Work in Sports
On the pitch
Fusion boss optimistic depite the odds
Posted: Monday October 25, 1999 12:32 PM
By Jeff Green, CNN/SI
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Or perhaps this should be "On the gridiron" for the second game in the best-of-three, first-round Major League Soccer playoff game between the Miami Fusion and D.C. United.
Two-time champion D.C. leads the series after taking the first match 2-0 last week at RFK Stadium.
Under a clear sky on a perfect Sunday afternoon -- as the teams took the field for warmups -- Lockhart Stadium's pitch was covered with lines painted for high school (American) football games played there the previous four nights in a row.
Fusion managing director Doug Hamilton was optimistic despite the odds.
"Quite honestly, we do like our chances," said Hamilton. "We have a lot of respect for them and what they've accomplished... But since the last 16 games, after we made trades that we made, D.C. is the only team in the league with a better record than us."
"Attendance today will be less than inspiring," said Hamilton. "It's a less-than-ideal situation, a one o'clock game, on Univision and up against the Dolphins... There's a very small chance for success given those parameters."
Hamilton acknowledged that someone on the D.C. side of the field would be changing sides after the season as the "future consideration" in the deal that landed Chris Albright in Washington. On Saturday, Hamilton played golf with a group including D.C. general manager Kevin Payne, new San Jose and New England boss Sunil Gulati and a member of the Revolution, presumably Revolution forward Joe-Max Moore, a Miami resident.
"Kevin and I took the money," Hamilton said.
Rumors in Miami have United forward Roy Lassiter coming to Miami and then being sent to New England for Moore. Lassiter said in the locker room before the game that he wouldn't play for either team next season if MLS did not renegotiate his contract. However, the Fusion has much greater needs in defense than on attack.
Has Lassiter heard the rumors that he's headed south?
"I might be, but like I told Miami and like I told D.C., unless they do something better for me, I'm not playing anywhere. I'm not coming to Miami; I won't play in D.C.," said Lassiter.
Standing alongside Hamilton watching the teams warm up was U.S. national team coach Bruce Arena, who said he'd made the round to three MLS games in three days to observe "the usual cast of characters."
Working through warmups under close observation from team trainers was Fusion defender Leo Cullen, who is starting in central defense despite an injury referred to by the team as a right foot contusion.
"I'm going to go until I can't go any longer," Cullen said as he was having his foot wrapped in the locker room before taking the field. Meanwhile, defender Jay Heaps was softening his boots in a training room steamer.
No major changes from a week earlier were made to either team's lineup.
Down from the broadcast booth to check out the field was Univision broadcaster Andres "Goooooaalllll" Cantor.
"I think Washington has proven that they're one of the best teams throughout the season, so it wouldn't surprise me if they beat Miami here in Fort Lauderdale and go on to play Columbus," said Cantor. "I think Washington will win."