Wednesday September 26th, 2007


AP
The third shot
MLS' long-standing fight to improve its reputation on the international scene continues. And for D.C. United, call it Round 3. Smack dab in the thick of the MLS postseason race, United will participate in the Copa Sudamericana for the second time Wednesday night -- the only two appearances by MLS teams in the prestigious South American tournament -- when they meet CD Chivas de Guadalajara in the first leg of their quarterfinal showdown (8:30 pm ET, Fox Sports en Español). But this is also a big chance for D.C. to exorcise some of its demons in international play, particulary against the 11-time Mexican champions. "The importance of representing your country is always there," D.C. coach Tom Soehn said. "We're excited we get a chance to play [Chivas] and rectify what we didn't do the first time we saw them." Indeed, D.C. let a chance to stun Chivas earlier this season in the CONCACAF Champions' Cup slip through its fingers. On a soggy April night in Guadalajara, a pair of defensive errors -- including a forgettable gaffe by United keeper Troy Perkins -- gifted Chivas a 2-1 victory (3-2 on aggregate) at the Estadio Jalisco. Similarly, in its first trip to the Copa Sudamericana in 2005, D.C. blew a 2-0 second-leg lead against Chile's Universidad Católica, losing 4-3 on aggregate after a stoppage-time winner. But this time around, D.C. is taking a much stronger side -- leading MLS at 15-6-5 and with 49 goals -- into its duel with Chivas, buoyed by its quartet of in-form South American stars Luciano Emilio, Christian Gómez, Fred and Jaime Moreno. Chivas, meanwhile, is off to a slow start at 3-3-3 in the Primera Liga, and no longer has Adolfo "Bofo" Bautista. And make no mistake, D.C. desperately wants to avenge its painful loss to the Mexican powerhouse on a major stage. "We owe [Chivas] big-time," Perkins said. "And this is a big tournament to do that in. We are a completely different team then we were then; it's the same personnel, but we've come a long way from that point. We need to go after them. Let's go back to their place making them need to score all of the goals."
News and notes from around the league
For all the deserved talk about Cuauhtémoc Blanco, Wilman Conde has been just as important to the Fire's push for the playoffs. The Colombian already has proved to be one of the league's top defenders in just a short time. ... Cobi Jones became the fourth player in MLS history to play in 300 league games, joining Steve Ralston, Jason Kreis and Chris Henderson. ... New York-New England could be an intriguing first-round matchup in the MLS playoffs. The Red Bulls have given the Revs all they could handle for a better part of all three regular-season matches. However, New England's propensity to capitalize on defensive letdowns (the Red Bulls will make a few) and New York's inability to win in Foxborough (four victories in 22 trips) could be too much to overcome. ... U.S. Under-21 stalwart Dax McCarty scored his first professional goal in FC Dallas' 2-1 loss to the Galaxy on Sunday. ... Chivas USA actually was outplayed against Kansas City, but two goals by Ante Razov -- including a beautiful strike in stoppage time -- boosted the Goats' home record to 10-0-2 this season. If Chivas USA wins its final three home games, it will become only the second MLS team to finish undefeated at home. San Jose was 9-0-7 in '05 (although its 12-1-1 mark in '02 was more dominant.)
RankPrev. Team
11
D.C. United (15-6-5)
Moreno's 111th MLS goal wasn't even meant to be a shot
22
Chivas USA (14-6-5)
15-game home unbeaten streak three shy of MLS record
33
Houston Dynamo (13-7-6)
The season finale vs. Chivas is setting up to be massive
44
New England Revolution (13-6-7)
Few MLS players take advantage of errors like Twellman
56
New York Red Bulls (11-10-5)
Liberian Doe ('Grandpa') has been a good find for Arena
68
Chicago Fire (8-10-8)
Have let six huge points slip away in past three matches
75
FC Dallas (12-10-4)
The Hoops are just 1-1-3 since the arrival of DP Denílson
87
Kansas City Wizards (10-10-6)
Need three points vs. L.A.; the October road is not easy
910
Columbus Crew (7-9-10)
For all of their woes, Crew still just one point out of 8th
1011
Real Salt Lake (5-13-8)
Signs of improvement: 4-4-2 since the beginning of Aug.
119
Colorado Rapids (7-11-8)
It has been more than four months since last road win
1213
Los Angeles Galaxy (5-13-6)
Must win both games this week to keep any playoff hope
1312
Toronto FC (5-14-6)
11-game winless streak tied for MLS' sixth-longest ever

1. Ante Razov
Chivas USA

2. Wilman Conde
Chicago Fire

3. Taylor Twellman
New England Revs
Thursday, Sept. 27
Kansas City 3, Los Angeles 1 (ESPN2) -- Wizards stay in the hunt for East's No. 3 seed
Saturday, Sept. 29
New York 4, Real Salt Lake 2 (FSC) -- Odd things seem to happen when these sides meet
D.C. United 3, Toronto FC 0 (HDNet) -- At least TFC's unbelievably long drought is over
New England 3, Colorado 1 -- Revs avenge last month's stunning 3-0 loss at Colorado
Chivas USA 1, Chicago 0 -- It's Blanco vs. Chivas again, MLS-style. That should be good
Sunday, Sept. 30
Houston 1, FC Dallas 1 (TeleFutura) -- Hoops need to show they can beat the top teams
Columbus 2, Los Angeles 1 -- A huge chance for Crew to move back into the eighth slot

Last Week: 4-3; This season: 69-67

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.