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Major League Soccer's Weekly Newsletter

Posted: Tue Dec 4 17:16:06 2001 EST

+Major League Soccer's Weekly Newsletter+

SETTING THE TONE The U.S. National Team's next two matches come against 2002 World Cup Group D foes, the Korea Republic. In light of Saturday's Final Draw, they assume critical importance. New York (December 4, 2001) - They were supposed to be high-level international matches that would simply serve U.S. National Team Head Coach Bruce Arena as a way to experiment with new players ahead of selecting a final roster for the 2002 World Cup. But after last Saturday's World Cup Final Draw which placed the U.S. and the Korea Republic together in Group D, the Dec. 9 and Jan. 19 dates with the Asians take on new meaning. "We won't know until June 10 whether it's an advantage or disadvantage (playing Korea twice)," Arena said. "We will know them much better than we do now, that is for sure." "I don't think it (the fact the teams are in the same group) will change the attitude of the games much," said U.S. forward Brian McBride. "Maybe we will try and feel it out a little more. I think it could benefit both teams, which is the best way to look at it. If you look at it in a positive sense, it's a good thing." MLS players will be right in the thick of things as the U.S. will not only attempt to consolidate its squad but at the same time send a message to the Koreans. For the first exhibition that will serve as the inaugural game for the Seowipo World Cup Stadium on Dec. 9 (tape-delayed broadcast on ESPN at 1:00 p.m. ET on Dec. 10), Arena selected 19 players from the 27-man, all-MLS camp that had congregated at the ARCO training center in Chula Vista, California last week. The Koreans and Americans will again do battle as part of the CONCACAF Gold Cup competition at the Rose Bowl on January 19 (pay-per-view). And if both teams advanced to the final on Feb. 2, there could even be a chance of an unprecedented third encounter in consecutive months. "It helps us to see Korea twice in the next two months," Arena said. "One will be a bit of a pressure game because that will be a key game to see who advances (on Jan. 19 in the Gold Cup). It will be helpful, but obviously we won't be in a situation where we have our full roster." The U.S. roster in Korea will consist of seven Chicago Fire players, four teammates from the MLS Cup 2001 champion San Jose Earthquakes, three from the Columbus Crew, two players each from the Los Angeles Galaxy and Fusion F.C., and goalkeeper Tim Howard as the sole representative of the MetroStars. After receiving U.S. citizenship, Jeff Cunningham should finally get his shot at becoming a fixture on the team while Brian McBride will look to show he can regain his form quickly after a long layoff due to treatment for a blood clot. Also making strides in a comeback is the star of the early matches of World Cup Qualifying, Josh Wolff, who came off the bench in the final World Cup Qualifier against Trinidad. With Clint Mathis still not ready to make the jump to competitive action (knee surgery) and with the absence of other Europe-based players, Landon Donovan should see time in attacking midfield, despite having played as a forward in past matches for Arena. Howard, defenders Danny Califf and Carlos Bocanegra, midfielders Manny Lagos, Richard Mulrooney and Cunningham will all be looking to earn their first international appearance with the U.S. National Team on the trip. Next Sunday the U.S. will receive a real taste of what the World Cup Group D matchup will have in store on June 10, 2002. The Seowipo World Cup Stadium in the Jeju province is expected to be sold out, simulating a World Cup atmosphere. As good as the preparation can be before the match, however, having to play a host team has its pitfalls. "Playing a host country will cause a lot of hype," said Cobi Jones. "Personally, I think it is a good draw for us. We will have an opportunity to move forward to the next round." "South Korea is a much improved team, and certainly playing at home will be a big advantage and will make them that much more of a difficult opponent," said Arena. "We know very little about Korea but I saw them last summer in the Confederations Cup and they looked very impressive." The Koreans, who are led by their Dutch Head Coach Guus Hiddink, have a number of foreign-based players