60,000-plus expected for Real Madrid-DC United
WASHINGTON -- If attendance were the sole barometer of a game's importance, D.C. United should be ready to play their best game of the year against legendary Spanish club Real Madrid.
More than 60,000 people are expected for Sunday's friendly at FedEx Field. The game is taking place at the Washington Redskins' stadium in suburban Maryland because United's usual home, RFK Stadium, can't hold all the people who want to come.
And on Saturday, a large crowd with a sizable police presence gathered outside the hotel near the White House where the teams held their news conferences, fooling tourists into thinking that President Barack Obama was inside.
Yet United have to balance the hoopla with reality. There's a desire to put on a good showing against a team flush with international stars -- Madrid spent nearly $400 million on eight new players during the offseason -- while focusing on the bigger task that's ahead: nine games in three competitions over a 29-day stretch starting next Saturday.
"We're going to take some precaution on the game because it's a friendly game," midfielder Christian Gomez said. "But we're going to try and get results."
Real opened its two-game preseason tour of North America on Friday with a 5-1 rout of Toronto FC, scoring three goals in the first 26 minutes. As expected, the team's biggest stars -- Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Raul and Guti -- thrilled the sellout crowd in the first half before giving way to substitutes later in the game.
"We're looking forward to giving a great show to the fans," said Ronaldo, FIFA's world player of the year. "I think football is growing every day in the United States."
United, meanwhile, are struggling to find some rhythm at a vital part of the season. They have tied half of their MLS games, leading to a 6-4-10 record that's good enough to be in the playoff mix in the Eastern Conference. They also have a slate of upcoming games in the CONCACAF Champions League and will be defending their U.S. Open Cup title early next month.
"We've got a week after this to get ready for Toronto, so the timing isn't that bad," midfielder Ben Olsen said. "And we're happy to play one of the elite clubs in this world. Our energy level would be pretty high and pretty competitive."
AP freelance writer Ash McDaniel contributed to this report.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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