D.C. United takes a break from Major League Soccer action to focus on the SuperLiga tournament, a second-year event that pits the four best teams from MLS against the four top teams from Mexico, with a $1 million prize for the winner. Starting Saturday, United plays three games in the SuperLiga at RFK Stadium, kicking off against famed Club Deportivo Guadalajara of Mexico, often known as Chivas (Goats).
"We've built a pretty good rivalry, especially with Chivas," United coach Tom Soehn said. "We've played neck-and-neck with them, and in the end we've come out on the wrong side of events. On the competitive side we have a lot to prove still."
United is 1-2-2 all-time against Guadalajara, Mexico's most popular club, which knocked United out of the Champions Cup and the Copa Sudamericana last year.
"If we can come away with a victory it adds to our reputation that we can not only play in our league but go outside the border and be competitive," defender Bryan Namoff said.
United fell to the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-0 in the semifinal round of the inaugural event in Carson, Calif., last year. The Galaxy then lost to Mexican powerhouse Pachuca in the championship game in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 tie.
United goes up against Chivas looking a little thin. The team is missing key playmaker Marcelo Gallardo, who is out with a groin injury. Also out is Santino Quaranta (hamstring), Jeff Carroll (toe), Domenic Mediate (concussion), Dan Stratford (knee) and Ben Olsen (ankle). Starting defender Gonzalo Peralta (groin) is questionable, and Quavas Kirk (hamstring) is probable.
It's likely that either forward Jaime Moreno or midfielder Fred will move into the middle and take over Gallardo's playmaking duties.
After Chivas, United plays Mexican team Atlante FC on Tuesday, finishing off Group A play against the Houston Dynamo on July 19. Group B includes MLS clubs New England and Chivas USA, and Mexican teams Pachuca and Santos Laguna. The top two teams in each group advance to the semifinal round July 29-30, with the final game Aug. 5.
"We want to be the first MLS team to win it," Namoff said.
Houston and New England made this year's event after reaching the 2007 MLS Cup final, while United and Chivas USA qualified by winning their respective conferences.
United has fared poorly on the road against Mexican teams with all seven losses coming away from home. But at RFK, United is 5-0-4.
"We are a very good team at home," Namoff said.
United might also have a fitness advantage. The club is halfway into its season, while the Mexican teams are still in preseason mode. And United has played well of late. In regular-season play, the club is on a six-game unbeaten streak, and on Tuesday beat the Chicago Fire to reach the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup.
"The guys are playing well, we have more confidence, and it's fun out there," midfielder Clyde Simms said. "It gives us extra motivation when we play Mexican teams - to earn those bragging rights."
MLS roundup - Chivas USA goalie Brad Guzan looks like he played his last game for the club in its 1-1 tie with the Los Angeles Galaxy on Thursday. The U.S. national team player appears set to join Premier League club Aston Villa when the transfer window opens next week.
Going for 100 - Former Washington Freedom star Abby Wambach, 28, needs to score one goal when the U.S. team takes on Brazil on Sunday in Commerce City, Colo., to become the ninth player in the history of women's soccer to score 100 international goals. Wambach has 99 goals in 125 games. She has scored five against Brazil.