- The Washington Times - Friday, April 7, 2006

When D.C. United welcomes Chivas USA to RFK Stadium today, United will face a squad with a new coach, a new attitude and some new American star power.

The Mexican-operated club had a pitiful first season in 2005. The team went through two coaches and managed just four wins in 32 games. And United breezed past Chivas with a 3-0 win at home and 2-0 win on the road. But after dropping two points at RFK in its 2-2 tie with the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, it won’t be any easier today against Chivas.

“We have to make sure we don’t start the game like last week,” United coach Peter Nowak said. “We have to have the mentality that Chivas is not the Chivas from last year.”

With former United assistant coach Bob Bradley now at the helm, Chivas opened its season with an impressive 3-0 home win over Real Salt Lake on Sunday with new face Ante Razov scoring twice.

This week, Chivas signed American World Cup star John O’Brien, who was key to the U.S. team’s quarterfinal place at the finals in Asia in 2002. The talented midfielder, noted for his vision and pinpoint passing, has suffered from numerous injuries. Americans have seen little of O’Brien because he spent the last decade playing in Holland — mostly for world-renowned Ajax. However, today he could finally make his debut in American professional soccer. The 28-year-old, who many consider one of America’s most talented players, is working to get back into top shape so he can make the World Cup team.

“That’s such a great acquisition for the league,” United midfielder Ben Olsen said. “He’s such a fun player to watch and he’ll give Chivas balance and a possession-game they haven’t had. Hopefully he can get healthy and be on the World Cup team.”

O’Brien, who was raised in Playa Del Rey, Calif., about 15 miles from where Chivas plays, is one of the players likely to keep Olsen off the team going to the World Cup in Germany come June.

Chivas also possesses a talented Mexican contingent, which includes defender Claudio Suarez and forwards Juan Pablo Garcia and Juan Francisco Palencia from the national team.

“You look at their lineup and it’s a whole different team,” Olsen said. “It’s a team you know you have to respect.”

Meanwhile, United will have star midfielder Christian Gomez back in the lineup. The talented Argentine playmaker missed Sunday’s home-opener because of suspension.

“The guys around him need to know that we need to use Christian as much as we can,” Nowak said.

Defender Bobby Boswell, who missed last week’s game with flu-like symptoms, is also fit, but United is still without starting goalie Nick Rimando (foot sprain) and defender Bryan Namoff (groin).

Reserves on display — United’s reserves will play national champion Maryland at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the Maryland SoccerPlex.

Around the MLS — The MLS kicked off with a bang last week. The league’s six matches drew an average of 22,292 fans and featured about four goals a game. The biggest crowd was 27,000 at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., where New England downed the Los Angeles Galaxy 1-0.

The league added some foreign flavor this week. The Colorado Rapids signed former Real Madrid defender Aitor Karanka, while the Columbus Crew acquired Croatian midfielder Leonard Bisaku, who previously played for Croatian power Hajduk Split and Seongnam Ilhwa in South Korea. The Galaxy signed Brazilian forward Thiago De Souza.

Champions League — Andriy Shevchenko’s goal in AC Milan’s 3-1 win over Lyon this week makes him the Champions League’s record goal scorer with 52 strikes.

Spanish club Villarreal is the Cinderella of soccer these day. The tiny club based in a small seaside town, with a venue that can barely hold 23,000, is in the semifinals of the Champions League after beating mighty Inter Milan. The team now faces Arsenal, which hasn’t given up a goal in eight Champions League games. Barcelona faces AC Milan in the other seminal.

Americans get ready — American goalie Brad Friedel played his 250th English Premier League game Monday when his club Blackburn Rovers, tied Wigan 1-1. Meanwhile Manchester United ace Ruud van Nistelrooy scored his 150th EPL goal in a 2-1 win over Bolton. United, which is owned by American Malcolm Glazer, has just signed the biggest shirt deal in United Kingdom history with American insurance company AIG for $99.1 million over four years.



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