D.C. United defender Milton Reyes will be sidelined five to six months because of a severe knee injury suffered Saturday night during an exhibition in Richmond, the club announced yesterday.

An MRI exam revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament and medial meniscus tear in his left knee. He will undergo surgery soon and miss most, if not all, of the Major League Soccer season.

United will open its 30-game, seven-month schedule Saturday night at Kansas City.

"It's a terrible blow," Coach Ray Hudson said. "It weakens the entire team, no question. He's such an exciting player."

Reyes, 28, started 24 games last season, his first with United, and brought an attacking element to the defense as a fleet-footed outside back. He was injured while making a long run on the left flank Saturday against the minor league Richmond Kickers and was trying to cut inside when his knee gave out.

Reyes joins two other defenders -- starting center back Galin Ivanov and reserve Brandon Prideaux -- on the sideline, leaving the club in a dire situation heading into the opener. Ivanov, a recent signing from Bulgaria, will probably miss three more weeks after having abdominal hernia surgery last month, while Prideaux is a few weeks from returning from a hamstring ailment.

Bryan Namoff, a reserve midfielder and defender, likely will start in Reyes's place Saturday, but Hudson said the team will pursue a trade.

"There's a couple [of players] around the league who we'll have to reconsider that have been on our radar before," he said. "We're just decimated in the back. We may have to sacrifice one of the jewels [United's young attacking players in a trade]. We're not going to get anything for nothing."

Hudson said he would consider moving one of his outside midfielders, Ben Olsen and Bobby Convey, to the back.

In a separate matter, Hudson said he would like to find a starting spot for midfielder-forward Eliseo Quintanilla, who provided a spark in last weekend's exhibition.

United Notes: MLS Commissioner Don Garber said he expects an announcement today regarding forward Hristo Stoitchkov, whose tackle in a scrimmage two weeks ago left an American University player with two broken bones in his left leg.

The MLS disciplinary committee has reviewed three videotapes and interviewed several witnesses, as well as Stoitchkov. The AU player, Freddy Llerena, declined to speak to the committee, Garber said. A short suspension and fine is likely, sources said.

Commenting on the incident, Garber, who has watched the tapes, said, "It was not nearly as egregious as we had heard . . . but it was clearly a bad tackle, one that we will deal with." . . .

United has brought Duquesne goalkeeper Terry McNelis into training camp and will consider him for the number three goalie slot. . . . Midfielder Devin Barclay, who turns 20 today, has a stress fracture in his foot and will sit out a few weeks.

Milton Reyes, a defender with offensive skills, will miss most or all of D.C. United's season after injuring knee in exhibition.