including Ahn Jung-Hwan with Serie A's Perugia, Seol Ki-Hyun in the ranks of Belgium club Anderlecht and a number of others in Japan's J-League. Now entering their sixth World Cup, the Koreans will be looking for their first victory in the biggest tournament on earth. The squad, which did not have to qualify for the 2002 World Cup as co-hosts, has already played 15 matches in the 2001 calendar year, going 7-4-4 ahead of the meeting with the United States (the U.S. is 6-5-3 in games played in 2001). "Generally, they have a very good work ethic," Donovan said about the Koreans, whom the U.S. has never defeated in three other all-time meetings. "Obviously they have some very good players, and they'll have their home crowd, so it could be our toughest match in the World Cup." ROAD TO FIRST GROUP D MATCH IN JUNE IS FILLED WITH IMPORTANT TESTS: For the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea/Japan the U.S. Men's National Team was drawn into Group D along with Portugal, Poland and World Cup co-hosts the Korea Republic. With just six months before its opening match against Portugal on June 5 the U.S. has already lined up important road exhibitions against Italy and Germany in addition to their participation in the CONCACAF Gold Cup in January and the Nike U.S. Cup in May. Following are previews of the Americans' Group D opponents. Portugal: Currently ranked 4th by FIFA, Portugal was undefeated (7-0-3; 33 GF, 7 GA) in 2002 World Cup qualifying to win UEFA "Group 2" and are 6-1-2 overall in 2001. This is Portugal's third appearance in a World Cup and first since 1986. They have an overall World Cup record of 6-3-0, previously finishing 3rd in 1966 and 17th in 1986. Antonio Oliveira manages the Portuguese side whose key players are midfielders Luis Figo (Real Madrid), and Rui Costa (AC Milan). Portugal impressively went undefeated and scored 33 goals (the most in Europe) in qualifying from a difficult group that included Ireland and Holland. The trio of Pedro Pauleta (8), Nuno Gomes (7), and Luis Figo (6) accounted for nearly two-thirds of Portugal's goal output. "Portugal is one of the best teams in the world, and they have one of the best players in the world in Luis Figo," said U.S. Head Coach Bruce Arena. "They are dangerous all over the field." Versus the U.S. the Portuguese are 2-1-1 all time, scoring three goals while allowing two goals. No team has scored more than one goal in any match between these two teams. In their most recent meeting at the Nike U.S. Cup in Chicago on June 3, 1992, the USA topped Portugal 1-0, making Roy Wegerle's goal stand. Korea Republic: Currently ranked 43rd in the FIFA World Rankings, South Korea qualified as co-host of the 2002 World Cup. They are making their fifth straight appearance in a World Cup and their six overall World Cup appearances are the most of any Asian nation. Korea, however, is 0-10-4 all time in World Cup competition, making appearances in 1954 (16th), 1986 (20th), 1990 (22nd), 1994 (20th), 1998 (30th). South Korea is led by Dutch Head Coach Guus Hiddink and its key players are defender Hong Myung-Bo (Kashiwa Reysol), forward Ahn Jung-Hwan (Perugia). "South Korea is a much improved team, and certainly playing at home will be a big advantage and will make them that much more of a difficult opponent," said Arena. Going into Saturday's friendly versus the U.S., South Korea has a 7-4-4 overall record in 2001. Historically the U.S. is winless versus Korea (0-2-1), with all three matches being decided by one goal or less. In the most recent meeting (March 12, 1994 at Fullerton, CA), the teams played to a 1-1 draw, with Colorado Rapids midfielder/defender Marcelo Balboa scoring for the Americans. Poland: The Poles are ranked 33rd by FIFA, having won UEFA "Group 5" in 2002 World Cup qualifying (6-1-3 record; 21 GF, 11 GA). An unbeaten run of eight games in qualifying helped Poland become the first team out of Europe (other than defending champion France) to qualify for the World Cup. Poland is currently 5-1-4 overall in 2001. Making their first appearance in a World Cup since 1986, Poland has twice collected the bronze medal in the Finals (in 1974 and 1982). This will be their fifth World Cup final appearance, having previously participated in 1938 (11th), 1974 (3rd), 1982 (3rd), 1986 (14th). The Poles have an impressive 13-7-5 record in World Cup final play. Managed by Jerzy