Second leg remains for D.C. United
still early in the MLS campaign and perhaps still approaching full-season fitness -- United must battle the two-time defending Mexican Primera Division champion who are well into their season.
"We know how difficult our opponent will be and the adverse factors like the altitude and the crowd, who will definitely be helping their team, but we've come prepared mentally and the players know that this is football and on the field they simply have to put into practice what they've worked on," said United coach Peter Nowak.
United played well in the first leg in Washington, going ahead through a 10th-minute header from Christian Gomez on a pinpoint cross from Jaime Moreno. But despite a number of chances, United could never put home a second -- and Pumas grabbed a deserved equalizer on a disputed penalty early in the second half.
"They came right at us at home, so they can't come at us any harder," Olsen told The Washington Post. "We know what to expect. If we break that initial pressure, we're going to have some chances. We just have to do well with the chances we get because they're going to be few and far between."
After their disappointing 1-1 draw in league action at home on Saturday, United will have nearly their entire squad available. Defender Brandon Prideaux, who started in the season opener but then missed both matches last week, has recovered from the flu and should be ready. Nowak will be unable to count upon only defender Bryan Namoff -- who has not been available during the season for United.
Pumas will be missing some key performers for the second leg. The influential central midfield axis of Leandro Augusto and Gerardo Galindo will both be suspended for the second leg with yellow card accumulation, while captain and center back Joaquin Beltran was injured and forced to come off early from Pumas 1-0 victory against Puebla at the weekend.
"We want to get to the final. Fortunately, it's a night game because it's disagreeable to play at 12 noon. We need Beltran - it was a shame he left [Sunday] - because we can't count on Leandro, or on Galindo, or on 'Pareja' Lopez (injured) and it's very important for us to reach the Club World Championship," said Hugo Sanchez, Pumas head coach.
Sanchez will be able to count on the return of Mexican national team midfielder Jaime Lozano, who missed the first leg while still recovering from injury. Veteran Mexican international Joaquin del Olmo, a late substitute in the first leg, is expected to join Lozano in central midfield.
In their quarterfinal series, Pumas also drew the first leg away, 1-1 against CD Olimpia of Honduras, and were pushed to extra time at home in the return leg before a goal in the 120th minute from Bruno Marioni sent them through. Pumas striker Diego Alonso, who could also come into the team after missing the first leg, said United could be a tougher test than the Central American club.
"D.C. United is a team that plays more open, is organized, maintains their shape and is more dangerous in attack," said Alonso. "(Jaime Moreno y Christian Gómez) are the most important players, but we have to attentive to the entire team and not only to their individualities."
Both teams concluded their final training sessions by practicing penalty kicks. If the match is tied after 90 minutes, a 30-minute extra time session will be played in its entirety. If the match is still tied, a penalty kick shootout will follow.
The winner of the series will face the winner of the CF Monterrey (Mexico)-Deportivo Saprissa (Costa Rica) semifinal. Their first leg ended in a 2-2 tie in San Jose last Thursday; the second leg will be played in Monterrey almost simultaneously with the match in Mexico's federal district.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer.