- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 22, 2005

Five thousand miles is a long way to go for a soccer game, but that’s how far D.C. United traveled for tonight’s game against Universidad Catolica of Chile in the Copa Sudamericana. The D.C. club left the area Tuesday for the 15-hour journey to the Chilean capital of Santiago.

United held Catolica to a 1-1 tie in the first leg of the two-game series at RFK Stadium last week in the round of 16 on a late goal by Jamil Walker. Tonight’s game will be aired live on Fox Soccer Channel at 8 p.m.

To advance to the quarterfinals of the prestigious South American cup, United must score goals. A scoreless tie would give Catolica the tiebreaker on the away-goal rule. United either must beat the Chilean club outright in the total-goals series or earn a tie with goals involved and attempt to win in a penalty kick shootout.

“It will be a very different environment with different weather conditions,” United midfielder Dema Kovalenko said. “We’ve been playing in very hot weather, but it will be a total change down there — 60 degrees and below. It’s their home, and we will arrive after 15 hours of travel.”

The Copa Sudamericana features some of Latin America’s most famous clubs. United is the first American team to participate in the 34-team event.

Catolica is a fast and talented club with at least five Argentine players on its roster. In its last game at home in the cup, Catolica hammered Alianza Atletico of Peru 5-0.

United doesn’t want a repeat of its last trip abroad. After a earning 1-1 tie at RFK against Pumas in the CONCACAF Champions Cup, United lost 5-0 in Mexico in April.

“We are too naive,” United striker Jamie Moreno of Bolivia said on why American teams struggle outside the country. “We are too nice. We have to have that mentality — I wouldn’t call it cheating — but we have to be smarter and play faster.”

If United advances to the quarterfinals, it will play either Fluminense (Brazil) or Banfield (Argentina). The winner of the Cup wins $795,000, while the runner-up will receive $695,000.

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