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Welcoming the European champs

Click here for more on this story
Posted: Friday May 25, 2001 5:44 PM
Updated: Sunday May 27, 2001 12:43 PM

• Storylines
• MLS Game Watch
• WUSA Game Watch
• Bandwagon
• From the Newsstand
• The Patriots
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• From the Stands

By Jeff Green,

Bayern Munich can be forgiven for its slow start in Wednesday's European Champions League final, the biggest game on the global club football calendar.

Obviously, the Germans were looking ahead to Saturday's showdown against the MetroStars at Giants Stadium in New Jersey (7 p.m. ET).

And despite the temptation to save his starters for the MetroStars match, Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld fielded his first team and recovered from an early deficit to defeat Spanish side Valencia on penalty kicks and take home Europe's most prestigious trophy.

Sarcasm aside, the Bayern victory parade does indeed lead directly to Giants Stadium, a coup for the MetroStars that is courtesy of the transfer deal that landed legendary libero Lothar Matthäus stateside for one tumultuous season.

Sure, the Bayern players aren't likely to take the game seriously -- or even soberly after their championship celebrations -- but it's not everyday that an MLS stadium is the first stop for a newly crowned European champion that is the world's top club team.

According to MetroStars general manager Nick Sakiewicz, Bayern should have close to a full squad.

"They are contractually obligated not just to bring their first-team players, but to play them," Sakiewicz told the Newark Star-Ledger. "They're coming."

Bayern won't be the only tired squad on the field. The MetroStars will be playing on one day's rest -- and a travel day at that -- after their 1-0 loss away to defending MLS champion Kansas City Wizards on Thursday night.

"The match isn't going to be a true reflection of what we are as two clubs," MetroStars coach Octavio Zambrano told the New York Daily News. "There's no way we can play a game [Thursday] and expect to be at our best on Saturday."

Meanwhile, perennial Bundesliga bridesmaid Bayer Leverkusen is also in the United States for matches against MLS sides D.C. United and Columbus Crew, and the A-League's Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

Leverkusen defeated United 4-3 on Wednesday with a hat trick from Dimitar Berbatov, in a respectable showing for the young MLS squad.

"I think some of our players were surprised a little," Leverkusen midfielder Frankie Hejduk told the Washington Post. "They thought it was going to be a walk in the park, three or four to nothing."

Hejduk, a U.S. international who played three seasons with the Tampa Bay Mutiny, recently signed a two-year contract extension at Leverkusen despite very limited playing time.

Hejduk turned down an invitation to the U.S. training camp before a friendly against Ecuador on June 7 in Columbus, Ohio, informing coach Bruce Arena that he preferred to take a "mental break" and spend time with his family, according to the Washington Post.

'The best of a bad situation'
MLS has been in preliminary contact with Real Madrid, Boca Juniors and at least two other clubs to discuss a potential tournament or exhibitions to replace this summer's Club World Championship, which was canceled last week by FIFA. News of the cancellation was a tough blow to MLS and the L.A. Galaxy, which had earned the right to compete against the world's top clubs and were counting on taking home at least $2.7 million. The tournament had been set for July 28 to August 12. Meanwhile, MLS is considering a shift in the Galaxy's schedule to help fill that empty span in the schedule. MLS deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis also did not rule out the possibility of seeking compensation from FIFA over the cancellation.
Jamaica me crazy
Headline writers, let the "Lowe" puns begin. The Kansas City Wizards this week used their player allocation to acquire Jamaican forward Onandi Lowe. The 2000 Jamaican player of the year wasted no time in making an impact. The tall striker lent a physical presence to the Kansas City attack in his first match Thursday, scoring the winning goal in stoppage time to defeat the MetroStars 1-0. His signing leaves three teams still due an allocation: Chicago, Colorado, and San Jose
Armstrong signs
D.C. United has been after midfielder Stephen Armstrong for more than a year. On Thursday, Armstrong told the Washington Post that he had signed with MLS, but United coach Thomas Rongen knew nothing about it. "It's good news, I guess," Rongen told the paper upon being informed. "We've been either ill-informed or not informed." If United acquires Armstrong, a left-sided midfielder from Butler University who has British and South African citizenship, they would presumably have to unload one of their three foreign players to stay within the MLS limit. Armstrong is currently awaiting a work permit. He was drafted by D.C. United in 2000, but opted to try his luck in Europe instead.

