D.C. United lends peek at Leeds, English game tomorrow Washington follows up with Sunday league game

If you wonder how the improving quality of Major League Soccer's play stacks up internationally, a hint -- but only a hint -- will be on display at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., at 7: 30 p.m. tomorrow.

D.C. United will play host to Leeds United, which finished its English Premier League season last weekend, in a "friendly" (soccer-ese for "exhibition.")


Whatever it's called, this game unavoidably will be seen as a measuring stick -- but don't get too carried away -- of how far D.C. United has come since practicing for the first time about 14 months ago. If you go (or watch, HTS 7: 30 p.m.), keep in mind:

D.C. United must play again at 3 p.m. Sunday against the New England Revolution in Foxboro, Mass., and that game is important, a conference contest. So the need to play twice in less than 48 hours with a flight in the middle means backup players are probably in for more minutes tomorrow than might otherwise be the case.


However, Leeds, having landed in the United States on Monday, is compounding that trans-Atlantic trip with its own two games-in-three days gig.

Defending MLS champion D.C. United (5-3 officially) is feeling sour and in need of a win. It was knocked from first in the MLS East last weekend and has lost three of its past four games, if you accept a shootout loss as a real loss, which, of course, MLS does.

Standings be hanged, United would much rather think in terms of having an 18-game unbeaten streak in league play. If that odd-duck shootout used to produce a one-point "winner" out of a regulation draw weren't in the mix, counting league games, last fall's playoffs and the MLS Cup, United would be 13-0-5 against opponents who matter most since last Sept. 14 and 4-0-4 this spring.

Leeds United was not exactly a premier attraction this season. At 11-14-13, Leeds finished in a three-way tie for 10th in the 20-team Premier League -- 17 points closer to relegation than to title glory.

In 38 games, Leeds put in only 28 goals -- the least productive offense of the 92 teams that constitute the English Football Association's four divisions. But the Yorkshire club survived by yielding only 38 goals, just one a game on average.

Which drapes tomorrow's game with that perennial debate: Does good defense usually beat good offense -- or vice versa? Because shootouts notwithstanding, D.C. United surely can attack; through eight games, it's leading MLS in goals (17), assists (25), shots on goal (78) and corner kicks (52).

Oh, no shootout tomorrow night. A draw will be a draw.

Pub Date: 5/15/97