Engel, Poland features high-scoring, Nigerian-born forward Emmanuel Olisadebe (Panathinaikos) who led the team in scoring in qualifying with eight goals and goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek (Liverpool). "Poland plays pretty similar to a lot of the Eastern block countries, they are good on the ball, very athletic and pretty direct," said Arena. "One thing I know is that the games we have played in qualifying will have us pretty well prepared for the teams we are looking at in June." In their history, the U.S. has played Poland more times than any other European opponent (11 times since 1924), having last met 11 years ago. The Poles are 6-4-1 versus the USA all time scoring 30 and allowing 13. The most recent match was in Warsaw, Poland on October 10, 1990 as the U.S. defeated Poland 3-2 behind a pair of goals from current Kansas City Wizards defender Peter Vermes. Including that victory, the U.S. has won their two most recent match-ups against Poland. SEVEN OF TOP EIGHT SEEDS REACH COLLEGE CUP QUARTERFINALS: When the NCAA Men's Soccer Tournament kicked off nearly two weeks ago, eight seeds had a bull's-eye set on them in the unpredictable road to College Cup 2001 in Columbus, Ohio (Dec. 14-16). However, the regular season form held true for seven of the eight squads that have survived to see the light of the College Cup quarterfinals. The only non-seeded team in the group is Fairleigh Dickinson University which is riding a 10-game winning streak. Aside from the New Jersey team's battle against seventh-seeded and eighth-ranked (NSCAA poll) North Carolina, the other three matchups will see the nation's powerhouses slug it out for a trip to the Final Four at Columbus Crew Stadium. The No. 1 seed and undefeated Southern Methodist University will host No. 8 seed St. John's University as the star-studded Mustangs look to return to College Cup for the second consecutive season. The Big East champion Red Storm have reached this stage through the goal-scoring heroics of defender/forward Shalrie Joseph. The Brooklyn native netted the game-winning goals against the University of Massachusetts (second round) and Penn State (third round). Stanford University (No. 3 seed) Head Coach Bret Simon will be looking to make a return trip of his own as he seeks to take the Cardinal through to the Final Four one year after guiding Creighton to the championship game. In Simon's path stands St. Louis University (No. 6 seed) and Hermann Trophy candidate Brad Davis. Coach Jerry Yeagley and Indiana University will seek to continue their string of dominance in the college field this weekend. With a victory over Oguchi Onyewu and Clemson University at Bill Armstrong Stadium, the Hoosiers will advance to their fifth consecutive Final Four and seventh in 10 seasons. However, U.S. Under-20 National Team defender Onyewu and the Tigers have shown they can handle adversity as they came back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Alabama-Birmingham in overtime on Sunday. Onyewu had the Tigers' game-tying and game-winning goals. College Cup Quarterfinal Schedule (all times ET): Friday, Dec. 7 St. Louis at Stanford, 10 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8 Fairleigh Dickinson at North Carolina, 1 p.m. St. John's at SMU, 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9 Clemson at Indiana, 2 p.m. FOUR MLS TEAMS DISCOVER OPPONENTS IN 2002 CONCACAF CHAMPIONS CUP: The Chicago Fire, D.C. United, Kansas City Wizards and San Jose Earthquakes learned their respective fates for the 2002 Football Confederation (CONCACAF) Champions Cup Round of 16 this afternoon, following a draw held in New York City by Football Confederation General Secretary Chuck Blazer. Each tournament pairing will be played over two legs, in a home-and-away format and both legs of the first round must be completed by Sunday, March 24. Teams from the same countries were separated in the draw to prevent them from having a direct confrontation until the later stages of the tournament. None of the four MLS entrants would face each other until the semifinal round. Should all four MLS teams advance to that stage, D.C. United would meet San Jose in one semifinal, while Chicago and Kansas City would face off in the other. The defending MLS Champion Earthquakes drew perhaps the most recognizable first round opponent in CD Olimpia of Honduras. With more than 20 