Better field to help United

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The field conditions at RFK Stadium could play a key role in D.C. United’s game tonight against Jamaican team Harbour View in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup.

In last week’s 1-1 tie in Jamaica, the first game in the two-game series, the field was in poor condition, denying United its ability to play its traditional possession-style game. The turf at RFK, which no longer is used for Washington Nationals’ baseball games, looked perfect yesterday when United practiced.

“The field is in fantastic condition; the best I’ve ever seen it,” United coach Tom Soehn said.

United was forced to play a more direct game on the bouncy, hard surface in Jamaica, where both teams scored scrappy goals.

“I think here with the field, we will work on our strengths and make sure we spread the field, keep possession and make them chase the game,” Soehn said.

United forward Jaime Moreno pulled a hamstring in the first game and will be replaced in the starting lineup by Franco Niell, who will partner with Brazilian countryman Luciano Emilio.

“He’s going to be a very feisty player out there,” defender Bryan Namoff said of Niell. “He is very speedy and will fight for every loose ball.”

Two Harbour View players — striker Rafiek Thomas and midfielder Kemeel Wolfe — didn’t make the trip because they were refused visas to enter the United States.

The Champions’ Cup decides the best team in the North and Central America and Caribbean regions, and the winner advances to the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan in December.

Two 15-minute overtime periods will be played if the game ends in a tie, with penalty kicks as the final tie-breaker. If United advances, it will play the winner of the Motagua (Honduras)/Pachuca (Mexico) series next month.

Note — D.C. United acquired the rights to Jeremy Barlow from the Houston Dynamo in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2009 MLS Supplemental Draft. Barlow, who played at Virginia, is currently practicing with United.

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