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Grant Wahl
November 02, 1998
Feat to the Fire Sparked by a Web-surfing Pole, expansion Chicago won MLS Cup '98
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November 02, 1998


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The new blood, Arena says, will include several players who appeared on Sunday. From United, he plans to call up the league's rookie of the year, Ben Olsen, 21, along with fellow midfielders Tony Sanneh, 27, and Richie Williams, 28, and defender Carlos Llamosa, 29, a Colombian native who became a U.S. citizen last week. Arena will tap the Fire's talent at both ends of the field, summoning forwards Ante Razov, 24, and Josh Wolff, 21, as well as Thornton. Some or all of these players could participate in the Americans' first friendly under Arena, against Australia on Nov. 6 in San Jose.

It's about time that selection to the national team was based on merit instead of reputation, and Arena's shrewd negotiating—he demanded and received a four-year contract through World Cup 2002—gives him the job security to experiment "It doesn't help to win games in '98 and '99," Arena said last week. "You need to start winning games in 2001."

Chris Armas
Man Without a Country?

Armas, who capped a breakout season by being named all-MLS, was included in Arena's list of new faces. But there's a sticking point: He may never be eligible to don a U.S. jersey.

In 1993 Armas, a Bronx native whose mother is Puerto Rican, played in five games for Puerto Rico in an obscure tournament called the Shell Caribbean Cup. FIFA, soccer's international governing body, stipulates that a player cannot represent a nation after having played for another in a FIFA-sanctioned competition.

One crucial question remains: Was the 1993 Shell Caribbean Cup an official competition or an exhibition? If it was an exhibition, Armas would be eligible for the U.S. team. "We're getting a ruling within the next week from FIFA," says Gulati, a member of the U.S. Soccer Federation's executive committee.

Armas, a former star at Adelphi, says that in 1993 he never thought he would get a chance to play for the U.S. "If I'm not eligible, I'll regret that," he says. Then again, Armas could become an advocate for expanding the Union. Puerto Rican statehood would enable him to play for the U.S. immediately.

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