Honduran titles to their credit, Olimpia most recently finished second in the 2000 Champions Cup, falling to the Los Angeles Galaxy in the final. Olimpia is also the former club of reigning MLS Honda MVP Alex Pineda Chacon of Fusion F.C. United and the Fire were each paired with Guatemalan foes, as Bob Bradley's squad drew CSD Municipal, winners of the Central Zone qualifying group. The Fire will make their return to the Champions Cup for the first time since 1999, when they bowed out in the semifinals, losing to LD Alajuelense of Costa Rica on penalty kicks. D.C., winners of the 1998 Champions Cup, will open the tournament against CSD Comunicaciones, which last won the tournament in 1978. United qualified for the tournament courtesy of its 2-1 victory against Comunicaciones in the semifinals of the FC Giants Cup in August. United rookie midfielder Mark Lisi netted the 89th minute game-winner in that match. Kansas City, which earned its pass to the tournament via its MLS Cup 2000 championship will face W Connection FC of Trinidad and Tobago in the first round. W Connection, a finalist from the Caribbean Zone, is currently poised to capture its second straight Professional Football League (PFL) championship. Subsequent pairings are therefore set for the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals, with the first-leg home teams yet to be determined. Quarterfinal matches must conclude by May 2, the semifinals by August 8 and the finals by September 5. 2002 FC CHAMPIONS CUP DRAW: ROUND OF 16 (completed by March 24 2002) Home team for first leg is listed first PAIRING 1: Liga Deportiva Alajuelense (CRC) v Club Amirica (MEX) PAIRING 2: CSD Comunicaciones (GUA) v D.C. United (USA) PAIRING 3: Defence Force FC (TRI) v winner Torneo Invierno (MEX) / Pachuca, Toluca, Cruz Azul, Tigres) PAIRING 4: CD Olimpia (HON) v San Jose Earthquakes (USA) PAIRING 5: CA Monarcas Morelia (MEX) v Deportivo Saprissa (CRC) PAIRING 6: CSD Municipal (GUA) v Chicago Fire (USA) PAIRING 7: Club Santos Laguna (MEX) v Tauro FC (PAN) PAIRING 8: W Connection FC (TRI) v Kansas City Wizards (USA) QUARTERFINALS (completed by May 2, 2002) QF1: winner PAIRING 1 v winner PAIRING 2 QF2: winner PAIRING 3 v winner PAIRING 4 QF3: winner PAIRING 5 v winner PAIRING 6 QF4: winner PAIRING 7 v winner PAIRING 8 SEMIFINALS (completed by August 8, 2002) SF1: winner QF1 v winner QF2 SF2: winner QF3 v winner QF4 FINAL (completed by September 5, 2002) winner SF1 v winner SF2 OVERSEAS UPDATE - LOWE SCORES IN ENGLISH DEBUT: The newest member of the MLS legion of players using the offseason to play and train overseas got off to a magical start. Kansas City Wizards forward Onandi Lowe began a three-month loan with Rushden & Diamonds of the English Third Division last Friday and promptly tallied one goal and one assist in his debut, a 3-1 win against Bristol Rovers on Saturday. "He can jump, he can spring, he has got a good left foot and his all-round play was excellent," said Diamonds manager Brian Talbot following Lowe's debut. "You don't play 55 times for your country and not have something." Diamonds (7-5-9, 30 pts.) currently sit in eighth place, 15 points back of league-leading Plymouth (13-2-6, 45 pts). Lowe and Diamonds return to action this Saturday with a second round FA Cup match at Brighton and Hove Albion, who sit atop the Second Division. The debut goal was not the first for Lowe, who will remain on loan through mid-February. Lowe scored his first MLS goal, a game-winner in stoppage time on May 24th against the MetroStars. The goal came one day after signing with MLS and joining the Wizards as an international allocation. Daniel Torres (Columbus Crew): Following the Crew's elimination at the hands of San Jose in the 2001 MLS Cup Quarterfinals, the 24-year-old Torres returned to Costa Rica to train with Club Deportivo Saprissa. Torres began his professional career with Saprissa in 1996, and helped the club capture back-to-back league championships in 1998 and 1999 while becoming a mainstay at left defense. While at Saprissa, Torres has played alongside Erick Lonnis, Reynaldo Parks, Gilberto Martinez and Steven Bryce, all of whom filled key roles as Costa Rica qualified for the 2002 World Cup. A regular with the under-20 and under-23 National Teams, Torres believes that someday he could join the national team for a World Cup run himself. "I haven't been called to the senior