- The Washington Times - Friday, March 23, 2007

With its next two games to be played 5,000 feet above sea level, there’s no better place for D.C. United to train than in the mountains of Mexico.

United headed south of the border early today to prepare for a game against top Mexican club CD Guadalajara (Chivas) in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup on April 3. Four days later, United kicks off its MLS season against the Colorado Rapids at the team’s brand-new stadium, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, in Commerce, Colo., (elevation 5,200 feet). United won’t return to the District until April 9.

The long stay in Mexico may appear unusual, but as United midfielder Josh Gros said: “It’s not my favorite place to go, but it kills two birds with one stone.”

United will be based at the Hotel Primavera in the wooded hills an hour outside of Guadalajara, which provides three training fields, some hiking paths and not much else. While the location has its benefits, the entertainment value for the team is limited.

When the team practiced there in 2004, the players had so little entertainment that they had a competition to see who could grow the best moustache. Then captain Ryan Nelsen won. Midfielder Ben Olsen even shaved the sides of his head and wore a mullet.

“It’s good team bonding stuff, but we’ll be sick of each other after the second day,” Olsen joked. “We’re already sick of each other. You get a little cabin fever, and the practice gets chippy at times, but it’s all part of making us a better team. We’ll bring our computers, CDs and some guys might even bring books, but I’m not sure we will go that far.”

United officials chose the location back in December when the Champions’ Cup schedule came out, believing the team could get through the first round to meet a Mexican team.

“It’s a nice camp to go to for eight to 10 days. Beyond that you go a little stir crazy,” United technical director Dave Kasper said.

Apart from the training, the players will be watching plenty of Chivas’ games on video.

“We are going to be very good students of Chivas because there’s not a whole lot to do down there,” coach Tom Soehn said. “We will analyze them and know all their weaknesses.”

United travels to meet Chivas on the heels of a 1-1 tie at RFK Stadium in the total-goals series and will be the underdog in front of hostile crowd against the storied Mexican club.

United nearly has all its pieces in place for the upcoming season. The team is still looking for one more key player to add to its senior 18-man roster and one more developmental player. The team’s new Brazilian signing, Fred (his full name is Helbert Frederico Carreiro da Silva), should receive his international transfer certificate any day and will be cleared to play against Chivas.

U.S. team — National team coach Bob Bradley again will get the opportunity to prove he deserves the full-time coaching job in the next five days. The U.S. national team will play exhibition games against Ecuador tomorrow in Tampa, Fla., and Guatemala in Frisco, Texas, on Wednesday.

This will be the strongest roster Bradley has coached. It includes 11 World Cup players and three European-based players seeking their debut with the team.

Two good results could secure the job for Bradley, who is the Olympic team coach but wants to lead the senior team into the Gold Cup and the Copa America this summer.

Defender Oguchi Onyewu, an Olney native, is back in the U.S. camp for the first time since the World Cup last summer. The only D.C. United player in the camp is midfielder Brian Carroll.

Notes — The Wall Street Journal reports that the Los Angeles Galaxy have a jersey deal with Herbalife, a nutrition supplement, that will earn the team $5 million a year through 2011. …

D.C. United’s reserves will start their third season April 15 at home against the Kansas City Wizards’ reserves. All teams will compete in a single table and will play 12 games, with $20,000 going to the winner. …

The new $1.6 billion, 90-000-seat Wembley Stadium opens today in London when England’s under-21 team takes on Italy. …

The U.S. women, unbeaten in regulation for 39 consecutive matches, are back at the top position in the latest FIFA women’s world rankings, bringing an end to the 31/2-year reign of Germany.

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