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D.C. Navigates Two Difficult Qualification Tasks

Days after earning a crucial home victory over MLS leader Columbus Crew, D.C. United must switch its focus from making the league playoffs to making the quarterfinal round of the CONCACAF Champions League. United travels to Toluca to play the finale of group play on Tuesday. United (9 points) is second behind the Mexican club (12) and ahead of Marathon of Honduras (9) because of its head-to-head record and goal-differential. But United should have to win to advance. If United ties or loses, it would need Marathon to do the same against San Juan Jabloteh (winless in five games) in Trinidad & Tobago on Thursday.
 
But winning will be a tough task for United at the highest altitude for a major Mexican population center (8,750 feet). The abysmal history of U.S. results in Mexico also threatens United's chances. MLS clubs have failed to win a competitive match in Mexico since the league's launch in 1996. And the U.S. national team hasn't won in 24 attempts. Still, United's 1-0 win over the Crew has helped give the team faith. "I know a lot of people say that no one beats Mexican teams at home, but I think we can do it," defender Dejan Jakovic said. "It doesn't help to have to get on a plane and fly to Mexico when we have the playoffs to worry about, but that's how soccer works everywhere."
 
As United return home to play its final league game four days after facing Toluca, United coach Tom Soehn is taking some precautions with his personnel. Many regular players will remain in Washington during the team's trip. Midfielders Ben Olsen and Clyde Simms, forward Jaime Moreno and defender Marc Burch will all rest for United's league finale. To reach the MLS playoffs, United require not only a victory against Kansas City, but also help from results around the league.

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