- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2007

He remembers the game on that cold night in Santiago, Chile, as if it were yesterday. After all, D.C. United defender Bryan Namoff and his teammates rarely play 6,000 miles from home.

United traveled to Universidad Catolica almost two years ago this month, needing at least a 2-2 tie to advance to the next round of the Copa Sudamericana after holding the famed Chilean club to a 1-1 tie a week earlier at RFK Stadium.

At first, it looked like United would fulfill its task. But United’s first venture in the Copa Sudamericana ended in disaster.

The club had a first-half lead on the back of two goals by Christian Gomez. But then it all went wrong. United gave up three second-half goals to go down 3-2 and lose the series 4-3 on aggregate.

“We were two goals up, and then we lost. It was devastating,” Namoff said. “It was a chance to do something big on the international stage and go on to meet other big teams, and we blew it.”

Namoff and his teammates get another shot in South America’s second-tier club tournament today at 8:30 p.m. when it plays top Mexican club Guadalajara Chivas at RFK Stadium in the round of 16 of the sixth edition of the 34-team Copa Sudamericana.

The Copa Sudamericana features some of Latin America’s most famous clubs. United was the first — and remains the only — American team to participate in the event.

This year’s event involves top teams like Boca Juniors and River Plate of Argentina, Botafogo, Vasco da Gama and Sao Paulo of Brazil and Pachuca and Chivas of Mexico.

United was invited to play in the Copa Sudamericana after coming in third in this year’s CONCACAF Champions Cup.

Meanwhile, United’s players have some bad memories of their last game against Chivas.

The teams played to a 1-1 tie in the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup semifinal at RFK on March 15. United traveled to Chivas on April 3 but allowed the Mexican club to come from behind and win the second game 2-1 and clinch the series 3-2 on aggregate.

“That loss against them left a bad taste in my mouth, and this is an opportunity for payback,” Namoff said. “It gives us another chance to get another stab at Chivas.”

If United gets past Chivas, it will play the winner of the Arsenal S. (Argentina)-Goias (Brazil) series. Arsenal S. beat Goias 3-2 this week in the first leg of the series in Brazil. United midfielder Christian Gomez played for Arsenal S. in Argentina before joining United in 2003.

“This is a great rivalry [against Chivas], and the game has an extra bite to it,” United coach Tom Soehn said. “We are happy to get a chance to play them again and rectify what we did last time. …

“We’ve had time to grow as a team.”

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