- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 2, 2007

D.C. United hopes its third trip to Mexico will be the lucky one.

United meets Guadalajara Chivas of Mexico City tonight in the second game of a round-of-16 series in the Copa Sudamericana. United needs a tie or a win to advance to the quarterfinals. United took a slim 2-1 lead to Chivas in the total-goals series Wednesday at RFK Stadium, where the club played a man down for 46 minutes after defender Marc Burch was ejected for a second yellow card. Burch is suspended for tonight’s game.

History is against United in Mexico. The club has never beaten or tied a Mexican team away from RFK.

“We have to prove to ourselves that we can win on the road against international teams,” United captain Jaime Moreno said.

In fact, no American club has won in Mexico.

“That’s a challenge for us, and I want to make sure we are the first,” United coach Tom Soehn said.

United has lost twice in Mexico, including a 2-1 defeat by Chivas in the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup in April. In that match, United blew a 1-0 lead on two defensive errors, most notably when goalie Troy Perkins let the wet ball slip through his hands on what should have been an easy catch.

“The good news is we know what we are getting ourselves into,” defender Bobby Boswell said. “We’ve already been down there once this year. We’ve also been fortunate to have played in the SuperLiga this season against some other great Mexican teams.”

United is 2-1-2 against Mexican clubs this year.

The odds may be with United this time around. Chivas, which fired its coach Friday, has struggled in the Mexican league. Meanwhile, United, unbeaten in its last 10 games, owns MLS’ best record. But Soehn warns not to take Chivas lightly.

“They tend to play for their jobs,” Soehn said. “It will be difficult regardless of the coaching changes.”

Chivas is a skillful team with three fast and tall forwards, notably Sergio Santana.

“I think they have an urgency now to come out and win, so we have to defend well as a team,” Moreno said.

If United gets past Chivas, it will play Arsenal of Argentina in the next round. United’s Argentine midfielder, Christian Gomez, played 30 games for Arsenal before he joined United.

The Copa Sudamericana is South America’s second most important club event and features some of Latin America’s most famous clubs. United is the only American team to participate.

This year’s event involves top teams like Boca Juniors and River Plate of Argentina, Vasco de Gama and Sao Paulo of Brazil and Pachuca of Mexico. United was invited to play in the Copa Sudamericana after coming in third in the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup.

United took 19 players to Mexico, including defender Bryan Namoff and midfielder Fred, who are nursing injuries.

After the game in Mexico, United will head directly to Kansas City for a rare Friday night Major League Soccer match against the Wizards.

Note — D.C. United midfielder Fred was named MLS player of the week after scoring a goal and adding an assist in United’s 4-1 win over Toronto FC on Saturday night. It was the seventh time this season a United player has captured the weekly honors.

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