The CONCACAF Champions League may be looking like a lost cause for D.C. United, but the team is determined to go down with its young players leading the charge.
United visits Costa Rican giant Saprissa on Thursday still looking for its first point in the 24-team event after losing its first three games.
United coach Tom Soehn is taking a young roster of 16 players that includes only three key starters - defenders Marc Burch, Gonzalo Martinez and Devon McTavish.
"It's another game to give our young guys some minutes in a really hard environment, and that will make them stronger because we will have to call on some of them for these last three [MLS] games, which are vitally important," Soehn said.
Going on the trip will be goalies Zach Wells and James Thorpe; defenders McTavish, Burch, Martinez, Greg Janicki, Pat Carroll and Mike Zaher; midfielders Quavas Kirk, Ryan Cordeiro, Ryan Miller, Rod Dyachenko, Joe Vide and Craig Thompson; and forwards Thabiso Khumalo and Francis Doe.
With United in jeopardy of missing the MLS postseason for the first time since 2002, a number of key players will remain at home training for the club's crucial road game at Houston on Sunday.
Playing at Saprissa's stadium, known as the Monster's Cave, is a daunting task for any club. No American team at the club or international level has ever won in Costa Rica.
"We go down there with a chance to make history," Vide said. "It would be pretty cool if the D.C. young guns go down there and steal three points."
The 24,000-seater is also one of few venues in that part of the soccer-mad world with artificial turf. Because of the tropical rainy season, Saprissa got permission from FIFA to change the field from grass to turf in 2003.
"We've played in hostile situations before, and to be honest I live for this," Wells said. "I love playing in those situations. A bunch of fans yelling at you throwing whatever - batteries, urine, and whatever else. I think that's the best environment to play in."
This game is a chance for many United players to prove themselves in hopes of securing a roster spot next season.
"Being a younger player, you are always fighting for a position and fighting for a spot next year and fighting for your career," Vide said.
Said Burch: "We are playing for our jobs right now."
Notes - Jamie Moreno, who is suspended for United's game at Houston, did not travel to Costa Rica because he has a swollen knee. ...
United remains at the bottom of Group A in the Champions League with zero points.