- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 5, 2001

LOS ANGELES Among D.C. United's few victories this season, perhaps none is as significant as its 2-1 win Friday night over Communicaciones of Guatemala in the semifinals of the Giants' Cup.

For one thing, United has a chance to win its first tournament since the 1998 Interamerican Cup and its first championship since MLS Cup '99. The team will face Mexico City's Club America in tonight's final at Los Angeles Coliseum.

Being a Giants' Cup finalist also qualifies United for the 2003 Clubs' Cup, which will determine the two North American entries for the next FIFA World Clubs Championship in 2003.

And most importantly, United's young players finally might be able to generate the confidence they have lacked during a season of inconsistency.

"We finally showed that we can come from behind," said coach Thomas Rongen, whose team rallied from a 1-0 deficit. "I think we are 1-12 [actually 2-9-1] in MLS when giving up the first goal."

Renewed confidence also could come from United's ability to overcome its usual late breakdowns and fatigue against Guatemala's 19-time champion.

"We basically gutted it out," Rongen said. "We really wanted the game badly, and to get back in it and win it the way we did speaks volumes about our desire."

United will need that desire against Club America, a team that is to Mexican soccer what the New York Yankees are to major league baseball.

America has won Mexico's first division 12 times and is owned by Televisa, Mexico's leading television network and a power in Mexican soccer. The club's wealth attracts players from throughout Latin America.

Among them are Chile's Ivan Zamorano and Fabian Estay, Mexico's Adolfo Rios and Duilio Davino and Colombia's Franky Olviedo, current or former members of their respective national teams.

America, however, decided to keep those players and several other starters back in Mexico City. Coach Alfio Basile said on Mexican television that his team must play seven games in 14 days, including qualifying for the Copa Libertadores, South America's club championship.

Yet United will face a potent squad. Jorge Toledano has scored three goals in the Giants' Cup. Braulio Luna serves as playmaker.

"With three games in five days, it's going to be another gut check for us," Rongen said. "We can raise our level of play, but we're going to have to install some fresh legs to compete."

One such pair of legs belongs to goalkeeper Mark Simpson, who will probably start over Mike Ammann, Rongen said. Ammann has been taking cortisone shots in both elbows.

"He gets numbness in his arms, and it's unpredictable," Rongen said. "We don't know what the problem is."

Carey Talley is suspended after receiving his second yellow card Friday night. Scott Vermillion, who played 90 minutes against Communicaciones, remains questionable because of strained abdominal muscles.

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