- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 30, 2005

Admittedly, D.C. United was a bit distracted before its first playoff game this season.

Freddy Adu criticized the team because of his lack of playing time, resulting in his suspension. Key midfielder Ben Olsen strained his right thigh in pregame warmups. The field wasn’t to United’s liking.

As a result, United settled for a scoreless tie in which Major League Soccer’s top offense failed to register a shot on goal against the Chicago Fire on Oct.21.

In today’s second leg of the first round, however, the situation should be different. Adu will return to the lineup, Olsen probably will play and United gets a shot at the Fire at RFK Stadium instead of Soldier Field.

“We need to approach this match with a different scenario,” coach Peter Nowak said. “I didn’t do a good job in the last game in preparing my team. I had to make some fast decisions to make sure everyone was on the same page, and it wasn’t easy, but the players did a very good job. A couple of months ago we would have lost that game, and a very important lesson was learned.”

Olsen trained with the team this week and hasn’t “felt any pain in two days.” United also will have Adu back, and his speed and flair may be needed.

“Freddy right now is a part of our plans for the game because there is no bigger event than this game,” Nowak said. “We believe in him, and we know that he can make a difference to our game. We know that in the last two years he has made some incredible plays that have changed the game completely.”

The narrow and bumpy pitch at Soldier Field hindered United’s play. Back on the expansive field at RFK, United should revert to its attractive attacking game that resulted in a league-high 58 goals this season.

“We are on our own field, which is a lot wider than Soldier Field, so Jaime [Moreno] and Christian [Gomez] will have more space to work their magic,” midfielder Josh Gros said.

United has never beaten Chicago in four attempts in postseason play.

“I think we just need to spread the field and get the ball wide and keep possession and just tire them out,” defender Brandon Prideaux said. “It’s going to be pretty physical and add on to that it’s a playoff game.”

If today’s game is tied after regulation, the teams will play 30 minutes of extra time before going to penalty kicks to decide which goes to the conference finals.

Note — United forward Jaime Moreno has 12 goals in 26 playoff games and is tied for second on the all-time list with Landon Donovan, who has 12 goals in 15 games. Former United striker Roy Lassiter leads with 13 goals in 21 games.

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