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D.C. United doesn't learn its lesson
by Ridge Mahoney, September 16th, 2008 7AM



[CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] Hurricane Ike has put off Houston's entry into the Concacaf Champions League but there's no such reprieve for D.C. United.

Fierce winds and flooding closed both of Houston's airports through the weekend and spread heavy damage throughout the city. The Dynamo's first Concacaf group match against Luis Angel Firpo scheduled for Wednesday has been postponed; its scheduled MLS match against San Jose Saturday at Robertson Stadium is expected to go ahead.

Preliminary inspections of Robertson Stadium revealed slight damage and no significant problems with electrical or plumbing systems. Both Houston airports re-opened with limited service Monday; the Quakes are scheduled to travel on Friday.

Three other Concacaf games scheduled for Tuesday are on track: D.C. United (MLS) vs. Saprissa (Costa Rica); Puerto Rico Islanders (USL) vs. Tauro FC (Panama); and San Francisco FC (Panama) vs. UNAM (Mexico). The D.C. United-Saprissa match will be televised live on Fox Soccer Channel and Galavision at 8 p.m. ET. TeleFutura will show San Francisco FC-UNAM at 10 p.m. ET.

Saprissa reached the final of the Concacaf Champions Cup last April, which it lost to Pachuca, 3-2 on aggregate. It beat Universidad de Costa Rica, 2-0, last weekend with a pair of goals by Jairo Arrieta, who scored Saprissa's goal in the second leg of the Champions' Cup final.

Saprissa, which won both the Invierno and Verano league titles in the past year, includes on its roster seven members of the Costa Rican national team, including Alejandro Alpizar, who scored a goal apiece in World Cup qualifying victories last week against Suriname and Haiti. Longtime national team veterans Jervis Drummond and Ronald Gomez are on the roster.

United's roster is stronger than it has been in recent weeks, but only just. Midfielder Marcello Gallardo has returned to his native Argentina in an effort to speed his recovery from sports hernia surgery. Gonzalo Peralta (hamstring) is probably out, Luciano Emilio (groin) and Jaime Moreno (knee) will be game-time decisions. Fred and Joe Vide have been bothered by hamstring strains. Fred played a halftime substitute last weekend against Dallas and is a possible starter. As of Monday, Vide is listed on the injury list as out of action.

If all its games are played as scheduled, United will play 12 matches in six weeks, including midweek double-dips against Saprissa, Marathon (Honduras), and Cruz Azul (Mexico) in Group A.

"I've been preaching consistency, but to do that, you need a consistent lineup," says head coach Tom Soehn. "And we haven't had that for quite a while."

D.C. lost, 2-1, in San Jose Sept. 6 after sleepwalking through the first half, and tied FC Dallas, 2-2, last weekend at home by conceding a goal to Andre Rocha in the 79th minute after a thumping finish by Santino Quaranta, his second goal in as many games, had given it the lead.

Soehn pushed Thabiso "Boyzzz" Khumalo, acquired by D.C. from USL-2 club Pittsburgh Riverhounds last week, into the starting lineup against Dallas and he assisted on Moreno's goal that tied the game, 1-1, before being replaced by Emilio. Quavas Kirk got his first start in a D.C. uniform and was replaced by Fred at halftime. Soehn has used 26 field players in league matches this season in a futile effort to get consistent results despite injuries and international callups.

"We have to start learning our lesson," said Quaranta. "If not, we're not going to be playing in late October and November. If that's what it takes, then that's what it takes, because it's just not good enough. Again, it's 10 minutes to go and you have to do what you have to do to get a result at this point in the season, and we didn't do that. And it's upsetting. We have to start holding ourselves accountable, all 11 of us."


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