San Jose Earthquakes at Chicago Fire, Saturday, 4 p.m. ET on Telemundo
One of these teams was expected to be at the top of its division -- then there's the surprise San Jose Earthquakes, winners of four in a row. The battle of division leaders brings the Earthquakes to Soldier Field, where Chicago is undefeated in its last 14 regular season matches. A Fire victory would equal San Jose's all-time MLS record 15-game home undefeated streak. The Quakes will be without their leading scorer, forward Dwayne DeRosario, who is with the Canadian national team, and will look to Ronald Cerritos and youngster Landon Donovan for offense. The absence of three regular starters (Peter Nowak to red-card suspension, Josh Wolff and Carlos Bocanegra to injuries) will cause Bob Bradley to again juggle his lineup.
Click here for the full MLS schedule.

San Diego Spirit at Carolina Courage, Saturday, noon ET on TNT
The Spirit (1-2-2, 4 points) and Courage (0-4-1, 1 point) have at least one mutual characteristic to their teams -- a midfielder who is one of the best, if not the best, ball distributor in the world. When ranking center midfielders, Hege Riise and Julie Foudy are near the top of anybody's list. On Saturday, the Spirit's Foudy and the Courage's Riise each will try to give their teams an important three points. And both coaches are much more concerned with the other team's center-mids than they are their records.
Click here for the full WUSA schedule.

MLS teenagers

In the span of a week, rising national team star Landon Donovan scored his first MLS goal for the San Jose Earthquakes, D.C. United 16-year-old Santino Quaranta became the youngest MLS player to score a goal, and D.C. "veteran" Bobby Convey (barely 18) started as a playmaking midfielder against Bayer Leverkusen and tallied a goal.

No Weah

He's long been reported to have an interest in playing in New York, but former World Footballer of the Year George Weah, 34, appears to be settling in France. The Liberian striker was to return to Monaco from Olympique Marseille and would sign a one-year contract, his agent told Reuters last week.

Chicken Head Killa

Fusion defender Pablo Mastroeni was sworn in as a U.S. citizen last week (promptly scoring his first MLS goal a day later), and U.S. coach Bruce Arena has indicated that he could become part of the national team player pool. According to Fusion coach Ray Hudson, Mastroeni has been among the top performers in the team's remarkable turnaround. Mastroeni was born in Argentina but moved to Arizona at age four, going on to attend the North Carolina State University. Mastroeni has formed a band with teammates Tim Sahaydak and Kyle Beckerman -- the Chicken Head Killas.

Pouting players lack game face, by Kevin B. Blackistone at the Dallas Morning News

News from the U.S. national teams

The United States Under-20 national team scored twice in three minutes to complete a comeback and open the 29th Toulon Festival on Thursday with a 2-1 win over Italy. Alecko Eskandarian and Oguchi Onyewu each scored their first international goals for the U.S., which now has a seven-game international unbeaten streak in 2001. The U.S. lines up Saturday against defending tournament champion Colombia (10 a.m. EDT, live on Fox Sports World and Fox Sports World Espanol).

Minor injuries kept Diego Serna and Preki from traveling to Colorado on Wednesday, but the Fusion won anyway. While Serna's absence likely had as much to do with coach Ray Hudson's displeasure over his performance in front of goal, both are expected to be available Saturday in the return leg of the Florida derby series against a depleted Tampa Bay Mutiny side.

Click here for the full list of MLS injuries and disciplinary suspensions.

Many thanks for all your comments so far. Let's try a different approach this week.

You tell me who you think is the single most exciting player in MLS -- and why -- and I'll post your responses next week.

Who's the player you'll most willingly pay your own hard-earned money to see? Who makes you tune in on television?

For my money, this year it's been Tab Ramos, the MetroStars midfielder who so far has managed to remain free of injury and display dribbling skills that are unmatched by any other American player.

Your name:
Your e-mail address:
Your hometown:

Your take here (in 25 words or less)

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