- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 5, 2005

After having clinched a playoff spot, D.C. United is poised to make a run for Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference title beginning with tonight’s game against Real Salt Lake on the artificial turf at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Utah. Topping the conference would guarantee United home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

United (15-9-5, 50 points) trails conference leader New England (16-7-7, 55) with three games left in the regular season. United has a game in hand on New England in its effort to win a sixth Eastern title.

United also needs to win in Utah to stay ahead of the Chicago Fire, who are just two points behind going into tonight’s home game against the struggling MetroStars.

United is coming off an impressive 4-1 road win against the MetroStars on Saturday, but coach Peter Nowak warned his players not to take the club’s last road game of the season too lightly.

“If we get too comfortable and think it’s going to be easy we will end up feeling sorry for ourselves,” Nowak said. “We must play Salt Lake like we played in New York.”

On paper, United should beat Real Salt Lake, which has struggled all season (5-20-4, 19 points). The expansion team is 0-9-2 against Eastern Conference clubs and is just two points above fellow expansion team Chivas USA at the bottom of the Western Conference.

After tonight, United finishes the season with home games against the MetroStars and Columbus Crew. The Revolution’s itinerary looks tougher, with a visit to Kansas City and a home game against the Fire.

“We can’t control what New England does, but we can control the points we can get,” midfielder Ben Olsen said.

United will be without forward Santino Quaranta, who has been called up to the U.S. team for Saturday’s World Cup qualifier at Costa Rica. Reserve striker Jamil Walker, who played well against the MetroStars, could start in place of Quaranta, or Nowak could go with Freddy Adu.

Salt Lake will be without its scoring leader, Jason Kreis (nine goals), who had ACL surgery last week, and key defender Eddie Pope, who is with the national team.

United crushed Salt Lake 5-1 on Aug.31 at RFK Stadium.

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