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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.")

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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.

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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



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