U.S. sports new look against Ecuador Preki, other midfielders to provide scoring punch

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The laboratory in team chemistry that the U.S. national men's soccer team has become will resume in next Thursday's game against Ecuador at Memorial Stadium.

U.S. coach Steve Sampson announced the roster for that game yesterday, a 17-man squad that includes 12 players who haven't seen national duty in at least six months, many of them for longer.

The players are being called up from five of Major League Soccer's 10 franchises, but none of the three regulars from this area's representative, D.C. United, is among them.

Sampson told reporters in Baltimore two weeks ago he would not be experimenting with younger players in this game, the national team's last warm-up before it plays Costa Rica on Sept. 7 in Portland, Ore., in an important World Cup qualifier.

A combination of injuries, MLS scheduling and the opening of European league play, however, resulted in the coach having no choice but to continue experimenting.

With forward Eric Wynalda, a fixture as the U.S. team's all-time leading scorer, and frequent starting forward Joe-Max Moore both still mending from serious injuries, Sampson's front line against Ecuador can be nothing else than another experiment in chemistry.

Sampson's roster lists at forward Kansas City's Frank Klopas and the Colorado Rapids' Paul Bravo, 29, both of whom last wore red, white and blue in 1995, and Tampa Bay's Roy Lassiter, last year's leading scorer in the MLS.

The biggest turnover of "normal" U.S. name players will be in midfield, where experience is evident although not recently at the national level. But it's also where the most obvious scoring punch seems to reside.

The choice at midfield sure to create a buzz among pro soccer aficionados is that of Preki Radosavljevic, 34, the naturalized American citizen who played nine years of indoor soccer here after leaving his native Yugoslavia. Sampson publicly criticized the forward/midfielder's lack of defensive play and conditioning

early this year.

Preki appeared destined to stay in Sampson's doghouse a couple of weeks ago after a flap over his role -- Sampson sees him as being most effective off the bench -- and future on the U.S. team.

But Preki, as he prefers to be called professionally, is, at his best, a breathtakingly creative attacker whose shot, ball skills and no-look passing make him lethal as far away from goal as 35 yards. He is a consensus MLS All-Star and the league's leading scorer this season. And the national team needs offense. Period.

Cobi Jones, the 1994 World Cup forward whose conditioning dropped him into disfavor earlier this year, also is back for the game in Baltimore.

Chris Henderson, the seventh most-used American in international games, will be the most experienced middie in terms of U.S. team service. But he has not played for the national team since 1995. Sampson wanted Henderson to improve his tactical play instead of relying so much on endurance and athleticism. Henderson has been outstanding for the Colorado Rapids this season and is an MLS All-Star.

Another surprise pick at midfield is Mark Chung, who complements Kansas City teammate Preki well but last played for the U.S. in early 1994.

The American defense most likely will be anchored by veterans Marcelo Balboa and Thomas Dooley. Balboa, 30, a former Mexican first division player now with Colorado, has made more international appearances for the U.S. than any other player. Dooley, 36, recently joined the Columbus Crew after a long career in the German Bundesligga and has been a U.S. stalwart since 1992.

In goal, Brad Friedel, starter in recent U.S. games with No. 1 keeper Kasey Keller recovering this summer from elbow surgery, is on the roster for the Baltimore game, as is the Dallas Burn's Mark Dodd. Both are experienced internationally and have been formidable in MLS play.

Among the missing are all of the recent "regular" U.S. player based in Europe: goalkeeper Keller, midfielders Ernie Stewart and Claudio Reyna, and young forwards Jovan Kirovski and David Wagner.

U.S.-Ecuador

What: International soccer exhibition game, U.S. national men's team vs. Ecuador

When: 7: 30 p.m., Aug. 7

Where: Memorial Stadium

Tickets: $16-$40 through TicketMaster or at the Ravens' ticket office at Memorial Stadium. Group and youth discounts available.

) Information: 410-366-8300

U.S. roster

These Major League Soccer players have been called up to U.S. national team duty for next Thursday's exhibition game against Ecuador at Memorial Stadium:

Forwards: Paul Bravo, Colorado Rapids; Frank Klopas, Kansas City Wizards; and Roy Lassiter, Tampa Bay Mutiny

Midfielders: Chris Henderson, Colorado Rapids; Cobi Jones, Los Angeles Galaxy; Preki and Mark Chung, Kansas City Wizards; Brian Maisonneuve, Columbus Crew; Steve Ralston and Frankie Hejduk, Tampa Bay Mutiny

Defenders: Marcelo Balboa, Colorado Rapids; Thomas Dooley, Columbus Crew; Robin Fraser and Greg Vanney, Los Angeles Galaxy; and Martin Vasquez, Tampa Bay Mutiny

Goalkeepers: Brad Friedel, Columbus Crew; and Mark Dodd, Dallas Burn

Pub Date: 7/31/97

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