United Kicks off Year on High Note

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Byline: John Haydon, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

D.C. United couldn't have asked for a better start to what may be the club's most challenging year in team history.

An impressive 4-1 road win against Honduran club CD Olimpia on Wednesday night served as a huge confidence-builder for the four-time MLS champion. D.C. United this year could compete in as many as four tournaments in addition to its 30-game MLS schedule.

The offseason brought drastic changes to United. Notable players Freddy Adu, Nick Rimando and Alecko Eskandarian all were traded. And Tom Soehn replaced Peter Nowak as coach. But on Wednesday night, apart from some early jitters on the back line and some wayward passes on a bumpy field, United looked tight with its formation and possession game very much intact.

"You have to give credit to a number of things," United midfielder Ben Olsen said. "I don't think they [Olimpia] were at their best and we are a team that has been together now for a couple of years. We also had guys who have been training with the national team for a month and a half. Add to that, we have Christian Gomez, a guy who is juts getting better and better."

Gomez certainly was a factor, scoring two goals.

United's only big signing in the offseason was Brazilian Luciano Emilio, who already looks comfortable playing next to Gomez and Jaime Moreno, reviving the memory of United's previous "Magic Triangle" of Moreno, Raul Diaz Arce and Marco Etcheverry in the team's first two championship seasons (1996 and 1997).

"Yeah, the Magic Triangle is back and here to stay," Olsen said. "We had only six chances but scored four goals. I never expected going into that environment, and I've been down there a number of times, that we would get a 4-1 result. It all came down to our finishing."

In the return game at RFK Stadium next Thursday night, United would have to lose by four goals not to advance to the semifinal round. Barring a major upset, United looks certain to have two more Champions' Cup games ahead. …