- The Washington Times - Monday, September 12, 2005

After stamping its mark on Major League Soccer for the past 10 years, D.C. United embarks on a new adventure tonight when it takes on Universidad Catolica of Chile in the round of 16 of the Copa Sudamericana at RFK Stadium at 8:15 p.m.

The Copa Sudamericana, the second-most prestigious tournament in South America after the Copa Libertadores, features some of Latin America’s most famous clubs. United is the first American team ever to participate in the 34-team event, which has been compared to Europe’s UEFA Cup.

“There’s an excitement around the club about this game,” United midfielder Ben Olsen said. “We’ve already let two tournaments slip away from us.”

United was booted out of the CONCACAF Cup in April with a 5-0 loss at Mexican club Pumas and the U.S. Open Cup by FC Dallas in penalty kicks last month.

United was invited along with two Mexican teams to play as a representative from the CONCACAF region and was given a pass to the last 16. Argentine giants Boca Juniors are the reigning Copa Sudamericana champions.

Catolica arrives at RFK having played four tournament games in beating Universidad de Chile (on the away goal rule after a 2-2 aggregate) and Alianza Atletico of Peru (5-2 on aggregate).

United sees the tournament as an opportunity to promote its image and test its skills beyond the United States.

“We are still a young soccer country and our league is young, so we have a responsibility to do well in this competition to boost MLS and make people aware of American soccer,” Olsen said.

To advance, United must make the most of its home-field advantage because a return game will be played in Chile on Sept. 22. Catolica hammered Alianza 5-0 at home in its last match in the cup.

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