- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 29, 2007

D.C. United coach Tom Soehn won’t have to think hard for a reason if his club fails to make the semifinals of the inaugural SuperLiga.

With a man advantage for 32 minutes Wednesday, United squandered an early lead and two points in a feisty 1-1 tie against Monarcas Morelia in the first game at RFK Stadium.

As a result, Soehn has asked his team to play a little more physical and manage the game better when it faces Club America of Mexico City in the second game of the tournament tonight at RFK.

“The one area we need to do is finish off games, and we didn’t finish our chances when we had them,” Soehn said. “In these tournaments, the quality chances you do get you have to execute them.”

That means getting the ball wide more often and delivering better crosses to leading goal scorer Luciano Emilio.

“The quality of services makes Luciano better,” Soehn said.

Soehn also wants his defenders to be more physical.

“I don’t think we are hard enough,” Soehn said. “There were too many games we went through, and our defenders didn’t have any fouls. I was a defender, and it means we are not aggressive enough. Fouls don’t happen because you’re dirty but because you are alert and getting to the ball first, and lots of times refs will call fouls for that.”

After slipping up against Morelia — a small club — it won’t get any easier for United against Club America, one of Mexico’s biggest teams. Club America is coming off a 1-0 loss to MLS” top club, the Houston Dynamo.

“Mentally we are letting games go that we shouldn’t,” midfielder Josh Gros said. “We should be doing better at closing out games.”

The eight-team SuperLiga tournament will determine bragging rights between the top club teams from Mexico and America, trying to replicate the rivalry that exists between the national teams. The eight teams have been divided into two groups, with the top two clubs in each advancing to the semifinal round.

“The passion the U.S.-Mexican rivalry brings is much needed, especially in the summer in MLS,” United midfielder Ben Olsen said. “Sometimes the league can drag on because it’s so hot and the play is not as intense as it would be gearing up for the playoffs or at the beginning of the season, so this is a nice change of pace.”

With five Champions Cup titles, Club America is one of the most successful teams in the CONCACAF region. The club has won 10 Mexican league titles, just one fewer than Chivas.

“Club America is a big team with a large following, and we let a game slip on Wednesday, so this is a big game for us,” Gros said. “It’s important for us to put ourselves on the map. I don’t think our club teams are respected very well, so if we can do well internationally it’s important.”

United will be without striker Jaime Moreno (hamstring) and midfielder Justin Moose (hernia) tonight, while defenders Bryan Namoff (hamstring) and Greg Vanney (ankle), midfielder Stephen deRoux (groin) and forward Guy-Roland Kpene (hamstring) all are questionable.

United travels to play Houston for its final group game Wednesday.

Also, D.C. United announced the dates of its first-round matches against Chivas Guadalajara in the opening round of the Copa Sudamericana. United will first face Chivas at 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 26 at RFK, and the return leg will be played Oct. 2 in Guadalajara.

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