Behind the badge: Big games ahead

Somebody at Major League Soccer was either psychic or lucky when they created the 2004 schedule. Going into the final weekend of league play, every single game matters in consideration for the playoffs. Columbus can clinch the Supporter's Shied, but Colorado needs the win to guarantee third place in the West. New England and Dallas are both in must-win scenarios, with Los Angeles still within striking distance of the top seed in the west. And even though D.C. United is the only team that already knows their playoff dance partner - the familiar, and strongly disliked MetroStars - the outcome of the team's final meeting is still important in the standings.

United is closing in on re-claiming the Atlantic Cup - the MetroStars need to win by four goals to retain the trophy -but the Black-and-Red will still be looking for a win on Saturday. With a win, United leapfrog the MetroStars into second place in the Eastern Conference, guaranteeing them the right to host the second game of the home-and-home series, along with the advantage of playing the thirty-minute golden goal overtime period and penalty shootout at home, should it be necessary. In that scenario, the first game will be played at Giants Stadium on Oct. 23 with a return engagement on Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. With a draw or a loss, United will host the first match of the playoffs on Oct. 24 at 5 p.m. and travel north for the second match on Oct. 30.

As the Black-and-Red enter the playoffs for the second consecutive year, D.C. United is offering a pair of special Blackout playoff packages. Current planholders can order a two-game playoff strip, including tickets to the Conference Semifinals and a possible Conference Final match - to be played at RFK if Columbus is upset and United advances - along with a commemorative Blackout MLS Cup 2004 Playoffs t-shirt starting at $36 for spectator level seating. Also available to the general public is a Blackout playoff package, including four tickets and four Blackout t-shirts, starting at $88.

For more information on either of the Blackout ticket packages, visit the Tickets section of dcunited.com or call 202-587-5466 or 202-587-5467.

Living the dream

Nearly every teenager is a video game connoisseur, knowing the finer points of controller interaction with game play, judging offerings from different companies with a very critical eye. But not many have the opportunity to assist in the development of the games they play.

Freddy Adu has had just that opportunity, courtesy of Electronic Arts. Adu was part of the development team for FIFA Soccer 2005, which ships to stores today. In addition to providing a body model for many of the skills exhibited by the players in the game - including himself - Adu also helped develop some of the game play and controls. After all, who can better determine if the game plays true to life than the players themselves?

With the game's launch this week, Adu spent Monday in New York on a media blitz and promotional campaign. Highlights included appearances on Fox Morning News, the Tony Danza Show, MAAD Sports, MTV News, and ESPNews.

Ready like Freddy

Even though the traditional sports of inspiration for hip-hop are basketball and football, soccer is starting to make a small dent in the genre. So much so that Adu serves as inspiration for the hook in Jay-Z and R-Kelly's new single "Don't Let Me Die."

The single is currently tops on the CHR/Rhythmic Adds list, being added into regular rotation at 70 radio stations over the past week. It is also included on "Unfinished Business," a collaboration between Jay-Z and R. Kelly set to hit record stores on Oct. 26.

And although the new single is the most recent song to feature soccer players prominently, it's not the first time that players of the beautiful game have been involved in a hip-hop project. As part of the promotional run-up to the United States' first trip to the World Cup Finals since 1950, the U.S. men's national team laid down a rap track. D.C. United's director of youth development, John Harkes, even lent his voice to the effort. The single never made it into heavy radio rotation, but the video of the song was picked up by MTV.

Return of the Bruce

Former D.C. United head coach Bruce Arena returns to his old stomping grounds on Wednesday night, as the U.S. men's national team takes on Panama in a vital World Cup Qualifier. A win by the Red, White and Blue on Wednesday guarantees them passage into the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for FIFA World Cup 2006 in Germany. Several good seats are still available, with prices ranging from $30 to $75.


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