Freddy Adu will take on the MetroStars defense in his first-ever MLS Cup Playoff game.
De Rosa/MLS/

United visit Metros in playoff clash

as United went on their way to the championship. "More than anything we need to take the first game here." Bradley said. "We need to go back to RFK and get rid of those demons. At the end of it all I want to see (captain) Eddie Pope standing with all these guys holding that trophy." ... The MetroStars will be without starting right back Craig Ziadie, who is suspended after being sent off in the season finale. That could be a key for a team that ended the year with the league's most porous defense. "All year long we have tried to find a balance," Bradley said. "In order to win in the playoffs, certainly I agree you have to be able to keep things tight. Hopefully we can. If you look at recent games, we have made strides in that direction." Added defender Eddie Pope: "For us it's going to be a combination of playing well defensively and continuing to be potent on offense. We're right up there with everyone else." ... Bradley's main option will likely be Tim Regan, with Chris Leitch moving to the left. But Ricardo Clark is also a possibility. "A little bit depends on if Gilberto is healthy," Bradley said, the Brazilian suffering from an ankle injury. ... Pope could also be a question mark for the first leg, after a strained tendon in his foot forced him off early in the season finale. ... Amado Guevara, the winner of the MLS Budweiser Scoring Championship with 30 points from 10 goals and 10 assists, was named the MetroStars Most Valuable Player for the season. Guevara did not lead the league in either goals (Brian Ching and Eddie Johnson, 12) or assists (Jaime Moreno, 14), and six of his goals came from the penalty spot. "This year I think each one of my teammates should have received one. All of them deserve this. I pray to God that at the end of the season, the trophy we're going to get is the (Alan I. Rothenberg Trophy)."

Among the intriguing storylines in the series between the long-time I-95 rivals is the bond between United coach Peter Nowak and MetroStars boss Bob Bradley. Nowak captained the Chicago Fire in Bradley's first year as an MLS head coach, the two leading the Chicago Fire to a victory in the MLS Cup Final against D.C. United in the club's inaugural season. "We are all emotional, but we are professionals. I had a great conversation with Bob even before the game last Sunday, and we know it's going to be hard, both of us. But we're still going to be friends, whatever happens on the field," Nowak said. "I have great respect for Bob, and the work he did with me when I was playing for him. Nothing is going to change, it's only who's going to go a little further, who's going to make another step." ... Freddy Adu suffered a sprained shoulder in the season finale against the MetroStars, but he should be able to play this weekend. Adu landed hard on his neck and shoulder after a collision with Metro right back Craig Ziadie. "He still feels sore. He said he felt a little dizzy before we started practice, but when we put him in the game, he doesn't need to think too much," said United coach Peter Nowak. ... However, Adu isn't likely to start this weekend as he did in the RFK finale, as both first-choice flank players -- Josh Gros and Dema Kovalenko -- will be back from suspension. ... Jaime Moreno was named United's Most Valuable Player for the fourth time in the nine-year history of the club. Moreno is still somewhat slowed by a hamstring injury that forced him to miss a couple games late in the season, but should still start. "I'm feeling fully recovered, but I'm still working on it, trying to get the strength back," he said. "It wasn't a major injury, but sometimes I still have a little bit of fear. I've just got to keep working and strengthening, and I think I'll be all right. ... Another bright spot heading into the playoffs is the combination between Moreno and Alecko Eskandarian and playmaker Christian Gomez - who scored two goals against the MetroStars in the finale. "The understanding is very well between the three of us. That has been very important for the overall performance of the team and what for what Peter wants on the attack," Gomez said.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.

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