As faltering D.C. United prepares for two crucial matches this week, the club's front office is moving closer to adding a pair of players to its depleted roster.

Team officials won't reveal the name or nationality of the most prominent of the two players, but sources with close ties to United said he's a central midfielder from Argentina in his late twenties or perhaps 30.

"We're awaiting to finalize the deal," D.C. technical director Dave Kasper said yesterday. "Hopefully, it will be done late this week or early next week, at the latest."

If the player signs with MLS and receives his work visa on schedule, he would make his debut Aug. 21 at Columbus or Aug. 28 at New England.

The other player is Tim Lawson, a 28-year-old midfielder from the University of Washington who has played the past four years for SV Elversberg in a German regional league.

Kasper said the team is in "the final stages" of completing a deal to acquire Lawson, who might arrive in Washington this weekend. However, he won't be eligible to play in Saturday's match with New England because the international transfer window doesn't open until Sunday.

United also has its eye on Alexander Yi, a young U.S. defender who is negotiating with MLS after playing two years in Belgium. He likely would be allocated via a weighted lottery.

Speaking in general about the player search, Coach Peter Nowak said: "We try to look in different places and [for] different players. I hope it's going to happen soon. . . . I know everyone is working very hard to make this happen pretty fast."

United's roster has been weakened by injuries and suspensions all season. Tonight against equally short-handed Colorado, central defender Mike Petke will return from a quadriceps injury, but outside back Bryan Namoff must serve a one-game suspension for accumulating yellow cards. Seldom-used David Stokes will be the only natural defender on the bench.

United (5-8-6) has gone 0-3-1 and scored two goals (one of which was an own goal) since a 6-2 victory over the MetroStars on July 3. D.C. remains in third place in the weak Eastern Conference, which will send four of its five teams to the playoffs, but if the club is to make a postseason run, players and coaches concede that they must straighten things out quickly.

"Right now it's going downhill because the concentration sometimes is not good enough, the mentality is not good enough," Nowak said. "We know the situation is not going to be easy. . . . I can see in their eyes they are ready for it and I expect good things right now to happen."

Colorado (6-6-8) has yielded 18 goals, the fewest in MLS, and just four of them have come in the first half. However, the Rapids are coming off a 1-0 loss to the Dallas Burn in which they had a two-man advantage for the final 18 minutes but gave up a penalty kick in injury time.

MLS Notes: Club officials are expecting the smallest crowd of the year tonight, probably around 10,000. . . . The Burn, which will move from the Cotton Bowl into a new medium-sized stadium in Frisco, Tex., next year, will announce its new name and logo tomorrow. According to sources around the league, the team will be known as FC Dallas and will have a Texas-oriented insignia. . . . Chicago star Ante Razov will miss the rest of the season because of an ankle injury.