Goalkeeper Tom Presthus made three first-half saves and backup Mark Simpson two in the second.
"We accomplished a lot," Rongen said. "We got three points, we were able to get six of our starters half a game, we were able to rest five for CONCACAF and we were able to answer some of our critics who said we were coming with a second team that was undeservedly based."
Rookie midfielder Jason Moore set up the first goal, winning a tackle and sending a pass to Wood. Wood eschewed a return pass to Moore, unmarked on the left side, in favor of a shot from 25 yards, which he placed just inside the left post.
Making his second start and fifth appearance of the season, Peay got his first goal after taking Chris Albright's throw-in, cutting inside a defender who challenged him and then scoring with a quick left-footed shot from 25 yards.
Said Rongen: "It looked like we were a little more committed to winning this game."
CREW 2, FUSION 1: Brian McBride headed in two corner kicks within five minutes late in the game as Columbus (19-11) came back to defeat Miami (11-19) before 15,251 at Crew Stadium. With two games left, the Fusion remains one point ahead of New England in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
CLASH 2, FIRE 0: Ronald Cerritos scored his 15th goal of the year in the 74th minute and Ryan Tinsley struck 11 minutes later to lift San Jose (18-12) over visiting Chicago (16-14).