- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 17, 2001

D.C. United takes the field tonight, but for the first time in three years Thomas Rongen will not be its coach. Rongen, whose $200,000-a-year contract with the club expires Dec. 31, "is in the process of cleaning out his office," according to a club spokesman. Assistant coach Curt Onalfo is running the team.

Onalfo will pick United's starting lineup that will take on Honduran powerhouse Club Deportivo Olimpia in an international friendly at RFK Stadium at 7:30.

"It's been a very enjoyable experience for me, especially in developing as a coach," Onalfo said. "The postseason can be a drag but the players are very sharp and have responded well."

Olimpia is considered one of Central America's top clubs. The "All Whites" have amassed more than 20 league titles and were runners-up in 2001 for the Honduran title.

Rongen, who led United to the MLS Cup in 1999 but failed to reach the playoffs in the next two seasons, was told early last month that his contract would not be renewed. On Nov.3, he coached United in a benefit game at RFK against the New York-New Jersey MetroStars.

Onalfo, a former standout defender at Virginia, made four appearances with United as a player during 1998 and 1999.

After overcoming Hodgkin's disease, Onalfo was drafted by the Los Angeles Galaxy in 1996. He appeared in 27 MLS games, including the 1996 MLS Cup, where he came on as a substitute for the Galaxy in a 3-2 loss to United. Onalfo replaced Frank Yallop (San Jose) as Rongen's assistant at the beginning of the season in January.

Onalfo says he has not been approached by United about the coaching job.

"My focus is to be a head coach in this league," Onalfo said. "I'm young [31], but I have a lot of experience playing domestically and internationally. I've also been involved with the national team program. If I was a candidate, I would consider [the job]."

United midfielder Bobby Convey and forward Jaime Moreno, who have been out with injuries, will start tonight but likely not play the whole 90 minutes.

Convey played just 12 games last season because of a stomach hernia and a stress fracture in his foot. Moreno, who will play as an attacking midfielder tonight, has been out since the end of the season with a knee injury.

Former United midfielder Richie Williams, now with the MetroStars, will play as a guest, replacing Carey Talley, who is getting married today.

"Richie has a home in the area and wants to keep sharp for the national team," Onalfo said.

Olimpia's top players are leading goal scorer Wilmer "El Matador" Velasquez and Brazilian-born striker Denilson Costa. The latter is the all-time leading scorer in Honduras' Liga Nacional with 107 goals, 86 of them with Olimpia.

Also scheduled to play for Olimpia are Honduran national team members Jose Luis Pineda and Geovani Avila, who were on the team that lost at Mexico 3-0 Sunday and was eliminated from World Cup 2002. Another player to watch is Argentine midfielder Danilo Tosello, who takes all the free kicks for Olimpia.

United met Olimpia on Sept. 29, 1999, in Las Vegas in the quarterfinals of the Champions Cup, with United winning 1-0 on Moreno's goal.


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