- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 24, 2007

D.C. United couldn’t have asked for a better start to what may be the club’s most challenging year in team history.

An impressive 4-1 road win against Honduran club CD Olimpia on Wednesday night served as a huge confidence-builder for the four-time MLS champion. D.C. United this year could compete in as many as four tournaments in addition to its 30-game MLS schedule.

The offseason brought drastic changes to United. Notable players Freddy Adu, Nick Rimando and Alecko Eskandarian all were traded. And Tom Soehn replaced Peter Nowak as coach. But on Wednesday night, apart from some early jitters on the back line and some wayward passes on a bumpy field, United looked tight with its formation and possession game very much intact.

“You have to give credit to a number of things,” United midfielder Ben Olsen said. “I don’t think they [Olimpia] were at their best and we are a team that has been together now for a couple of years. We also had guys who have been training with the national team for a month and a half. Add to that, we have Christian Gomez, a guy who is juts getting better and better.”

Gomez certainly was a factor, scoring two goals.

United’s only big signing in the offseason was Brazilian Luciano Emilio, who already looks comfortable playing next to Gomez and Jaime Moreno, reviving the memory of United’s previous “Magic Triangle” of Moreno, Raul Diaz Arce and Marco Etcheverry in the team’s first two championship seasons (1996 and 1997).

“Yeah, the Magic Triangle is back and here to stay,” Olsen said. “We had only six chances but scored four goals. I never expected going into that environment, and I’ve been down there a number of times, that we would get a 4-1 result. It all came down to our finishing.”

In the return game at RFK Stadium next Thursday night, United would have to lose by four goals not to advance to the semifinal round. Barring a major upset, United looks certain to have two more Champions’ Cup games ahead.

“If all goes well, this year will be the busiest year an MLS team has ever seen,” Olsen said. “I’m hoping for that, and hoping our depth won’t be a factor.”

The win in Honduras ties the biggest margin of victory by an MLS team in an away match in an official international competition. United downed Jamaican team Arnett 3-0 in the 2001 CONCACAF Giants Cup. The win over Olimpia was also only the fifth victory for an MLS team on Latin American soil in international competition.

United also owns the largest margin of victory by an MLS team home or away in the Champions’ Cup, an 8-0 win over Joe Public, at RFK in the 1998 Champions’ Cup. In all international competitions, MLS teams are now 41-37-17 overall.

D.C. alumni notes — Bobby Convey, 23, will miss the rest of the season with English club Reading because he requires further surgery on a knee injury he sustained at the 2006 World Cup. He had an operation in December on the knee. …

Goalie Scott Garlick, a 10-year veteran of MLS who also manned the nets for United at the 1997 MLS Cup victory, surprised Real Salt Lake this week by announcing his retirement. That could open the door for rookie keeper Chris Seitz, who left Maryland early. The team also reacquired former United goalie Nick Rimando in a trade with the New York Red Bulls.

Big losses — Reigning English Premier champion Chelsea announced this week losses of $156.7 million for the financial year to June 2006. The losses are $117 million down from the $274 million losses for the season before.

Gold Cup — The 12-team lineup for the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup is now set. Previous champions Canada, Mexico and the United States, along with Central America entrants Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama and Caribbean teams Cuba, Guadeloupe, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago will compete at six venues across the United States from June 6 to 24.

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