- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 24, 2008

D.C. United will turn its attention away from the intense playoff race in Major League Soccer to focus on a game in Honduras on Wednesday night.

United takes on Honduran champion CD Marathon in its second game in the CONCACAF Champions League. United lost to Costa Rican club Saprissa 2-0 at RFK Stadium last week in its opening game in Group A.

The Champions League features the best 24 teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean. The winner qualifies for next year’s FIFA Club World Cup.

United flew to Honduras from Los Angeles on Monday following its 5-2 mauling by the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday. With five games left in the MLS season, United owns the last wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.

This is not the first trip to Honduras for United, which defeated CD Olimpia 4-1 in 2007. But it might not be so easy this time. Marathon downed visiting Mexican powerhouse Cruz Azul 2-0 last week.

“I thought they were very effective in the counterattack,” United coach Tom Soehn said. “They’ve got some pace. Defensively, I thought they gave up some opportunities which hopefully we can capitalize on.”

Marathon plays in San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in Honduras at the 55,000-seat Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano. United forward Luciano Emilio, who played in Honduras for four years and won titles with Real Espana and Olimpia, knows the club well.

“I’m ready for this game,” Emilio said. “I know what we face there. It’s a tough team and it is difficult to play in their stadium. We have to have a lot of concentration. Marathon is playing at home and have great fans and it will be a great atmosphere.”

United will be without suspended defender Devon McTavish, who drew a straight red card against Saprissa. Defender Gonzalo Peralta, who has been recovering from a hamstring strain, might play. Forward Jaime Moreno will miss the game with a sore knee.

“We’re going down there on the road knowing that not many teams get wins in Central America,” United defender Marc Burch said. “It’s a different team, but if we play our game — play defensively — we might squeak out a win.”

The top teams in group play advance to next year’s knockout stages, with the final to be played in April.

“For some of our guys, it’s the first time to get an international game at a place like that,” United midfielder Santino Quaranta said.