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CONCACAF Champions Cup Semifinal 1st leg Preview: DC United – Pumas UNAM Wednesday, April 6, 2005 at 7:30pm RFK Stadium

By Joseph Schoenbauer Fri, April 1, 2005







The current champions of USA’s MLS, DC United, face
the current reigning champions of Mexico, Pumas UNAM,
for the first time in history tonight in a game that
represents much more than a game, to both teams.


What’s at stake?


Above all, a place in the finals of the CONCACAF
Champions Cup is at stake. The CONCACAF Champions Cup
is the major club tournament of the CONCACAF region,
which is comprised of the North America, Central
America, and the Caribbean Islands. What’s more, this
year, the winner of the Cup earns the right to compete
in FIFA’s World Club Championship this December in
Japan. FIFA is attempting to re-establish the World
Club Championship as its makeshift version of the
World Cup for club teams, and is therefore offering a
decent amount of prize money for teams that qualify.
Last but not least, the rivalry has been elevated in
recent years between the American and Mexican National
teams due to results tending to go in USA’s favor. If
MLS teams can show they can compete with Mexican
soccer at club level in important competitions, the
rivalry will be elevated as well. As we all know, it
is MLS’s intentions, as a whole, to raise the
credibility and awareness of the league. Games such
as these, where the MLS champions are up against the
champions of the Mexican league, regarded as the
strongest league in CONCACAF, go a long way towards
proving one’s credibility.


Form Guide


DC United won their first game of the league season,
last Saturday, against CD Chivas USA 2-0. Josh Gros,
beginning his second season as a starter on the right
side of midfield, scored the first goal after some
great play by Brian Carroll and Jaime Moreno.
Christian Gomez finished off the scoring with a
skillful shot over the shoulder of Chivas GK Brad
Guzan after a mini scramble inside the box left him
with a tight space to shoot from.


Pumas UNAM is currently 10 games into their 17 game
season. At 3 wins, 1 tie and 6 losses, they are in
15th place out of 18 teams in the overall standings
and in last place in their group (the Mexican league
format consists of 3 groups of 6 teams each at the
beginning of the season) They are struggling to find
their form from last year when they became the only
team to become back-to-back champions in Mexican
League history since the league switched to the
Clausura/Apertura format that is becoming increasingly
popular in leagues on this side of the hemisphere.


Team News


DC United’s Boswell made his professional debut last
weekend against CD Chivas USA and impressed at the
center of defense where he was flanked by Mike Petke
and Brandon Prideaux. Based on his performance he is
expected to maintain his starting role despite his
lack of experience in big games, especially since
Bryan Namoff remains injured. DC United is also
likely contemplating whether to give Steve Guppy a
start out on the left wing. At 36 years, he may lack
the pace to keep up with the speedy wingers and
wingbacks of Pumas for 90 minutes. Another
determining factor for Coach Peter Nowak’s lineup has
to do with their busy schedule of games. DC United
will be playing 3 more games by next Friday and Nowak
could look to keep players from losing their legs
since they are at such an early stage of their season.
For this reason, Alecko Eskandarian may be rested
after sustaining a slight injury over the weekend,
with Freddy Adu, Santino Quaranta or Jamil Walker
sliding in up top.


Pumas UNAM’s league position is making it more and
more likely they are not going to be able to compete
for a third Mexican league championship in a row. For
this reason, they will be looking to this competition
for silverware and are expected to play a strong side
over the two legs. Argentinean forward Bruno Marioni
is coming back from an injury to his left ankle and
may start. If head coach Hugo Sanchez chooses to rest
him, Bolivian Joaquin Botero will likely step in to
pair leading scorer Diego Alonso up top.


Players to Watch


Jaime Lozano is Pumas UNAM’s threat from both free
kicks and his quick runs up the left side of the
field. Look for him to be involved for much of the
game as Pumas attempts to use their speed on the wings
to over come United’s defense.


Jaime Moreno had a fine first game of the season and
will look to get on the scoring sheet to give DC
United a good result going into the 2nd leg next week.


Possible Starting Teams


DC United (3-5-2): Rimando; Petke, Boswell, Prideaux;
Guppy, Olsen, Carroll, Comez, Gros; Moreno, Quaranta


Pumas (4-4-2): Bernal; Lozano, Veron, Beltran, Castro;
Ailton, Augusto, Galindo, Lopez; Alonso, Botero


Prediction


Head Coach Hugo Sanchez of Pumas, who is arguably the
best soccer player to come out of Mexico ever, will
have his team set on getting a good result in the
first leg to take off some of the pressure off his
side. However, DC United will match them, knowing a
result at home will be easier to achieve than a result
in Mexico City. 3-2 DC United

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