I love the fact that DC United and Chivas are going at it several times in 2007. As much as I like variety, there's nothing better than matches that cross national lines. Much like when the US and Mexico National Teams meet, in any format – World Cup Qualifiers, regional competitions, or simple friendlies – a DC United versus Chivas match up will become more than a simple game, it will become an event.
DC United was wildly successful in the early years with victories in the 1998 version of the CONCACAF Champions Cup with a 1-0 victory over Mexico’s Toluca, and an even higher step with the come from behind win against Brazilian side Vasco de Gama to claim the Interamerican Cup later that year.
However, just how anxious should DC United be to enter the international fray once again? DC United hasn't made a mark in the international scene in the 21st Century. Since 1998 every fanatic of the team entered into the subsequent shows with that tickling sensation that potential victories hold, only to end up with the slick, slimy feeling of despair and defeat. In 2005, being MLS’s virgin team to the Copa Sudamericana, the hearts of all fans were ripped out as DC United; leading 2-0, they eventually fell in the waning minutes to Catolica of Chile on an aggregate score of 4-3.
Oh, being a fanatic is never as good as the heightened expectations entering a competition where club and country lies intersect!
Combined with the defeat to Chivas this year in the quarterfinal round, fans are becoming leery of accepting foreign challenges, particularly in the final months of the MLS regular season. One poster on BigSoccer.com voices the fears of several others with, “While (playing in the competition is) great in theory, this team could well be fighting for their playoff lives by that time in the season. I'm not sure how i really feel about this . . .This team is gonna be dead come the end of the season.”
Likewise, even closer to home, some of the hosts of “The Soccer Show” podcast on UnitedMania.com said, “Chivas is the best team in North America . . . I hold little hope for a DC United victory,” when discussing the CONCACAF match.
I say Bring them on! The earlier clash of the titans saw DC United coming out of its pre-season, weak legged and attempting to integrate new players, new coaches, even new ownership. Playing Chivas earlier in the year was only a reconnaissance. As Head Coach Tommy Soehn stated on the team’s website, "Playing Chivas again in a meaningful competition is an ideal scenario for us. We played them very close over a similar two-game format during our pre-season and we feel that we have unfinished business to tend to with them."
Not only will the adrenaline flow from the very nature of the competition, but also the roles will be reversed. Chivas will be the team entering a new season. Chivas will be attempting to find the right chemistry. Chivas will have the pressure of holding the title of “defending winner”. The chips are stacked against them.
Furthermore, DC United will have several factors working for them. Don’t under-estimate the past “failures” of the recent past by the team on the international stage. Outside of youth sides, only Ben Olsen and Jaime Moreno, has reached the pinnacle of club soccer by winning an international tournament. To a man the side says that winning a MLS Championship is important, but it always leads to the desire of wanting more at the next step, a championship at the international level with their club. Likewise, the taste of international play will fully envelope the younger players, who will have played through the SuperLiga competition in mid-summer, thus gaining valuable experience. Gone will be the rubbery legs and lack of chemistry. Things look good for the home side.
So, cast off the doubts, fears, and bad beer taste that defeat and doubt brings. Look forward to lapping the ladle of victory. Let DC United and Chivas test again the argument on the field of who is the North American champion once and for all . . . . At least for this season.