national team yet, but I'm pretty sure that depends on me to make the coach think about the guy who plays for the Columbus Crew," said Torres from Costa Rica. "I know I have the talent and capabilities to be part of the national team and go to the World Cup." Torres plans to return to Columbus in early February to resume training with the Crew, when coach Greg Andrulis hopes to install him as the team's left back. Devin Barclay (Tampa Bay Mutiny): Barclay remains in England where he has been training with the Premier League's Tottenham Hotspur since November 7. The 18-year-old is in his second stint in England. One year ago he trained alongside Michael Owen with Liverpool and now joins the likes of England internationals Teddy Sheringham and Darren Anderton. U.S. National Team goalkeeper Kasey Keller is also a member of Spurs. Barclay is currently living together with Tottenham's 19-year-old Scottish forward Steven Ferguson with a host family where he will remain until his return to the U.S. in late December. Mutiny Head Coach Perry Van Der Beck helped arrange Barclay's stay through Tottenham's manager John Gorman, a former teammate of Van Der Beck's with the NASL's Tampa Bay Rowdies. On the other side of town and within a 40-minute bus ride of Barclay are his Mutiny teammates Gus Kartes and Ali Curtis, who are currently working out with the Premier League's Charlton Athletic F.C. in a similar arrangement to Barclay's. Their visit was established through Charlton's Assistant Manager Keith Peacock, who once served as a member of the Tampa Bay Rowdies' coaching staff. DaMarcus Beasley (Chicago Fire): Beasley's scheduled training stint with Brescia of Italy's Serie A remains on hold. The 19-year-old appeared for the U.S. in the final World Cup Qualifying match against Trinidad & Tobago on November 11 and suffered his second concussion in recent months during the first half. Beasley was previously sidelined for nearly a month following a collision with former teammate Lubos Kubik during a September 8 regular season match against the Dallas Burn. Eric Dade (Dallas Burn): Dade and the Dallas Sidekicks of the World Indoor Soccer League finished the regular season with a 14-10 record, earning them the No. 2 seed in the WISL Playoffs, despite finishing with the same record as the San Diego Sockers, who claimed the top spot going into the postseason. The Sidekicks open the first round this Thursday, December 6 against the Sacramento Knights in the semifinals. Following Game One, the series will shift to Reunion Arena in Dallas on Sunday, December 9. The series winner will advance to meet the winner of the series between the top-seeded Sockers and St. Louis Steamers. Dade finished the regular season with four goals and two assists in 12 matches. METROSTARS' STEVE JOLLEY TO RAISE FUNDS FOR SEPTEMBER 11 VICTIMS: MetroStars defender Steve Jolley and his wife Pilar will be holding a special raffle/auction to benefit the families of a neighbor, as well as a close college friend, who were both lost in the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Jill Vicario and her newborn daughter, Savannah lost husband and father, Robert, on that tragic day. Robert, who returned to work a mere week before the tragedy, lost his life while working with a woodworking firm that happened to have a job that day with Cantor Fitzgerald at the World Trade Center. A devoted family man and pillar of the Weehawken community, Robert was without life insurance and his passing left Jill with two mortgages. Anthony and Alysia Basmajian both graduated from Jolley's alma mater, William and Mary, in May 2000. They moved to Bayonne, NJ and both worked in the financial district. Alysia lost her life while working at Cantor Fitzgerald on Sept. 11. Anthony continues to work full time and cares for the couple's 2-year-old daughter, Kaela. The complete proceeds from the raffle/auction will go toward the families of the two victims to help them through their current financial challenges. The raffle and auction will take place on Saturday, December 15 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET at The Brick House restaurant located at 179 Godwin Avenue in Wyckoff, NJ, where Jolley coaches a number of youth teams. For directions to The Brick House, anyone interested can call 201-848-1211. The Jolley family has put together an impressive array of donated items from players