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D.C. United returns home after losing two on road 'Magic Triangle' is back in time for busy stretch

Vagabond D.C. United returns to RFK Stadium at 7: 30 tonight (HTS) for only the second time in July, facing Major League Soccer Eastern Conference rival Columbus.

United has lost two straight on the road -- one of league's worst refereeing messes in Los Angeles when it finished with nine players, and to Kansas City last Saturday.

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Coach Bruce Arena predicted a midsummer slump once United's Latin American "Magic Triangle" attack returned from Copa America and World Cup qualifying. Coming back after six games that the trio missed would require an adjustment period, Arena said. But on the up side, the club expects to have those players -- Raul Diaz Arce, Jaime Moreno and Marco Etcheverry, all among the league's best statistically -- for much of the remaining schedule.

United has played less at home than any other team this season but has MLS' best winning percentage at 13-6 (5-1 with the missing Triangle) and a six-point lead in the East. Ahead is a more favorable schedule: six of the next eight league games are at RFK -- tonight, next Wednesday, and then on Aug. 2, 9, 27 and 31.

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Weekend rat race

United is in one of those two games-in-48 hours gigs tonight and on Sunday, when it visits the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, least of the East (and the entire MLS, for that matter) with a 6-12 record, at 7: 30 p.m. (HTS).

United won the teams' two spring meetings. Though booed loudly at home in last Sunday's 4-0 rout by the awakening Los Angeles Galaxy, the struggling Metro- Stars are 6-4 at Giants Stadium.

Listen up, Smurf

It will be interesting to see how the Big Apple responds Sunday to the first U.S. appearance by MetroStars forward Antony De Avila since the Colombian international dedicated Sunday's winning World Cup qualifier goal to two brothers who headed the notorious Cali cocaine cartel until their 1995 imprisonment.

Much of that cocaine created agony on American streets, not least of which were New York's.

The entertaining De Avila has tormented United, scoring seven goals and assisting on three more in nine games since last August.

Cup defense

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United, which won the 1996 U.S. Open Cup as well as the MLS Cup, opens defense of the nation's oldest soccer title by visiting A-League affiliate Hershey at 7: 30 p.m. Aug. 6.

United is one of eight MLS teams beginning play for this year's Open over the next couple weeks. Their round of 16 opponents include five second-division A-League teams (New Orleans, Long Island, Rochester, Hershey and Richmond), two D3 Pro League squads (San Francisco and Chicago) and one amateur Premier Development League squad from San Luis Obispo, Calif.

You'd figure MLS teams, the cream of American soccer professionals, would blow through this 84th annual American soccer competition, right? Assume nothing in lose-and-you're-gone Open play, in which upsets by psyched lower-division clubs abound worldwide.

Last season, the A-League's Rochester Rhinos ousted two MLS opponents, Tampa Bay and Colorado, before United restored order by winning the title, 3-0.

Memory jogger

Reminder for Steve Sampson: You still need a forward for the U.S. national team-Ecuador game at Memorial Stadium on Aug. 7, and Columbia's MLS All-Star Dante Washington is red-hot. With four goals in his past two Dallas Burn games, he's now MLS' third-leading scorer (nine goals, six assists, 24 points in 20 games).

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Pub Date: 7/25/97


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