- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It’s rare for an American team to have a successful history against a Mexican club, but D.C. United has nothing but fond memories of playing Toluca FC.

In the teams’ only meeting, United downed the Mexican club 1-0 on Eddie Pope’s 41st minute goal to win the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup on Aug. 16, 1998, at RFK Stadium. With the victory, United became the first U.S. team to win the competition.

The Champions’ Cup has since morphed into the Champions League with a new format. The two sides meet for the second time Wednesday night at RFK in the group stage of the tournament.

“It’s impossible to forget that game,” United striker Jamie Moreno said. “We had a great team. The soccer maybe was a little different, too. It’s very hard to compare.”

United’s winning lineup included Bolivian stars Moreno and Marco Etcheverry and one-time U.S. national team players Pope, John Harkes, Jeff Agoos, Carlos Llamosa, Roy Lassiter, Richie Williams and Ben Olsen. Many fans still consider that team, coached by Bruce Arena, to be United’s best ever.

“Bruce used to say that he didn’t have to do much coachingwise, because it was a team where everyone knew their job and knew what to do when it came to it,” Moreno said. “That is something that we are trying achieve with this team, with the young guys to learn to be a winner and try to get better every time and stop making the mistakes we’ve been making.”

Moreno and Olsen are the only remaining United players from the 1998 team.

“That Toluca team was a very good team,” Olsen said. “They were like the Pachuca [one of Mexico’s most successful teams] of today. We fortunately had some pretty good defenders, and I just ran up and down.”

United again will be facing a tough Toluca lineup. Nicknamed “los Diablos Rojos,” the nine-time Mexican champions are second in the Mexican League and coming off a 3-0 win over Santos on Sunday.

United is 5-11-4 all-time against Mexican teams. Last year, United went 1-5 against Mexican opponents with a 1-3 record at RFK.

United lost its opening game in group play 3-1 to C.D. Marathon in Honduras last week. Toluca won its opening match, downing San Juan Jabloteh 1-0 in Trinidad on Thursday.

Notes - United acquired South African midfielder forward Tiyiselani Shipalane on loan from the Harrisburg City Islanders (USL2). Shipalane, 23, earned rookie of the year honors following his sole season at Harrisburg after tallying six goals and six assists. He was added to the roster to replace Thabiso Khumalo, who was put on the disabled list after suffering an infection in his broken right wrist. …

United announced forward Luciano Emilio has received his green card and no longer will count toward an international spot on the team’s roster.

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