and teams in both MLS and the WUSA, as well as from the U.S. National Team. All the items will be available for auction at The Brick House on December 15. To purchase a raffle ticket, fans can contact Steve Jolley directly at justjolley@yahoo.com. Each raffle ticket costs $10.00. Among the items to be raffled off is a Clint Mathis U.S. Men's National Team jersey autographed by the entire squad, a Landon Donovan national team jersey and other signed MetroStars and New York Power memorabilia. Among the other items to be auctioned off is a one-hour personal training session with Jolley and an official 1999 Women's World Cup ball autographed by the World Champion U.S. team. 11TH ANNUAL WALSH CUP SCHEDULED TO TAKE PLACE ON DECEMBER 15: On Saturday, December 15, former MetroStars midfielder Billy Walsh will host the 11th annual Walsh Cup at his residence in Chatham, New Jersey. For the past 10 years Walsh has been inviting elite soccer players to join him in the 5-v-5 backyard soccer tournament. Historically, some of the best players in MLS have teamed up with local college and high school stars in the friendly competition. Among the MLS players scheduled to attend this year are MetroStars goalkeepers Tim Howard and Paul Grafer, forward Clint Mathis and defender Mike Petke. Also participating will be Chicago Fire midfielder Chris Armas, Los Angeles Galaxy defender Alexi Lalas, former Tampa Bay Mutiny and MetroStars midfielder Brian Kelly and former Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder and "Melrose Place" star Andrew Shue. On hand but not playing will be D.C. United midfielder Ben Olsen, goalkeeper Mike Ammann and Mark Semioli, formerly of the MetroStars. Acting New Jersey Governor Don DiFrancesco will once again attend and lend his support. The backyard game is very different from the regulation full-field game. The field is roughly 40 yards long and the goals are six feet high and 12 feet wide with the ball remaining in play for the duration of the game. The field is surrounded by a four-foot-tall fence, which is rebuilt each year just prior to the event and updated with new boards to honor the previous year's champion. The unusual, sloping field has proven to be a challenge to many players during the tournament. Semioli's Ebony & Ivory won last year's Walsh Cup, while a team consisting of Billy, Kevin and Patrick Walsh captured the previous two events. Fans are welcome to talk to the players, take pictures with them, and get autographs at the tournament which historically draws a few hundred spectators who take advantage of the opportunity to watch and meet some of the country's best soccer players in such a unique setting. For driving directions or questions regarding the 11th annual Walsh Cup those interested can call 973-635-6595 or e-mail any requests to walshcup10@aol.com. All proceeds and donations will be given to a local family that lost its father in the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York. MLS' OFFSEASON OFFERS PHOTOGRAPHERS COMPETITION FOR IMAGE OF THE YEAR: Every year, MLS' team photographers produce stunning images that capture the glory and emotion of the sport of soccer. MLSnet.com is offering MLS fans worldwide the chance to select the photo they feel is worthy of being named the best of the year. This year, team photographers have been invited to display their personal favorites from the 2001 MLS season for consideration in the inaugural MLSnet.com Image of the Year contest. Each week, fans vote for the best image from the portfolios of two MLS team photographers. At the end of the online voting period, a compilation of the top images will be displayed for two weeks. Fans can then vote for their favorite image of the 2001 MLS season and crown the inaugural "2001 MLSnet.com Image of the Year". Winning photos have been determined for the Tampa Bay Mutiny (William Garrow II), Colorado Rapids (Alan Yamamoto), D.C. United (Tony Quinn), the Columbus Crew (Joe Giblin), and the Kansas City Wizards (Ed Zurga). Fans can now vote for the best work of the Chicago Fire's Michael Stahlschmidt and the Dallas Burn's Rick Yeatts. Voting for the overall winner among the finalists will begin on December 24, with the 2001 MLSnet.com Image of the Year announced on January 15, 2002. Log on to MLSnet.com to vote at http://www.MLSnet.com/special/ioy/.


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